Worship today

(Get me out of here: fast)

Some good stuff gleaned from http://www.forgecanada.ca (A variety of articles and journals hit my in box. I am often grateful for this: it has helped me realise I am not a lone voice). I am increasingly intigued as to how our values are being formed as Christians; looking at my own I sometimes fear that mine are formed more by the shopping centre than by the biblical values of simplicity, radical hospitality and open community.

No more so is this in worship. I think I am an ok preacher and leader of worship (most of us do), but it is a pretty solo job: I am often minded of the Nirvana song: ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ and its refrain ‘Here we are now: entertain us’. When you plan as a group though, it takes so much tim; time that I often haven’t got. But then again, if you are not careful, this can just lead to producing a better ‘worship experience’. I do wonder about the time it takes to produce the one hour on Sunday to the exclusion of other aspects of discipleship…

Here, then, is the ‘good stuff’ which if you are a preacher and leader of worship will make today so much harder…

‘Although we do receive from the Lord and others in the midst of corporate worship, the purpose and posture of worship consists in what we bring: we are God’s children who bring gifts to the King of Kings. The Jews understood this in the instruction. We seem to have reversed the priority in our practice. Inadvertently we have participated in creating a consumer mentality through creating “worship experiences” (even that phrase is indicative) that are made for us to get something for our effort. We become good at creating “worship services” (another consumer term) so that we achieve the desired outcomes of emotion, and action towards a goal, instead of acting in faithfulness to bring to God our offerings out of gratitude for what He is doing’.


‘When we come together with these stories of God at work, it is not difficult to see how joy is produced through God at work rather than just what song we will sing. If we are telling stories of God at work, it doesn’t matter much to us whether we like this or that song, or the way this band plays it’.

In this quote ‘stories of God at work’ doesn’t just (or at all?) mean about how your week has been a continual victory and God has found you infinite parking spaces but how you have engaged, what you have seen, what could be…with all it’s joys and sorrows.

Happy Sunday!

(quotes from Cam Roxburgh at http://www.forgecanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/September-MV-20121.pdf)

Friday Music

I think I have only ever bought 2 or 3 albums on the day of release, but I got this one on Monday:-

Reviews have been mixed, but I am slowly getting in to it. Getting into an album is like meeting someone new: you have to be around them a lot and meet them on several occasions before you become aware of their hidden depths. It is too easy to go with the first impression: ‘indie-folk’ is what some describe it as which is a very unhelpful label. It is a bit like describing the Mona Lisa as a painting or cricket as a game….

If I was searching for quiet contemplation, I would not pick this album (although there are a number of thoughtful moments) when I am searching for hands in the air exaltation without a side order of cheese I would go for this. So far, on my brief forays into it, it has never failed to lift or move me.

This song in particular feels like a worship song, although a good one without a slice of the aforementioned cheese:-


Lasting but thriving…

holding on

A lovely, graceful post over at http://tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com/tallskinnykiwi/2012/09/8-thoughts-on-lasting-out-not-burning-out.html about staying the course in ministry. I like this as the guy concerned is not hidden away in church but ‘out there’.

I found this really hopeful and helpful; a shaft of light right now for me. I am reposting two lengthy quotes as I think it is so good.

1. Be yourself. Find out what you love to do and do that. Align your gifts and passions with your ministry. Decades from now, you will probably still find joy in it

2. Minister out of who you are, not what you can do. Character based ministry will outlast accomplishment based ministry. If you accept a position, make sure they appreciate that who you are is more valuable than what you can do.

3. Know that the ministry is Gods, not yours. It is his prevenience that initiates lasting change and his grace that carries it through to completion. You are not as indispensable as you think.

4. Recognize God’s favor as it presents itself to you because it can be a reliable pathway into a God-empowered, God-blessed ministry in which the yoke of Jesus is not heavy.

5. Preaching the gospel is a matter of receiving and passing on rather than reinventing and customizing. It’s not the new twists you put on the message but the substance of it that is important. People can make it relevant themselves.

6. Install an on/off switch and use it. Its OK to be off, to be out of season, to take a break.

7. Accept criticism. Embrace criticism. And learn to dismiss it when you need to. You cannot please everyone. Accept the fact that 10% of your people will be mad at you for something at any one time.

8. Avoid vanity metrics. They are not helpful to you and you will kill yourself trying to live up to them or get back to them when the chips are down.


I don’t use the language of ‘spiritual warfare’ and I don’t it helpful, but I liked what he had to say here. Sometimes when it is used it seems to have more to do with testosterone and a quasi gnostic theology (doncha just love it when people use jargon?)

‘..the goal in spiritual warfare was standing firm. It appears three times in the Eph 6 passage. Spiritual warfare is not primarily about kicking butt, demolishing strongholds, and tearing down the works of the evil one. Its about standing, about remaining, about lasting out and emerging from the fire, ready for more service’.


same old same old…

Eager readers of this blog (there may be one or two) may have noticed I am in a ‘lamenty’/prophetic/disquiet phase (delete as applicable). That is why I blog: so I can see my own thoughts coming back at me and see if anyone feels the same or has a different view. I also constantly question almost everything: if that is disturbing to you then just imagine what it is like living in this head…

A week or so ago I was at a party. I thought I would know noone: it was my wife’s gig really. As it turned out, I knew more people- mainly through the wide variety of contacts that most ministers get after a few years. I love that; shooting the breeze with random people and hearing different stories.

