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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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86 Responses to 781

  1. MMP says:

    Found myself wanting to scroll down and find the others……!

  2. Carole says:

    Or,

    Not actually that interested

    Just leave it at the foot of the cross.

    There’s a Catholic twist on that one, too:

    Quit whining

    Offer it up!

  3. Carole says:

    Helloooo!!! Anybody home…hello?

    Ah, I get it, Jon has been posting ironic comments about worship music again…I’ll try again tomorrow…

  4. kls says:

    ahaha, very good one. and yes, could you please scroll down and give us some more? :)

  5. Pingback: A mini revelation « Learning from Sophie

  6. God will provide…

    You can just be yourself and be accepted…

    I saw you speaking to that guy, are you guys dating/engaged/to be wed?

    It’s not so much the worship music as the ‘Christian music bands’ who do their concert tours.

  7. jonbirch says:

    ah, brunettekoala, yup, them too. but i beg to differ, it is ‘so much’ the worship music. :-)

    sorry carole… it has been quiet… but then it’s thursday… why aren’t you at housegroup?! :-)

  8. Tiggy says:

    Some of it’s alright. We sing one song that sounds like Alanis Morrisette. And I like the ones that are rather dark and use heavy electric guitars. We have special worship or ‘soaking’ evenings where the music is heavier and it’s great. You can just lay on the floor and feel the vibrations and let the loud music wash over you and it’s fantastic.

  9. Tiggy says:

    If someone at your church gives you some money, would that count as Jesus increasing your wealth?

  10. danielgs says:

    do you have any cartoons that are say something positive about church?

  11. jonbirch says:

    danielg… yup… :-) sadly not loads about church services though, but then i don’t think going to church services is very enjoyable, educational, edifying, efficacious, or particularly good for the most part… sometimes it is, but it’s a bit like watching 100 episodes of a tv show because you think there may be a good episode in amongst them all at some point. i do think that the church does a great deal of good in many communities which it is a part of around the world, it’s the often dreadful church services i can’t stand… just too painful much of the time. what is it you like about attending church services danielg?
    i’m more interested in how we be church than how we go to church really. i find much of what is a service inhibits the process of relating to one another and living lives of loving community. it is also that i do find so much of church culture, in it’s various forms, ripe for comedy. well, i often find it funny anyway.
    anyhow, feel free to disagree with anything and everything i stick in a drawing.
    i do draw a massive distinction between ‘church’ the place and ‘church’ the body of christ. i find the church place and going there to do the things that go on there, is often just an enormous distraction from the real deal of relating in love to the people and the world around me.
    about my humour… i use it to get things off my chest, to challenge, inspire, make people smile, encourage… i don’t know that i achieve much or any of that, but i do think laughing at our daftness and not being defensive when we really are a bit daft is a helpful way to start. i say that as someone who is himself a bit daft. :-)

  12. jonbirch says:

    forgot to say… and i should if i’m going to be honest… my humour can also be a defense mechanism… however, i do try to avoid humour in that way… i don’t always succeed… i’m a work in progress. :-)

  13. soniamain says:

    Jon what you bring is a questioning voice into the arena that does not often encourage questioning :)

  14. Miriworm says:

    Makes me wonder what is in the Trash folder? :-)

  15. beatthedrum says:

    Shouldnt they be in the trash can?

  16. subo says:

    at times when my healths been rubish, I’ve really appreciated all the email newsletters I get, and hearing about loads of church stuff. it’s still amazing to me, to be able to keep in touch with people from miles around

    another thing, I keep logging on to this website, where they discuss christain issues, and you can add your comments, it’s great

  17. subo says:

    I just felt compelled to add this item – couldn’t stop myself, oh and I’ll be there if anyone wants to come and share a cheese scone with me

    The public launch meeting of Bristol Gaza Link takes place on Monday 28th September. Details are below and a copy of the flyer is attached. I hope you will be able to distribute as widely as possible among people who may be interested. There are printed copies of the flyer. Please email if you would like some.

    ++START++

    Bristol Gaza Link – Public Launch Meeting

    Date: Monday 28th September

    Time: 6.00pm to 8.30pm

    Venue: The Council House, College Green, Bristol, BS1 5TR

    Speakers: Mr. Ibrahim Beshtawi, Palestinian General Delegation to the UK + local speakers

    People from across Bristol took part in large numbers in protests, vigils, demonstrations, meetings and occupations to show their support for the people of Gaza during Israel’s attacks in December & January. Thousands of pounds were collected in the city to be sent as aid to Gaza. Mohamed ElHaddad and Sakir Yildirim went from Bristol to join the 100 vehicle Viva Palestina! convoy which drove to Gaza with aid collected in Britain. On their return they gave eyewitness reports of conditions in Gaza.

    Out of this grew the idea of building links between Bristol & Gaza City. Bristol Gaza Link aims to build humanitarian, cultural, educational and social links between groups and organisations in Bristol and similar groups and organisations in Gaza City

    We have built wide support for Bristol Gaza Link, with community groups, schools, trades union branches, faith groups and many individuals involved. Already one school and a community radio station have begun to make links with with Gaza City.

    Come to the meeting to hear about the plans for Bristol Gaza Link and join with us in building links between Bristol and Gaza City.

    For further information email bristolgazalink@googlemail.com

  18. Catherine says:

    Brilliant.

