It’s now almost two months since my last post, and the constantly changing landscape reminds me that the plans that we make are way inferior to what God can do when we give it all to him. Let me fill you in:
I continue to let myself be challenged and formed as I dig deeper into God’s word, books, blogs and music. I am called to challenge and lead people through a more formative and life changing approach to corporate and personal worship in my church, and as such, need to be really clear in myself what that looks like, how we can do it, where we need to be, and crucially, where we are now. Through gently challenging people to think in new ways I am trying to break the circle of habitual behaviour which I feel has led to us as a church being unaware of our real needs, acting mostly on pattern, habit and comfort. Although I’m still not clear on what God wants from me, or where that will take me, I will continue to go through the doors he opens to me.
I am really excited about the future. For some time I have felt that my church has to choose one of two paths – continue as we are, or adapt and change to meet the needs of ourselves (though many are not aware of those needs) and those around us. However, this choice has been taken away to a certain extent. Our officers (pastors) have received a change of appointment which will enforce the need to look at how we “do” church. From July they will have responsibility for all Salvation Army work in the island, running St Peter Port Corps in addition to L’Islet. As such the way we do things needs to change to avoid burn-out or failure. The Salvation Army in the island will need to move away from the “3-centre” approach, and work far closer together. How this looks in reality is yet to be decided, but the fact that this opportunity has been created is certainly God at work.
So, this brings me onto my hopes and plans for this year. Though much of the mechanics / programme of how and when we worship will be decided over the coming months it will need to be built on a solid foundation of well articulated and understood driving factors. Such questions as why do we worship are fundamental as a starting point. How we worship is far more subjective, and will be considered over the coming months.
Within this context I have my own aspirations. Some of which I can influence and others which are beyond my remit. But in all of this, I give it to God and rely on the fact that he has much greater ideas than me!
I often feel the disjointed service style we have in TSA has a negative impact on those worshipping. By nature of what we do there is always going to be challenge in improving flow of our services. For example band members moving from band to choir, different sections (groups) taking part in services all has an impact on the flow of the overall service. However, we should always aim to facilitate really effective worship of all those present through a) effective planning and communication with all those taking part and b) being sensitive to both the Holy Spirit and also the members during worship. Really simple measures like people moving during the offering can easily improve people’s ability to worship. Equally, I cringe when we jump from something really reflective to a song of praise without giving people the opportunity to shift gears in their mind or spirit. Worship is a journey – at the end you should be different to how you started. Anything that gets in the way is preventing us from meeting with God and allowing ourselves to be challenged and changed through that meeting.
Worship is a journey – you are meeting with God, and should be changed as a result. Each time you worship you travel a journey. Imagine a train ride – if the train travels through fantastic countryside you will enjoy that journey far greater than being sat on the underground. But more importantly, if your train stops at every station, where you may need to change from the “fast train” to the “slow train” without much warning, your experience of the journey will be much worse. Chances are you will not get to your final destination on your journey, as you lose interest in the hopping on and off or feel drained from the constant changes. If you can sit back and relax, take in the view and be ready to step off at your final destination the whole process will be effective and refreshing.
I love the SA Band – I have to say that as Bandmaster. But seriously, it is such a versatile and inclusive tool which can add a huge amount to worship when used well. The risk is it is not used well. I constantly try to ensure how we lead worship using the Band, and also how we add to worship through musical contributions is effective and relevant. The expression of the brass band leading worship means that some things work really well, while others don’t. There are some great worship songs which work really well with the band – Crown Him with Many Crowns, In Christ Alone, Send the Fire to name a few.
However, for all its potential, there are things the Brass Band doesn’t do well. Achieving a flow through worship with a brass band is really difficult, and takes a lot of time. Equally, during sung worship it is very difficult to change direction (a-capella, multiple songs without stop-starting). The flexibility provided by the contemporary worship band set-up, and also the more explicit leadership this approach allows can bring a great benefit to those worshipping. For example times of response can be extended or shortened simply by the worship leader and band in response to the Holy Spirit and the spirit of the congregation.
I believe that these two expressions for leading are the key to the future worship profile of the church. Through effectively viewing worship as a journey, and planning in that mindset, people can be engaged in worship in a far greater way than the current method of stop-start worship. The more we adopt a worship flow, through effective use of the worship expressions we have at our disposal, the greater impact our worship has as we can engage with God on a personal and corporate level.
I’ve been privileged to be given the opportunity to introduce contemporary style worship leadership in the church. This is a great opportunity to expand the worship vocabulary of the church, and also, I hope, increase the effectiveness of our worship. Where the brass band isn’t appropriate, or where there needs to be some leadership this expression is a great tool to engage in worship. Also, times of response, prayer and praise can be included in a more natural and free way, stepping away for a short time from the disjointed approach we take with band and piano/organ leadership. My vision is to see extended times of worship giving people the opportunity to respond how they see fit, without the “end” time.
You do not go to a football match and hear everyone cheering during the goal-mouth scramble to suddenly go quiet when the goal is scored – the elation continues after the event. In worship there are often times when our soul wants to spill out after we have finished with that song. Being sensitive to the spirit of the people can allow them to worship in a more meaningful way.
To get to this point, though, a whole language of worship needs to be re-learned. The habitual approach over many years can deaden the senses to the need for more. The rigidity of approach is the norm, and it is often difficult to see a need. Through gentle and sensitive leading over the coming moths we can engage in worship on a new level.
There are also great opportunities to raise up those gifted into worship leadership, and also musicians within the church, particularly those younger people who often relate easier to this style of worship.
My church does family really well. When someone needs support they get it. Fact. Also, when someone disagrees with what you do, you get told. So, both the good and not-so-good of the family is here, but let’s focus on the good!
I would love to see more response to God’s word and meeting with him in worship. My church is not ready for much of what the Holy Spirit could bring, but it is ready to respond to God’s call on individual lives. Now why there isn’t more visible response is beyond me. Rarely will people make a outward sign of responding to the message (though that is not to say they are not responding). But there is great merit in making a public response, as it is an act of obedience and also allows the family to support that person without needing to know details. Prayer ministry in the church is minimal – my vision is to see an effective prayer ministry team to support and counsel those who respond to God’s word and worship.
As the future of The Salvation Army in Guernsey changes we are all travelling a journey over the next few months. As we strive to find God’s will for the two churches and the community centre in the island we have an opportunity to embrace much of the above as our foundation for how we deliver programme and worship. Exciting times.