From Ritual to Reality…

I have just finished reading a book called ‘Godzone’ by Mike Ridell. It was recommended to me by a lovely Vicar I met a few weeks ago and it is quite unlike any Christian book I have read before. It doesn’t seem to be coming from any kind of ‘labelled’ perspective, it is just about one mans reflections on what he has learned on his journey through the ‘God-zone’. It is just crammed full of things that make you stop and think. And it is funny. unusual for a Christian book 😉 One of my favourite lines has to be:

God has the patience of a donkey on tranquilisers..

(Which is good news for those who us who are a bit slow in the listening to God department.. )

Anyway the book addresses several key issues – the old faves like: suffering, justice, evil etc, in simple yet powerful ways. One that really struck me is what he says about the way we chose to worship. Obviously this is a bug bear of mine (!) but it particularly struck me whilst reading the debate over at Lesleys  blog relating to homosexuality. In the post and comments several people have made the point that change is necessary, that the church has moved positions on various issues over the years and we need to continue to do so.

Personally I feel exactly the same way about how we approach worship in our churches. Like the debate above and others, there are two sides to the argument and there will be a large portion of people who like/want the traditional approach because that is what they are used to. BUT at the same time we have to recognise that the church needs to move forward, if we want to encourage people in – to meet with Jesus – then we need to help them to do that and for many the ritual and liturgy is a massive turn off. They don’t undertsand it, it is dated and it is a deterrent.

Mike Ridell says:
…It is this need for the wayfarers to gather that brought churches into existence. ‘Church’ at one time meant a gathering of people. Now it means a building with a steeple. ‘Worship’ at one time meant the act of celebrating Gods presence, now it means a collection of rituals at 11am on a Sunday morning. ‘Faith’ at one time was a red-blooded response to the stirring of the Spirit. Now it is a set of beliefs so insignificant that they can be contained in the doctrines. The Way has become religion, it’s meaning drowned in a sea of ceremony…

This morning I had some girls over for a coffee and questions session, it’s a new thing I have just started and the idea being that they can have an open and unthreatening place to ask questions about all things faith/God etc. It went very well and more sessions have been planned, but I was surprised by the level of antipathy to the church. They were keen to talk about God but all of the church stuff was negative. I guess I expected this, but I was surprised at how strongly they felt. And how sad is it, to actually hear a personal testimony that ‘the church’ is unwelcoming, unfriendly, unintelligible. We talk about it all the time and the stats show it but to hear it in my own kitchen made me so cross on their behalf! When will The Church wake up? We are representing Christ on earth. yes, none of us are perfect and we make mistakes but it doesn’t stop us trying to be like Him. It doesn’t stop us trying to show compassion to those around us, and it doesn’t stop us trying to get out there, into the ‘real’ world and helping people who have no faith or little understanding, to take a step towards Jesus. Does it? Is it really so hard? Are we really so arrogant that we continue on in our own little ways saying ‘this is how we do it’ or ‘this is how we have always done it’…

We cannot expect people to come into our churches if we do not make them welcoming, relevant and loving. And I’m not just talking about the coffee (although decent coffee helps..)

I chose the title of this post from a series of talks they are doing at my local church, which looks quite interestng actually, I am not dissing that, but I think the title is just so hypocritical. If they want to make the ritual ‘real’ then make it relevant!

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  • Reply
    June 9, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    A good rant – much appreciated from our corner – where things look much the same.

  • Reply
    June 10, 2011 at 8:34 am

    I enjoyed reading your post! The book sounds really interesting and some really good points about worship. But I wonder what you want to change (or what the guy in the book wants to change)? The style of music or the hearts of those worshipping? Cos you can put a guitar and drums in the mix and still hearts are no more gazing at Christ then they were when they look at a hymn sheet. Does that make sense?

    Your morning coffee group sounds really fun! What a good idea! Although its sad how the church stuff is so negative as well – why do you think it really is like this? Who are the ones that are "unfriendly, unwelcoming" etc? Who can change that?

    Sometimes I wonder whether the problem is that most the time we come to church with certain expectations that we want the church to meet and when they dont get met, we grumble and complain and become annoyed at the church? Or we come to church thinking "this is how I want to be fed, this is how I want to be served, this is how I want to be listened to"…?
    Well I know thats why I grumble anyways because I am just looking at myself and what I want from people instead of going to church and thinking "How can I love you, how can I serve you, how can I encourage you, how can I help set your graze upon Christ?".

    The church is Christ's bride – beautiful and full of splendour because he loves us so much. We forget that cos it doesnt always look like that. But soemtimes we need to stop looking within and start looking at Christ. Maybe we need to get those ladies in that group that rightfully have complaints and I know feel hurt and ask them to be the ones that change things. Be the group that welcomes, that encourages their pastor, that prays with people, that invites the lost and sick in etc. Imagine the difference it would make?

    Sorry if this seemed like a rant, but I feel strongly about this too and I agree with you, we do need to do something about it… 🙂

    Also…the coffee thing…why is the coffee in church so terrible?? seriously! 😉

  • Reply
    June 12, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Hi guys, thanks for your comments!
    @cat. several questions there, but furstly its the hearts really, the worship style is incidental. And becasue I ahev a thing about getting to people who havent heard the gospel I think I focus in the style because it so often alienates people – both modern and traditional that is! And in terms of who can change it? its those from within! totally agree that we dont always (rarely) look out and ask those questions: how can I help you/serve you etc..
    not sure where we go from here, to make changes! I am just starting locally with people I know because I know how they feel about the local church. And we have another project we're working on to link into a local mother and toddler group – will blog on that sometime soon!
    as for the coffee, dont know why church coffee is so awful, ours is quite good really! although the tea is always stewed! cakes are v good though (yes, I am on the cakes team!!). think it just boils down to the welcome and coffee is minor but it does help!

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