  19. Carole says:

    Jon (7) – When I did do housegroup stuff, it was usually a Monday night…anyway, I was at housegroup, ASBOhousegroup. I even brought chocolate hobnobs but no-one else came. :(

    Hi, Danielg, sorry if you find the cartoons don’t really hit the spot for you. I think, from the things that you write, that you know a lot of stuff. I don’t really know that much to be honest so I won’t engage in any debate with you, but I think it is really good that you choose to come to this little corner of cyberspace and engage in the discussion. I’11 speak from the heart, if I may, and say that I love this little blog – it is a place that lets me be me. I can go to any number of blogs/forums if I want to be patronised, educated, lectured to, whatever. But the ones which support me and allow me to be me, with all of my lack of understanding, funny ideas and quirky sense of humour are few and far between. There must be at least an element of truth in all of these cartoons, because they are starting points for discussions which elicit so many perspectives and opinions. They can’t be wholly negative, because if you are a regular visitor, you will observe that others who comment here are ordained clergy, Christians of many traditions and denominations, of church and no church, of faith and, I dare say, some of no faith that they would admit to. As a churchgoer who is often scared of saying the wrong thing, it is a relief to come here and be confused, listen, be amused, have a moan etc. It is a pressure valve which helps me get through the stuff I find difficult in church. If you take a wander through the 781 cartoons here, you will see that ASBO is actually a very positive place to be, both in terms of the pictures and also in the sense of community and co-journeying that exists between people of all backgrounds and personal circumstances. Isn’t Jon a good guy for letting us take over his blog like this? Sorry if that sounds like a lecture, that truly wasn’t my intention, but ASBO is hugely important in my own personal journey and I hate to think of anyone getting the wrong idea about the value of it. I hope you continue to come here and enjoy being a part of the conversation for all its challenges. :)

  20. MMP says:

    # 14 oh ay…..
    Me? i wanna see what’s in the Sent folder too

  21. Ok, not all worship music is bad or played badly. And I have been to some really great gatherings of the church.

  22. danielg says:

    >> CAROLE: Hi, Danielg, sorry if you find the cartoons don�t really hit the spot for you.

    Actually CAROLE, I rather enjoy the cartoons – in fact, of the many humor and comics sites I have in my rss reader, yours is one of the few I keep up with (I also particularly enjoy the Sacred Sandwich).

    But as a budding assistant pastor of 2 years who has suffered under bad churches, I have gone from complaining about the state of the church to loving it and endeavoring to change it with more than criticism, but with action.

    I am not at all saying that JON is merely complaining or not contributing – I think you really are contributing. I am just a little (over)sensitive when people pick on the church’s problems without offering helpful suggestions or also praising it for what it does right.

    >> CAROLE: I think, from the things that you write, that you know a lot of stuff.

    Thanks for noticing, but of course, intellect is no substitute for godliness ;)

    >> CAROLE: I don�t really know that much to be honest so I won�t engage in any debate with you,

    No need for debate, this is not about winning, just about understanding. I mean, I *like* to debate, but I am endeavoring to win friends, not just arguments – but sometimes, the latter may actually be the better course, because trying to befriend some hard core opponents is less fruitful than disassembling their arguments for the onlookers who might be fooled by their claims.

    >> CAROLE: I think it is really good that you choose to come to this little corner of cyberspace and engage in the discussion.

    Thank you for the welcome.

    >> CAROLE: There must be at least an element of truth in all of these cartoons, because they are starting points for discussions which elicit so many perspectives and opinions.

    Absolutely, and that is part of this blog’s charm and value.

    >> CAROLE: As a churchgoer who is often scared of saying the wrong thing, it is a relief to come here and be confused, listen, be amused, have a moan etc. It is a pressure valve which helps me get through the stuff I find difficult in church.

    Yes, and my church is actually like that – but my online persona, maybe not so much so ;), as you could witness at my blog http://www.twoorthree.net

    >> CAROLE: If you take a wander through the 781 cartoons here, you will see that ASBO is actually a very positive place to be, both in terms of the pictures and also in the sense of community and co-journeying that exists between people of all backgrounds and personal circumstances.

    I agree, I guess I am just a little oversensitive on certain subjects that I am passionate about, for good reasons (or not) – the church, homosexuality, sexuality, the bible, and how we practice church.

  23. danielg says:

    >> JON: sadly not loads about church services though, but then i don’t think going to church services is very enjoyable

    I sadly agree Jon. In fact, as a 2-year assistant pastor, I am constantly thinking about how to restructure church so that we actually add value rather than waste time in people’s lives, as I began to document (but did not complete, as with most of my series, not enough time!) in My Passion: Re-imaging the Christian Church.

    I’m also reading a bunch of books on the subject, including:
    unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why It Matters
    Church Re-Imagined: The Spiritual Formation of People in Communities of Faith (Emergentys)
    Preaching Re-Imagined: The Role of the Sermon in Communities of Faith
    Quitting Church: Why the Faithful are Fleeing and What to Do about It
    How to Quit Church Without Quitting God: 7 Good Reasons to Escape the Box

    I hope all those links don’t get caught by a spam filter :D

    >> JON: what is it you like about attending church services danielg?

    Well, since I am a preacher, I like the preaching part ;). But I am not sure that a weekly Sunday meeting is the best use of our corporate time together. If I was designing a church, I would do something more like this:

    1. Big sunday gatherings every OTHER week in which we:
    – hear practical, inspirational bible teaching
    – hear from people who’s lives are being changed by God
    – engage in heartfelt corporate worship
    – enjoy the ministry of the spirit in the form of prayer after the service, etc.

    2. Weekly small groups of fixed duration that meet to cover a specific topic of interest to spiritual life – the group ought to have the following features
    – a really good training and ongoing mentoring program for small group leaders
    – relationship building through personal transparency, confidentiality, and mutual care
    – increase in the knowledge of God’s ways in the subject being studied
    – for the latter half of the group’s duration, a focus on OUTREACH in service and/or evangelism of some sort, to the church or the world

    3. Leadership Academy
    – for those who want to lead small groups, or just grow in personal leadership and godliness, a lay school through which the Church’s future leaders can be trained and mentored

    >> JON: i find much of what is a service inhibits the process of relating to one another and living lives of loving community.

    And I’m not entirely sure how to overcome that, but am looking for suggestions…

  24. Lewis says:

    Haha, fantastic.

  25. Will says:

    Hi Danielg: In your 1,2,3 lest you give up there i go to, run or oversea many of those kind of things. And i’m not sure why. Probably because there is an expectation from people who have been doing those things for years that they happen.

    However I find that I would much rather go to the pub and talk with someone over a pint and get to know and be involved in their life than do any of those things.