This man in his 80s approached me; I had led a funeral he had been at.

‘I know what it’s like you know’ He then told me a tale of his childhood and how his dad was a minister in a different denomination. He told me of the joys and strains of that life; the moving, the loss of private space etc, but also the generousity and grace that he had found from many in my denomination: in wartime, because of what his dad did, the family had never gone short- people had provided for them. He then said of how he tries to encourage his own (Methodist) minister by telling him that he had a fair idea of what he is going through. I was really encouraged by this lovely, gracious man.

‘But I have been in Methodist churches for years; even been a Church Steward. There is one thing I can’t understand though: why do you have so many meetings? We had them in xxxxx non conformist denomination, argued, made decisions and then got on and did them, leaving what had happened in the meeting, in the meeting. You seem to have loads and talk so much.’

I couldn’t answer him: I think he is right- no one in this house likes September and I like it less each year. However, I was encouraged: someone of a different generation with an outside view had put a name to what I couldn’t….. and someone had shown me that, if there is not a different way possible, there is someone who understands.


(Just perfect: doing The Work unsullied by any humanity that may distract us…)

This person, who was married to a minister, came up to me after a meeting and said ‘Of course, I don’t think that we should have younger ministers with children- they have so much less time for the work.’

At the time we had no children and were not expecting any, but even then, all that was within me wanted to say ‘What a completely stupid remark’. Being new and an utterly nice person I said nothing (irony intended).

Leaving aside the issues of how is anyone going to see what God is like unless a diverse bunch of people represent the church and growing children expose you to more people than perhaps at any time of your life, there is the veneration of ‘the work’. ‘The work’: something that never stops and must be satisfied- to be ‘good’ you must never be idle. You have to laugh and welcome a 60 + hour week and as many unsocial hours as you can manage. To stop and be a good parent, cousin, son/daughter or friend must not happen- that has to be fitted in the gaps (of which a good minister has few).

As daft comments go…words fail me….

Every Tuesday I am going to post somethings that people have said to me as a minister that are just plain daft. The only provisos:-

1: The person who said it should have known better- ie they are ordained or have been active in the church for ages.

2: Nothing that I will feature has been said by anyone where I currently live or serve.

3: I am reasonably tolerant (unless you misfile my cds) of most things, but these things once got under my skin.

Always being right

(From http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=15681640 and subject to the terms described)

This is so powerful that it almost merits no comment (although I have been messing around with F#minor and G#minor to set this to music. My attempts, as ever, remain a mess though).

I got this from http://thisfragiletent.com/2012/02/28/doubts-and-loves-dig-up-the-world/ : someone for whom I have the utmost respect.

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

Yehuda Amichai

Here and now

Often in worship there is a longing to be someplace else or be someone else: things aren’t right and we want to escape. Think of how often you have seen pictures of ‘passionate worship’ or ‘dynamic worship’ etc and gleaming 20 somethings with perfect bodies and designer clothes (see above). Some of us are like that: I am not. Or think of how often you see o so cool type faces and wise people, Apple bedecked (I am thinking of my own ‘Emerging’ drug of choice).

Outside of church in the new religion of shopping (TM) this very human tendency is magnified….I can buy something that will make me new and something other that I am.

Why not see what you (plural) are today as the holy ground? Some timely words from St Stanley Hauerwas:-

“We constantly try to start from somewhere other than where we are. Truthful living involves being at home with ourselves, not complacently, but patiently, recognizing that what we are today, at this moment, is sufficiently loved and valued … ”

(see http://tangence.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/nice-reminder-from-st-stanley/)


I am (not) sailing

A group of friends are away for the weekend this weekend, sailing in the Lakes. ‘Pubtalk’ became action and a boat was booked by someone who knew what they were doing.

So they begin to ask me if I can come and I feel (again) like I am speaking a foreign language.

‘Come on: its a weekend- it will be fun’- I don’t get weekends- I get 5 Sundays off. I don’t have your option of going away. If I take one off, that leaves 4 and less time for family holidays. Anything ‘spontaneous’ at a weekend sometimes has to be planned 6 months before.

‘It will only cost £xxx’- Mate, do you know how much I have spare/get a month?

‘Just come for an overnight then’. I work 6 days- I am out loads of nights: I do not have your option of having loads of space the weekend before and after to make it up to my nearest and dearest.

So I am (not) sailing- pity as it would have enjoyed spending prolonged periods of time with a bunch of friends who I see in the pub and around the village and deepening the relationships. The only thing I would not miss is 6 blokes in their 40s let off the leash for 48 hours in an 8 berth ship and one toilet (let the reader understand)….

Now, don’t get me wrong: I think ministry should be different and as Jesus followers we do stuff differently: radical hospitality, giving when it hurts, downward mobility, prayer, open community, lining ourselves up with scripture etc etc….yes….yes….and I have seen a style of life that has this belief in God as a kind of benevolent fairy but which does not affect lifestyle and I don’t see anything grabbing about that. But I would like a bit more freedom, the and of feeling so constrained most of the time (and yes…. I have worked in senior management; so I have seen the other side) and more opportunities to live alongside those I am trying to reach.

I wish I was sailing 🙁 ……

Friday Music

Coming back home a few weeks ago after both children restarted school, I felt especially blue. I searched for the chords of the saddest song I could recall and began to play it on the guitar.

The original band does it infinitely better than me. It is from one of my favourite albums ever.