Category Archives: Spiritual Thoughts

Performance, where is Church headed

Recently a church attracted some controversy (I know right, how unusual) for playing ‘Purple Rain” at the start of their service. Truth be if you are going to criticise a church for using a secular song in their service, you had better criticise me. I often employ secular songs during the service. I listen to them, check the lyrics, how they feel and will often use them for a purpose.

But the deeper question for me, in putting aside those who just like to ‘church watch’, is the question for us church leaders, where is the church heading in this regard? And is that okay? Some churches do now have lighting, musicians and performances of music which are not cringe inducing at all. In fact in the area of visual medium in some ways the contemporary church is leading the way. Environmental projection is one.

At what point do we become a destination for entertainment rather than spirituality? Or are the two mutually exclusive?

If we think back, the best art has always been found at some point, in the church. You only have to go back and look at incredible work in incredible church buildings to see that.

A cursory reading of the book of Jeremiah reveals the best performance drama, authored and directed by God, starring the actor Jeremiah.

The early church put on drama, it was a way to get the message across. It used visual mediums. Performance art. Sculpture. Painting.

For todays Church I don’t think it has to be expensive or high end. But it needs to be authentic, well done, and a reflection of who you are as a church community. Consider the pub musician. No one thinks he needs an expansive light show. A few coloured Leds on a stand and he is away. People enjoy the show for what it is. The smaller church can think about lighting, how to present the gospel in emotive and dramatic ways. We owe the gospel that much and more.

The stadium show, well that is best left to those who have the resources. But perhaps we best not criticise them. Perhaps they are just following the example of so many of Europes great cathedrals before them,

Why I listen to Nova

Over the last few days I have had opportunity to hear from a wise sage in Duffy Robbins. The Masterclass a few friends and I took yesterday at Vose was on communicating to young people. It was challenging and confirmed a practice I have. Duffy talked about the need to speak the language of the children and teenagers in your church.

There is a radio station in Perth called Nova. I was introduced to this by my daughter who likes the music, which is not surprising considering she is a pre-teen. There are obvious problems with listening to Nova. In particular the lyrical content of a fair percentage of the music they play. Of course they are seeking pleasure in every form it comes, and with no real sense of a moral compass. Duffy talked about helping young people see how the choices they make affect the rest of their lives. If young people made the choices they are encouraged to make on Nova we would all be in a world of pain.

However, its not all bad, in fact some of it is good. For one thing we know that all people are looking for God, but they have not yet discovered what to call Him. Contemporary music carries with much of it that sense of searching and longing. There are songs about family, about missing parents, dysfunctional relationships and the pain of regret and bad choices. In fact much of the human experience we might find in the book of Ecclesiastes.

The issue for me is language. Not the explicit language. But the language they are speaking. If I am to communicate effectively to even those teenagers within my own home, I need to speak their language. And the teenagers within my church speak this language, I don’t naturally. I mostly listen to Worship Music in my car. Or podcasts. And that is good for my soul. But listening to Nova is good for my mission.

I actually enjoy a lot of music on Nova now. Thats my confession……

When God is doing something

I listen to a lot of music and a lot of worship music. Recently, as any reader of this blog will know, I have been listening to a lot of Elevation Music, and also Bethel Music.

In our church we are doing now around 4 of the songs from Elevation’s new album. And more to come. Why is this? Because they are keenly biblical, singable and most of all fresh. What brings this freshness? This is the intangible element I have been thinking about.

I spoke to my worship pastor about this and she said that many churches are now doing Elevation worship songs. This surprised me, I thought this was our little secret! It can be a risk to go away from what you have always done. A bit like moving from hymns to the ‘Brown Book” all those years ago. (Obscure reference, let the reader understand).

Then I had a long and frank conversation with a key leader in a large church and she too was sharing how they are now doing Elevation material. We discussed why this is.

My conclusion is that when God is doing something, He is doing something. And the freshness comes not from listening to what contemporary secular artists are doing. Although actually that is important to. The freshness comes from hearing what God is saying, to the church, right now. And churches are picking up on this. They are listening for the Spirits voice. Hearing and responding to what God is doing, today. Yesterdays message was wonderful, but it was for yesterday. Todays message is what we need to hear.

I am…..

When God introduced Himself to Moses He said of himself….I am.

Nothing more was needed. God is self evident. Go and tell them ‘I am’ sent you. This contains all the authority and power you need. My name is enough.

How do I describe myself? I know in my darkest moments it may be words such as ‘fraud’, ‘hopeless’, ‘mediocre’ or even ‘unloved’. At other moments I might use words that are more affirming, perhaps too affirming at times!

How would you describe yourself, perhaps not to me publicly, but in those dark moments of insecurity and doubt. Perhaps those moments are far more prevalent than you would like.

For me these moments can be confusing and need courage to come out of. What does God call me? What does He call you? Son, daughter, friend, saved, seated with Christ…..loved and known. These are designations we can take a holy confidence from. That God loves us, that He has the best for us, the best is yet to come.

20 years on….has anything changed

I was reflecting on something a Pastor friend shared with me the other day. He was talking about how a member of his church came up to him after a particularly transformative month. The congregant member said that he had been a Christian for 20 years, faithfully attended and served at his church for decades. However it was not until recent weeks that he had discovered what it meant to hear from and experience the presence of God in his life.

We are called to be people of the bible, to let it shape and inform our spiritual lives. Yet I wonder sometimes if we are reading enough? The Bible is clear that the early church had divine encounters, nudges from the Spirit, miracles from heaven….often. I do want to stress that these are not prescriptive of our faith. There is nothing we have to experience from the book of Acts in order to say we are a completely fulfilled Christian. Apart from believing in Jesus and receiving the Holy Spirit. Of course in the book of Acts this happens in a variety of ways, so let us not make the story of different faith journeys normative for everyone.

However it seems to me that our lack of experience of God sometimes defines our faith more than a simple reading of the scripture. In other words, just because you have not experienced God in a certain way does not invalidate someone else’s experience.

For me, I do not want my faith experience of 20 years ago to define my faith experience now. In fact as God is infinite and eternal, so my faith journey can change, grow, experience something new….every day.

My prayer for my life is that I would continue to grow in my spiritual journey. Experience more of God’s voice and what that might mean, more and more as the years go on. Holy Spirit, You are welcome in my life.

If you want to hear a message from me on this, you can go here.