    In Fact as i look at your point 2. Thats what i do with one guy i meet with on a regular basis. And we meet down the pub. Except we put no time constraints on our time together and talk about what is happening in our lives at that point. Often it is specifically about God other times “God” is not mentioned but indirectly we see how we are being transformed by our relationship with him by the conversations we have.

    So often in church it is east to get caught up with jargon that is essentially saying being friends or mates to people who need it (& I’m one of them), don’t you think?

  26. Will says:

    ***List*** you give up in #23, I go to,,run etc….. (Bad and english sorry)

  27. Tiggy says:

    Carole #19 You provided chocolate hobnobs and they STILL didn’t come?!! Go out and bring in the poor and lepers from the streets! Let THEM enjoy your chocolate hobnobs. After our Contemplative Prayer group, we always had chocolate hobnobs – it was part of the ritual.

  28. Tiggy says:

    Subo – do you live in Bristol or Bath? I’d heard about that Beshtawi guy from a friend who went to hear him talk. I’d really like to go to that meeting and we can arrange to meet up if you’d like. I’ve never been to Bristol!

    Tiggy.

  29. LOL and double LOL you just brightened up my morning Jon, thanks.

  30. subo says:

    Hi Tiggy, I’m a Brissol creature, and you’d be very wecome at the meeting to launch a freidnship link with Bristol & Gaza. I’ll be there as am manning a stall as an Iona person, so it would be wonderful place to meet you

    the Bristol Council House is easy to find, and the meetings in the main rm

    otherwise, am sure I’ll meet you soon

  31. rockingRev says:

    Jon, I find your comments about worship quite distressing. Worship is not about us, it is about giving God what God is worth. In your long statement all you talk about is your relationship to other people and how that is what church is about and yet so much of it is about our relationship with God. There is a tremndous little book by James Torrance on the place of the Trinity in worship, it is called “Worship, community and the triune God of grace,” can I humbly recommend it to you. I still find after 20 years of ministry it to be an important book to read occasionally to remind myself of the nature of worship. Blessings.

  32. Forrest says:

    Re: #31 by rocking Rev
    Umm, just because Jon didn’t say anything about his direct relationship with and worship of God in that post it’s not evidence he doesn’t have or do those, which is what seems to be implied.

    He is, I gather, speaking of instances where churches have become absorbed in procedure and polity.
    And also have become focused “up” more than “out”.

    (yes, there’s also churches with balanced foci and others gone to extreme the opposite way – those are not the topic in this post)

    If we, through my eyes, take an overall look at Jesus he was about interacting with people and touching their lives out in the streets and towns.

    Funny that second word in book title “Worship, community and the triune God of grace,” is community.
    What my take on what Jon is saying is that church is probably originally intended to be as much if not more about living and being Jesus in and to the community as it is the gather to worship God; formally commune with him; and in a sense get ‘refilled’ spiritually to have more spirit to go out and give in your community.

    I think also that in reading the epistles as an overall whole there is cause to interpret church as “community” more than the afore mentioned procedures and polity.
    Those, and an understand of doctrine are needed for knowing where you stand and for entering into intellectual debates about God and his being and ways.
    But, it’s likely most souls and spirits are pointed to salvation in Christ by seeing how the person out there beyond church walls who interacts with your life is living and what is in them that allows a fallable human to do so.

    Once saved, then they have desire to come worship.

    Not likely a person will come to truly worship someone who ain’t saved his soul yet, eh?

    “Go ye into the world to preach the gospel” can likely be take as the church’s first priority.

    Which is not to omit that one has to have a good base of some sort, not necessarily a physical base, to “go ye” from and a solid foundation to the gospel preached.

    I’m no seminary graduate, or intense Bible studier, but I think there’s a good chance that Jesus spoke more of the “Go ye forth and do likewise” thing giving pity and mercy to the unloved, unlovely, and suffering, as well as everyone else, than he spoke of formal worship.
    Which it is safe to say he did indeed speak of.

    While God himself instituted formal worship, he did start his interacting with humanity by personally walking in the garden with Adam and Eve.

    Nothing is said about formalized worship by Adam and Eve, so no real conclusion can be made – no evidence – but; it is noted that formalized worship did happen after the fall.
    Before? Who knows.
    After? Definite evidence.

    The whole purpose of Jesus who is the Christ is to get us back into personal “walking in the garden” directly with God instead of being alienated and cut off from him.

    Corporate worship is a good thing – for one it is a definite identifier of those who are the community of God.

    But we need to remember the doing of “the business of God” is being “God to the community”, so to speak.
    God has chosen his church to be the instrument to do that.
    And that is their most important “job” here on Earth, in my eyes.

  33. rockingRev says:

    I take what you are saying Forrest but worship is the first word in the title of the book and it is in response to worship that everything else takes place. Many of Jesus early stories takes place where? The synagogue, because he was there to worship. Once thrown out of the synagogue you find him going off on his own to pray – a form of worship.

  34. Forrest says:

    Got me on the first word there! ;-D

    On Jesus in the Synagogue, I have thoughts but am hesitant with them because it would seemingly amount to putting thoughts in God’s head, or at least guessing his reasons.

    for the sake of enjoying conversation with you here and bouncing ideas around, here we go! :-)

    Jesus did need to establish theological credibility, so there’s one likely reason for starting in Synagogue. And that brings to mind the thought that indeed there are people who open up to Jesus after their young years in Sunday School, Church School, Youth Camp, or whatever formal or semi-formal in-church education they receive.

    Prayer – definitely part of “walking with God” – and source of a lot of theological debate. Nevertheless, it is our most intimately personal way of communicating with God out in every-moment life.
    Which is not to say that deeply intimate communication with God takes place in formalized corporate worship – that setting can be insturmental (no pun intended) in aligning one’s heart, mind, spirit, to be open to God.

    I would venture to say that while a person’s relation ship to God is not complicated, it is complex, with so many different levels within the whole of human existence and being.
    I believe that it is all too easy for us humans to fall into complicated-ness of worship, of church, by mistake more so than intent: we are shown to be that way other places
    And thence to be focused more on process than purpose. It is known to happen in business and other organisations as well.

