Tuesday, March 21, 2006

let's talk about worship

it's not without some apprehension that i enter into the current discussions about worship that you can find over at andrew's (see his 16th march entry) and matt's (see his 18th march entry). i'm apprehensive because the topic of worship is quite a sensitive one: everyone has an opinion on it and everyone has precious worship experiences to savour. you would be a fool to wade in and not expect to tread on someone's toes. so from the outset, i'm not trying to disprove anyone's personal experiences, but try to start a discussion based on people's opinions (including some of my own). and if your experiences challenge any opinions expressed here, please do say so!

first off, a working definition to set the scene: worship in this entry is sung worship, not a lifestyle of worship. quite simply, most people mean sung worship when they say 'worship'.

when i first came into contact with vineyard worship, i was struck by how the personal the language was. the usual phraseology goes something like: "instead of singing songs about God, i was singing songs to God". the story that goes hand-in-hand with that is that the vineyard movement is anointed for intimate worship, or to borrow some of matt's wording, a core value of vineyard worship is intimacy. yet would it be fair to express the current stirring within the ranks as a frustration that somehow our worship isn't scratching where it itches?

of course, it's normally expressed among as a call to reclaim our value of intimacy. conversely you even hear others ask why we don't sing more songs about God any more! you might hear a scathing critique of how we have become 'consumer-worshippers' and that we're teaching people to be hungry for experiences, not hungry for God. maybe i'm painting too bleak a picture, but i believe that frustration with our worship is a good thing, if it leads us onwards and upwards.

so let me play the 'what-if?' game. what if the anointing that the vineyard movement received was an anointing for rediscovering worship, instead of an anointing for intimate worship? it would mean that the movement kicked against the prevailing worship expressions of its time and wrote songs 'to God' instead of songs 'about God' and rediscovered an aspect of intimacy in worship, rather than intimate worship itself. it would mean that we have to kick against the prevailing worship expressions of the times again (now that could be rediscovering intimacy again, but i suspect it will be something different). something that confronts individualism without sacrificing the personal, something that confronts consumerism without sacrificing excellence, something that confronts spiritualism (sensation-seeking) without sacrificing hunger for God.

what if, when we say the movement is anointed for intimate worship, we are playing ourselves down too much? what if we're shying away from something bigger? why can't vineyard worship be proclamation songs about God's characteristics (such as those mentioned by matt: "His perfect love, His unashamed mercy and [His] grace") and at the same time have the anointing of 'intimacy'. why can't we move towards 'us' and 'we' and 'our' language and at the same time have the anointing of 'intimacy'? note that i haven't defined 'intimacy' - maybe we need to work towards a better definition. those who argue that intimacy is preserved by 'i/you' wording may be shrinking the meaning of intimacy to 'pop-chart' dimensions.

and how do we create more room for the Spirit in all of this? worship can't be reduced to a recipe any more than you can analyse an emotion. if the Spirit doesn't turn up, it's just music, just as, without the Spirit, the bible is merely ink on paper.

one final throw-away comment: doesn't it strike you as slightly odd that we even use the phrase "intimate worship" for what we aim at? by that choice of words we allow the concept of "non-intimate worship" to exist. ah, it may just be word-play, but then isn't your favourite lyric just word-play too?

so come back to me. tell me more about the inheritance of the movement (seriously, i love hearing stories on this and need to know more); give me a working definition of intimacy (there must be someone out there who's at least read a good definition!); tell me your stories about how meeting God face to face changed your life (wendy's testimony moved me too). let's talk...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

what do you do with your leisure time?

mrs hope and i are visiting a friend in toulouse this weekend. it is lovely spring weather over here - perfect for doing very little. we went for stroll through town at lunchtime, stopped in a random little gallery before lunch, sauntered along the banks of garonne on our way home, then mrs hope napped while i've tapped away on this. blogging, for me, is very much a thing i do if i've lots of spare time.

meanwhile out on the streets of toulouse, the temperature is rising as not only are the students revolting but apparently playing with tear gas.