    Sometimes church would do well to lay down its procedures to sit still and deeply examine their answer to “okay, so why are we here, really?

  35. Forrest says:

    Sometimes the church gets absorbed in the frills of its being and misses out on the thrills of its mission.

  36. Tiggy says:

    There are two different words in the NT translated as ‘worship’ – one means the kind you’ve been talking about and the other means what we do for God in our lives. I don’t happen to think God is ‘given His due’ if we sing some naff, badly written song umpteen times with a high degree of sentimentality. Jesus was always emphasising what our attitudes should be rather than talking about worship, though he does mention prayer sometimes. I don’t suppose he had to deal with naff songs in the synagogue, though judging by

    http://www.uscj.org/Modern_Songs_for_You6102.html

    he’d surely have to now!

    I thought that site was satirical at first – it’s hilarious! Maybe we should bring more musical theatre into our worship. :-) One of our worship band in residence has just got the role of The Artful Dodger in Oliver and at my other church we saing ‘I Am what I Am’ from La Cage Aux Folles and for some reason no matter what we sing we sound like a Boy Scout gang show. Yes, I can see the future now – all those badly amended lyrics. Maybe it’s time for a frilly mission!

  37. jonbirch says:

    rocking rev… “Jon, I find your comments about worship quite distressing. Worship is not about us, it is about giving God what God is worth.”… the second half of your comment is my point entirely. which is why i find it nigh on impossible to have any sense of giving god anything when stuck in a song fest with music that turns my ears to putty and my heart to the dark side. (i overstate, but only just).
    i’ve read many a book on worship in the past and they all fail to address what for me is an important point… why is it that most modern worship music seems to be unlistenably awful?..
    i am aware that this is a very subjective view or opinion… nevertheless it is my opinion. i hate a lot, nearly all, of what is called ‘worship music’. i think it’s pretty much all dire. it upsets my god given sensibilities. it makes want to wear earmuffs. it makes me want to scream. the words are often rubbish in my view… +, amazingly, some people make money from producing this stuff… i find that even more offensive.
    and btw… i think we should all stop equating worship with what actually amounts to a time of singing where some get high and some don’t.
    sorry to be such a lovey. :-)

  38. jonbirch says:

    …and yes, let’s give god his due, let’s worship him with heart, body and mind… let every aspect of us be a testimony to his greatness… let us abandon ourselves to this act. i’m all for it…

  39. Tiggy says:

    I would like to see you in ear muffs, Jon – the fluffy kind.

    So what would you like to hear/sing in church services?

    Someone recently challenged me to write a worship song even though it’s not the kind of thing I’d normally write. Have you ever written one? Can you cite some examples of good ones?

  40. rockingRev says:

    I agree Jon that a lot of stuff is pretty banal. But there is good stuff out there as well. I think a lot of the problem is that there are just not that many good poets out there. The tunes for a lot of contemporary songs are not too bad, not all of them but quite a few. It is the lyrics that let it down. It is like the just prayers, when people just want to ask God for this and just want to thank him for that. I find that excruciating. We use a mixture of contemporary and traditional songs in worship and use a projection software that has over 3,000 hymns and songs in its database so that we can avoid the painful ones which are an affront to most people, never mind God. It can be done, it just needs discerning worship leaders.

  41. Allatsea says:

    The response I struggle with is “speak truth to yourself” – as in constantly remind yourself that things are the way that the person who’s giving the advice sees things. I get this so often from someone who I know cares about me a lot. If I bother to try to explain that I don’t see things from the same angle, she says “Don’t worry. Ask God to show you. He will!”
    If I didn’t love her and need her care, it would all be so much easier!
    Thanks for this cartoon, very validating – as always.

  42. jonbirch says:

    rocking rev… i’ve just thought of a way of illustrating how i feel or what i think that may clarify what i think about things.
    if i am going to invite you to my home for a meal, it is pretty unlikely that i’ll say to you a few days prior to the event, “what’s your least favourite food and most hated music?” were i to, you might respond “i loathe parsnips and i can’t abide whitney houston.”
    then the evening comes and i serve up a meal of deep fried parsnip for starters, succulent roasted parsnip for mains, followed by a delicious sweet parsnip crumble, all enjoyed to the sound of whitney singing the theme from the bodyguard on continuous loop.
    a daft and far fetched story i hope you’ll agree… but nonetheless that is how i think of church services generally as being and why from the age of zero i’ve never wanted to invite anyone.
    now, i think that if you love your service and you love what goes on in it you will be more than happy inviting people along… if not, you won’t.
    for those whom a church service works i can see the value in it. no need for change. but, as we know, the church in the west is ever shrinking… and i simply cannot join in with wanting to get bums on seats.
    i’ve lived in my home town for all but the very beginning of my life, i have great friendships in many churches, have been to many services across the denominations and found my experience to be the same almost every time.
    i managed to distract myself from the tedium for many years by leading worship and generally using my talents in the worship service context. but, fun though it was for that time, it was not sustainable… + i still had to sit through the lecture, the prayer, the mime, or what ever else was being served up.
    where people are living real lives in loving community… where people are genuinely laughing and crying together… where people are genuinely looking after the needs of one another… etc… that is where others want to be too. it’s attractive… magnetic.
    whatever other forms of worship you want to engage in out of that reality of being, whether it be singing, dancing, chicken swinging, whatever, is a kind of worship that has real value.
    i just said much more than i meant to… hope it makes sense… i’ll post it anyway. :-)

  43. jonbirch says:

    allatsea… i think you really need to speak the truth to yourself… ‘my truth’ that is. don’t worry if you don’t see it now… ask god to show you… he will. ;-) …and thanks for your kind comment. btw. is that the same bar of chocolate in your avatar picture as a year ago or have you started on a new bar of chocolate. :-)

  44. danielgs says:

    >> JON: that is how i think of church services generally as being and why from the age of zero i’ve never wanted to invite anyone.

    I agree, I want a church that I would want to invite friends to.

    Paraodoxically, church should probably be a combination of what people want (practical help in spiritual and family life, community, opportunities to serve the community) along with what they need but don’t know they need – the gospel clearly presented, the experience of God in worship (enthusiasm without fanaticism), and an opportunity to see people who actually know and love one another.

    In my experience, most stuff that turns me off about church is one of these:

    1. Fanaticism and hyper emotionalism

    2. Anachronism – 1800’s hymns are nice on xian history month, but if you don’t have a faith that expresses itself in contemporary forms, you’ve lost me. I didn’t grow up in the church.

    3. Imbalanced doctrine – overemphasizing truth or love, God’s judgment vs. his mercy.

    4. Poor communication skills in the pastor, including and especially being longwinded and jargony.

    I like my church, it tries not do do those things. In fact, my pastor jokes that when the church started, it was ‘believer hostile’, not just seeker friendly.

  45. Tiggy says:

    I wish someone on here would say what they DO like. I like some of the songs we sing at church, but I don’t know the names of them to be able to say which ones. The thing is, while quite a few of us on here dislike a lot of ‘worship songs’, what we actually like might be totally different for each person. A lot of people LIKE 1800s hymns. Personally I like Medieval and Elizabethan music. Some people on here probably like Whitney Houston. What do peeps on here actually WANT to sing in church?

    I know when I first started going to church in the ’70s, the hymns were much more community focused in their lyrics and more incarnational. Now they’re all power and glory and ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ songs. It all seems much more individualistic.

  46. rockingRev says:

    Jon, I think it was Eugene Peterson who wrote that the church isn’t what we want it is what God calls into being. He acknowledges that most of the people around you in church would not be the people you would invite home to dinner in the first place. In fact you would probably rather they were not there at all, but you are there and they are there because God calls you to be the church in that place. I have very little in common with my present charge, they are in a small fishing village and exotic means going to spain. I am a city boy who has lived and ministered on three continents. But nevertheless I have now been in this church longer than any other. Because I and they believe that is what God has called us to do and be. There are many times i would rather not be there on a Sunday night for example and I would rather be down the pub with my pals, but that is not relevant. We are called to be a worshipping community and that community is called into existence by God. I would agree that some services can have some tedious aspects. I actually have written above my computer, “Do not lecture, preach” because there is a great danger of lecturing, it is too easy; but preaching should and must be different from lecturing.
    Just a few more thoughts.

  47. Carole says:

    One thing is clear from what everyone writes – church, however we define it, is a challenge. I don’t know, maybe that is because we are working from a few vague hints and tips in scripture. How that is interpreted is the result of what the most dominant personalities in our communities think it ought to be (both historical and contemporary)…then that becomes tradition. I don’t think that that makes it wrong but it doesn’t make it the only way either.

    Personally, I don’t mind the church service in many of its more popular guises. I hate some of the music, quite like a lot of it and am indifferent to the vast majority. I usually find something something of value in the sermon. My very favourite bit is ‘the peace’, which many find gut-wrenchingly embarrassing. I have spent most of my life wishing the ground would open up and swallow me, but this is an occasion when a brief contact/interaction with some random individuals really lifts my spirit. All that said, it’s OK…not fantastic…I still have to make a real effort to go next time. RockingRev, you said we ‘go to church’ because God calls us to be church in that place. I agree with that. I think we are called to be church in this place, too, on t’internet. Oddly enough, logging in here to see the cartoons and the comments is never an effort for me. It just works for me. Isn’t God clever? He is meeting me at my place. I read ALL the comments, though quite often the fine detail goes straight over my head. I store little bits of the wisdom in my heart, because there is a lot of wisdom here. I take advice on further reading. I am challenged on issues and I have occasionally changed my views in the light of discussions or tried to make lifestyle changes. Most of all, I have a voice and I am able to bring my personality to it. If this were a standard church community, you might say, ‘the teaching is good’. It’s kind of like a church ‘wiki’, a community effort, not just one or two disseminating the wisdom. I care about this ‘community’ and remember you in general when I pray and as individuals if there is a need or if I just feel like it. I may be going batty in my old age…but you are not just a bunch of virtual personas…you are flesh and blood people with lives filled with joys, pains and everything in between. We are just as much ‘church’ as any other. I think that would probably make God smile. :)

  48. Carole says:

    Tiggy – I love Elizabethan, Renaissance and Medieval music, too! I don’t know that my voice is up to singing it but I could quite happily join my spirit with a really good choir singing Palestrina or Tallis. :)

  49. jonbirch says:

    i don’t necessarily think that god called our brands of church services into being though, rockingrev. when people go to a football match they invariably share the stands with others that if it were not for their chosen team and their support of it they’d never hang out with. in fact many will utterly abhor the lunatic fringe of their chosen team’s fans… but religiously, every week they go.
    yes, we should gather… not in unreality, but in reality… yes, the community should express itself, but in a way which is relevant and meaningful to that community… you can even sing if you want, but out of a shared and real experience.
    if i’d been in the wilderness for 40 years, (some say i have :-) ) i too would join in the singing when i finally got a place to settle… i’d probably be responsible for penning a few songs myself. but in a western world where community is broken down and the family unit struggles and people lead individualistic lives, what is the authentic expression?.. i think it is in the healing of community and the shared sense of struggle that the real and authentic worship is birthed, and only when we go the hard relational route that we will experience corporate spirit and truth. there, there will be no place for bland, no place for empty platitude, no place for the corporate worship music machine. i have no stomach for a church service but a big heart for the church. :-)

    carole… i agree… i hope god smiles… i hope this is a good place… i certainly relate to people here in the way you do. thank you. :-)

  50. Tiggy says:

    ‘the healing of community and the shared sense of struggle’

    I do experience that at my church, but more in the smaller groups where it’s easier for people to share what’s happening in their lives.

    I experience it too in a lot of the sermons too, though sermon seems an odd word – they never feel like sermons to me. I guess they’re just very different from the rather bland Anglican sermons I grew up with. I know I frequently feel very moved by the sermons – often to tears!

    I think most people actually go to church for the singing. People like singing and singing together produces a feeling of unity that I don’t think is unreal.

    I like going to church because I feel part of a community. Having moved to a city where I knew no one, it’s really helped me to survive under very difficult circumstances.

  51. jonbirch says:

    that’s good tiggy, i’m pleased to hear that.

  52. dadube says:

    Just want to agree with Carole (47) :)
    This community feels like what church should be – in general people listen, support, share and interact with honesty. I love that. And I read every comment too, even when I don’t want to say anything myself or feel I have no words at that time. Jon – you are such a blessing! lol, that sounds very twee – sorry!

  53. dadube says:

    Just been thinking about the whole worship debate thing that’s going on too. Please don’t get cross but a Zen saying comes to mind (well I am an RE teacher don’t forget!). “When walking, I walk Zen; when sitting, I sit zen and when sleeping, I sleep zen.” I kind of think as Christians worship should be like this – our whole life and approach should (ideally) be an act of worship – so if I choose to avoid going to my local church and singing choruses but love visiting a cathedral and being totally anonymous – does any of that matter?

  54. Forrest says:

    A couple interesting thoughts there dadube

  55. Forrest says:

    Re #45 by Tiggy “I wish someone on here would say what they DO like.”

    A couple of years back I’d have had a ready answer: now, the mind just stalls out trying to answer that.

    Same shutdown happens trying to answer what I would even want for worship.

    I’d have to look in someone’s book anymore and use their thoughts to even develop an answer for that.

    (but then, look up the line and see all the words that fell out of my mind on the 19th . . . how come that was different and this worship question leaves me blank?)

    What’s going on here? What causes this?
    There is a health thing where things ‘too big’ easily overwhelm me a lot of times.
    But that doesn’t seem it would be the entire answer.

  56. rockingRev says:

    I think Tiggy has a great point with the place of small groups. That is where relationship building takes place much more than in communal worship. My struggle where I asm is that the sense of community used to come from the fact that everyone was related. Those who have been in the church for years find my attempts at building community baffling for they have never had anything else. Meanwhile people not from the traditional families struggle to establish themselves in the church and cannot understand why the traditional members don’t want to get together morwe often. We have a couple of small groups going but it is a struggle – but it is a struggle i am not going to give up.

  57. Tiggy says:

    Well I’m just as bad Forrest because I can’t actually remember the names of any of the songs I like that we sing, but then they’re all fairly new to me and they don’t put any actual titles up on the screen. If we were given songsheets I would be really familiar with them by now. I like that song that sounds like YMCA’s ‘Go West’ – I think it’s called ‘Give Thanks’ and there’s one we used to sing at Holy Trinity, Brompton that went,

    ‘the cup is full and the wine is flowing and I will drink some with you.’

    Very Omar Khayam! I’ve tried to find it online, but haven’t been able to. I think it was written by their resident group ‘Hallowed Ground’. I also like stuff with a Jewish tune. Some of Helen Shapiro’s songs would be great to sing in church.

    I guess we all like different styles of music, but it seems to be the lyrics that let the songs down and sometimes the tunes are bland by anyone’s standards. I can’t see anything wrong with a relatively simple tune as long as it has beauty. It’s beauty I look for in a song as I do in most things – curious to know if this is the case for other people????

  58. Pat says:

    Jon @49 – I agree with what you’re saying here – especially your reflections on relationality. However, re the whole ‘singing thing’, I think it’s worth remembering that traditionally, music and liturgy served a whole host of functions in the context of the gathering of the body of Christ – functions that have pretty much been lost in recent times with the move towards and emphasis on ‘praise’songs.

    And isn’t this what a lot of the ‘alternative worship’ groups (like those one encounters at Greenbelt)are about addressingvizfinding ways of helping people encounter and explore the challenges presented by Jesus and articulate their responses – verbally, musically, symbolically and practically? I think there is much that can be done in the context of ‘communal worship’ (if we recover a more expanded understanding of what that actually is which would enrich our lives – individually, relationally and communally – and help in our task of drawing down the Kingdom of God (with all that implies).

    Dadube @ 53: I reckon that is spot on – worship is organically connected to how we live our lives. I find the following comment by Miroslav Volf very challenging in this respect:

    ‘There is something profoundly hypocritical about praising God for God’s mighty deeds of salvation and cooperating at the same time with the demons of destruction, whether by neglecting to do good or by actively doing evil. Only those who help the Jews may sing the Gregorian chant, Dietrich Bonhoeffer rightly said, in the context of Nazi Germany. Without action in the world, the adoration of God is empty and hypocritical, and degenerates into irresponsible and godless quietism.’

    The measures of our living are, in some respects, also the measures of our worship – which is a pretty discomforting and challenging thought.

  59. Carole says:

    Another take on the worship song topic – skip to 29 mins – lasts about 5 mins.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00mplqz/Sunday_20_09_2009/

    Thanks to Maggi Dawn who posted the link on her blog:
    maggidawn.typepad.com

  60. Forrest says:

    Two things I like from formal worship services come to mind.

    Here’s a classic hymn which has parts that stick in my head, because what it’s is pretty much all I have going for me;
    Standing on the Promises
    Text: R. Kelso Carter, 1849-1926
    Music: R. Kelso Carter, 1849-1926
    Tune: PROMISES, Meter: 11 11.11 9 with Refrain

    1. Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
    through eternal ages let his praises ring;
    glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
    standing on the promises of God.
    Refrain:
    Standing, standing,
    standing on the promises of Christ my Savior;
    standing, standing,
    I’m standing on the promises of God.

    2. Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
    when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
    by the living Word of God I shall prevail,
    standing on the promises of God.
    (Refrain)

    3. Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
    bound to him eternally by love’s strong cord,
    overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
    standing on the promises of God.
    (Refrain)

    4. Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
    listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,
    resting in my Savior as my all in all,
    standing on the promises of God.
    (Refrain)

    –> There’s a confession prayer in the Lutheran liturgy I like: there’s a couple different versions of it it seems – let’s see what can be found online. Don’t know if it’s exactly the same as what was used where I went.

    Most merciful God,
    we confess that we have sinned against thee
    in thought, word, and deed,
    by what we have done,
    and by what we have left undone.
    We have not loved thee with our whole heart;
    we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
    We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
    For the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ,
    have mercy on us and forgive us;
    that we may delight in thy will,
    and walk in thy ways,
    to the glory of thy Name. Amen.

  61. subo says:

    i still have a typed song on my pin board

    “To the lost Christ shows his face
    To the unloved he gives his embrace,
    To those who cry in pain or disgrace
    Christ makes, with his friends, a touching place”

    i’ve kept this song sheet since, as new to Bristol, we tried hard to become part of a church we were told was ‘the one to join’. this John Bell song was sung at a christening, as the parents chose it.

    i found my heart awakened from it’s hopelessness, as we sung about things i knew about, and have since had the opportunity to make a cup of coffee for John Bell

    sadly, i’ve not managed to find a church in Bristol that wants to sing such stuff, or to reach across the gap and try to understand someone who took as wholehearted and damning a verbal beating through growing up as myself

    however, i recently stumbled upon a web site where the writer looked at how ‘unhelpful’ a popular Christian book is to people who’ve grown up surviving abuse, this article filled that raw chasm of indifference and denial, from years of finding my story of no interest to church people, and my hesitance a reason to exclude and put down

    here’s to building communities of hope and reality, where it would be as shocking to ‘sing pious songs, and not notice the heart ache of our fellow pew member, as it would be to ‘bless someone, who has no food, and not share a meal with them’ here’s to communities where faith means hoping for those who’ve temporarily lost hope in themselves

  62. Tiggy says:

    You see? Everyone has a different idea of what makes a good song to sing in church. I don’t think I’d like that hymn at all. I can appreciate why it might mean a lot to you, Forrest, but it doesn’t to me. I suppose it depends on one’s personality. I’m not saying believing in a promise isn’t a good thing, but it isn’t something I connect with.

  63. Tiggy says:

    Ah, we cross-posted again Subo.

    ‘someone who took as wholehearted and damning a verbal beating through growing up as myself’

    Er… like me, maybe. :-) I used to go to John Bell’s worship sessions at Greenbelt and someone at my church has recently become a member of the Iona community, though he lives in Bristol. I have that song on tape. That’s what I meant by an incarnational hymn.

    I used to make tea for Paddy Ashdown – lol.

  64. subo says:

    hey Tiggy, the day we drink coffee together, is getting closer

  65. Tiggy says:

    Ooh, you make it sound ominous! If there are scones I prefer tea.

    Is anyone else going from here?

    Could you post the details on Sanctuary, Subo, because I’m worried I won’t be able to find them? I’m awfully muddle-headed lately.

  66. Pat says:

    Subo- I too love that song.

  67. danielg says:

    >> TIG: Everyone has a different idea of what makes a good song to sing in church. I don’t think I’d like that hymn at all. I can appreciate why it might mean a lot to you, Forrest, but it doesn’t to me. I suppose it depends on one’s personality.

    I hate to break up the love fest, but let’s not get so subjective that we fail to identify what makes certain music/lyrics have value and longevity. As long as we leave room for songs that break the mold of ‘best practices,’ at the very least, we can benefit as sacred song writers and designers of church services who select music.

    1. Principles of developing good content/lyrics
    – doctrinal accuracy
    – artfulness of meter, rhyme, and word choice
    – doctrinal and experiential depth
    – use of contemporary language
    – heartfelt

    Understandability and relatability to congregants is important – using Old English, for instance, may not be the best for modern, unchurched people – it may be totally unrelatable, and is often a sign that (a)

    I note that trite lyrics and rhyme abound in Christian music and worship (right/light, love/above, glory/story, sins/within), and often lack power for lack of creativity. Sure, a simple, trite rhyme may be memorable, and with the right musical hook, could do lots of good. But I think that’s the exeption to the rule.

    2. Principles for developing good music
    – easy to learn/sing
    – musically interesting (1,4,5 gets old)
    – contemporary – while we all may have an appreciation for historical forms, few transcend time like, for example, classical music.

    Most of the 1800’s hymns are NOT worth replicating, and nobody speaks in KJ English. We can maintain a link to the past without living there. Unfortunately, to most modern people, churches that have only an 1800’s culture are not relatable. And honestly, most that have this antiquated culture have not had a genuine spiritual awakening since then. Otherwise, new believers would have created a comtemporary worship experience there.

  68. Tiggy says:

    Could you give an example please of something you think fits the bill? You’ll probably have to type or link the lyrics because we may not know it this side of the pond.

  69. Forrest says:

    Do note that what is now “historical” music was “contemporary” when it was written.

    What “contemporary” music will be remaining as “historical” when the future is contemporary?

  70. Tiggy says:

    Not f***ing Hillsong, that’s for sure! LOL

  71. jonbirch says:

    danielg… those principles, though i understand your point and in part agree, feel like legalism, a list of rules. amazing grace has a slightly iffy last verse yet it remains for many one of the most powerful songs ever written. even i love it. :-)

    i have a more fundamental question really… why would you place music, which is in our western culture the single most divisive art form there is, at the centre of your corporate gathering? it just seems ridiculous. gangs and sub gangs all identifying themselves with their very specific and narrow brand of sub-genre… how will what you do relate in any way to the newcomer?

  72. Tiggy says:

    I don’t think you can really just cast aside hymns by the Wesley’s and Newton. And they weren’t written in King James English.

    I didn’t get to ‘Beer and hynns’ at Greenbelt, sadly, but I imagine that a lot of those were very traditional old hymns, but very popular.

  73. jonbirch says:

    btw… in answer to tiggy’s question about what we like. here are a few things i like that i learnt in church.
    abide with me… another example of cronky theology, but it has depth and a great tune.
    eternal father, strong to save… what a sentiment, what a tune.
    dear lord and father of mankind… just love it.
    i also used to enjoy doing sinaed o’connor’s ‘thank you’ back in the days when i led.
    the above are my taste, i love them… and as much as i am happy to share with others what i love if they’re interested, i’d certainly not inflict them on a crowd week in week out these days… just couldn’t do it. mind you, they may well all be present at my funeral. :-)

  74. Tiggy says:

    Can I come to your funeral, Jon? :-) Go on, I never get invited to parties!

    I can’t help it, my favourite ever is ‘You Raise Me Up’. We sing that at my gay church along with Gregorian chants, Taize music, black gospel and all sorts.

  75. jonbirch says:

    actually, i love a whole bunch of gospel music, the stuff that the big black pentecostal churches serve up. very often the theology is proper shonky, real escapology escatology stuff, but man, it gets me. housework flies by with a bit of gospel music turned up too loud. :-D

  76. jonbirch says:

    tiggy, i’ll not be able to refuse you admittance anyway… :-)

  77. Tiggy says:

    Just make sure there’s plenty of gin.

  78. jonbirch says:

    btw… interesting how with a cartoon about all sorts we end up with a conversation on worship music. to be honest, i no longer really get the concept of worship music. a good song is a good song. i like music about all sorts and often prefer music with no words. one of the best times i had worshipping was at a sinaed o’connor gig.

  79. Tiggy says:

    I looked back and the reason this thread ended up being about worship music was that Brunette Koahla made about four different short points in one post and you responded to the fourth one with, ‘it is ’so much’ the worship music’ thus setting the tone.

    If music connects us with God, then to me it is ‘worship music’, whether it’s the title track of ‘The Sound of Music’, a soaring violin instrumental or Jimi Hendrix.

  80. rockingRev says:

    Talking about musical taste reminds me of an occasion when we sang Amazing Grace to the tune of a peaceful easy feeling by the Eagles. Someone was horrified that we would use a pop tune so i asked them if they would prefer German drinking songs which truly horrified them until I pointed out that Ein Feste Burg, A mighty fortress is our God was a German drinking song that Luther used. I think hymn choices are one of the most contentious issues in the modern church when it comes to worship. In an attempt to please everyone we often end up pleasing no-one. We have two services on a Sunday, one more traditional, one more contemporary so of course someone else is now asking for one where we use Scottish folk music – there are a lot of hymns from Iona with John Bell using folk tunes. I gues I might just give up having as life and have continuous worship on a Sunday moving from one musical genre to the other. The punk services might be quite interesting!

  81. subo says:

    Hi Tiggy

    try emailing me on :-
    tandsbowman@blueyonder.co.uk

    and I can give you some more info

    all the best
    s

  82. JF says:

    Jon (75) – does Clare know that you react to loud gospel music in this way?

  83. jonbirch says:

    jf… hahahaha! no! and i don’t want you telling her either! :-D btw. loving muse’s new album.

  84. danielg says:

    >> JON: those principles, though i understand your point and in part agree, feel like legalism, a list of rules. amazing grace has a slightly iffy last verse yet it remains for many one of the most powerful songs ever written. even i love it.

    Of course, that’s why I included the caveat “As long as we leave room for songs that break the mold of �best practices'” – but what is ‘good’ is not entirely subjective, and as song writers and those who pick songs for Sundays, we need to think about what a quality song is.

    I mean, anyone who decries the lack of artistry in contemporary Christian music is applying such a filter. Not that one person is always right, but we can use some filters to get rid of much of the inferior songs. Will some good ones get filtered out? Probably. But so will lots of bad ones.

    The danger in lacking such ‘discrimination’ is not applying our intellect and senses to improve what we do.

    >> FORREST: Do note that what is now historical music was contemporary when it was written. What contemporary music will be remaining as historical when the future is contemporary?

    >> TIG: Not f***ing Hillsong, that�s for sure! LOL

    I’m not sure, and I do like some of Hillsong stuff. However, I pulled out some 20 year old tablature from worship I led in the past, and I have to say, almost ALL of the Hosanna and Integrity worship music did NOT stand the test of time – the lyrics and music made me ‘throw up in my mouth a little bit’ (to quote Happy Bunny, whom I adore).

    But I have to say, I think that Chris Tomlin’s stuff is fantastic.

    I also really like mass choir music (I used to solo in a gospel choir, quite a feat for a white guy), and just about every other kind of music.

    However, I want to reiterate that I think that we should either modernize the rhythm and/or music of hymns, or intersperse them as a minority among contemporary expressions of faith. Our God is a God of the living, not the dead. I think a lot of unchurched people are turned off by a church culture that is so anachronistic.

    Not everyone. I love some of the hymns done in their original formats. I just don’t like living in the past as if God is not active in the church now.

  85. JON: “i have a more fundamental question really… why would you place music, which is in our western culture the single most divisive art form there is, at the centre of your corporate gathering? it just seems ridiculous. gangs and sub gangs all identifying themselves with their very specific and narrow brand of sub-genre… how will what you do relate in any way to the newcomer?”

    Well said. And while we’re at it, why do we assume music is the best approach at all? I’m all for supporting people who express their worship through music, but I can’t halp feeling there’s a lot of people out there who would worship in different and quite creative ways if we stopped pushing them to sing. We seem to have decided about 100 years ago that singing en masse is the only thing to do and thrown everything else out.

    Personally, music seems a barrier to worship for me about 80% of the time. Sorry, but that’s how I’m built. I’ve fought it, tried to ignore it, given myself a good talking to, and occasionally tried to pretend, but it didn’t happen: I just got bored.

    What I do like is storytelling which I’m beginning to see as a form of prophecy, because it is bringing God’s word to people. There the people who don’t fit (Read: “Aren’t musucal’) are getting together and creating all kinds of storytelling through different media, throwing ideas about and trying different things, and hopefully, on a good day, worshipping in the way God made them to worship.

    Of course, now people call me a heretic for being a storyteller, but remember, nowhere is there a description of Jesus singing, but there’s plenty of him telling stories…

  86. jonbirch says:

    andy in germany… yes, yes and again, yes. :-)

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