Monday, August 13, 2007

Who really practices "Come Ye Apart" any more?!

I've got a post swirling around my brain and I have no idea how to convey it without sounding trite or whiny so I suppose I'll just jump right in. Hang in there with me to the end...

In their effort to "connect" with young people, I see changes in the church with which I'm uncomfortable. Now, by "the church" I'm speaking of the corporate body of Christ - not necessarily ours in particular.

Some are merely different methodologies - the use of a screen and PowerPoint presentations. To me, they are a distraction - an intrusion even. To others, a welcome addition to the worship experience. After going to the Lord about my feelings, I realize that neither method is inherently right or wrong. Thus, I've resigned myself to staring purposefully at the bulletin or hymnal to avoid distraction.

The switch from hymn-based worship to chorus-based has been difficult as well, but I think is still a difference in methodology. Although I do really, really wish my son would grow up hearing those wonderful songs of old regularly in the service. It's one thing for a 5-year-old me to request the song, "Bringing in the Sheeps" (LOL), another for my 8-year-old to have to be taught "Victory in Jesus". I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for traditional-hymn CDs to listen to at home and in the van. (Do you have a fave? Let me know what it is!)

Here's where the water muddies a bit for me. This past weekend involved a "prayer journey"...there were "stations" set up around the building and you were to go at your own pace around. It was basically a series of object lessons. One had rocks you were to clean, there was a mirror at another, a map at another, and instructions on how to participate at each. Papa-Dew made the decision for our family to leave, and we did.

There were several different reasons for his decision: 1) We had an extremely hyper boy on our hands who thought this was playtime. 2) Papa-Dew and I were both extremely uncomfortable with the whole process. I can't list all of his reasons, they are his own and private.

But to me it felt rather superficial. I know everything was symbolic. What I need to learn and work on with regard to prayer is not symbolic at all. It is so very private, making myself so very vulnerable before the God who loves me and knows me by name, that to put it in a box - do this here, pray for this here, take a drink here, write a letter here - is to make it somehow seem less holy.

Human nature is too prone, I think, to put a great deal of stock in the symbolic. That's why I no longer have a prayer journal. For some people, it's great. Not so much for me. I caught myself just writing prayer requests down in it instead of actually taking them to the Lord. Once I realized that it wasn't for me, my prayer life increased. I still don't have a specific time each day that I devote to prayer. It's more like speaking to a loved one on an hourly basis. I'm so ADD that when I see a need or receive a request, I stop right then and matter where I am or what I'm doing. I've found that this way, I have a daily, hourly, sometimes every-minute running dialogue with the Lord. Of course, there are times when I feel the need for a season of prayer/spiritual warfare, and I search out a quiet spot and do so, but for the most part, I speak to the Lord every few minutes. I need to work on listening more often, I know.

Now, am I going to leave the church over a prayer journey? Of course not. Just because it wasn't for me doesn't make it wrong. But I have to wonder how we got so far away from the very basics of worship & praise. Why are the old ways being abandoned so quickly? Why are we so quick to change things to 'appeal to those outside the church'?

The church managed to win souls in the 40s without adding big bands. The 50s somehow saw increased church attendance without the allure of Ringo Starr in the choir loft. The 60s? Well, we won't go there. But the church did manage to hang around. The 70s and 80s saw the genesis of "Jesus Music" and the birth of contemporary Christian music. Petra was shockingly "rock-like" but remained on the record and cassette players of the youth group (I have lots of Petra on my iPod...they really mean what they sing!). The 90s ushered in the era of the 'mega-church' - where Sunday School included latte and donuts, small group ministries came into vogue, and suddenly abortion and euthanasia were 'political matters' and were verboten in the sanctuary.

Where are we headed with all this? Several denominations have sullied their fine histories by condoning things God calls abomination. I'm NOT speaking of loving and ministering to those in the lifestyle - we are called to do that! We are called to care for those who are homeless, downtrodden, poor, widowed, elderly, single parents, the hopeless, those who do not know Him. We are to love them, bring them in to fellowship with the Lord who loves them! In our quest, though, to "connect" with those, are we letting go of too much of ourselves?

I'm a fan of the show "24". I know, but it is really a roller-coaster ride thriller for a news/political junkie like myself. I'm a recent fan, so I've been watching older shows to catch up. In one plotline, Jack Bauer has inserted himself into a drug cartel/family. To seem "authentic" and show that he's "for real" he has been taking a drug. Heroin, I believe. True to form, his mission was moderately successful. He managed to ingratiate himself to at least one member of the family. But when all was said and done, when the situation was over, Jack was a junkie. No cute words...just a junkie. He'd done what he thought was necessary to get into that private circle. But he still had to pay the price.

I wonder...if we change our ways to appeal to the world, will they still appeal to God? Or will we have a price to pay? Can we reach the world without changing? I think so. You see, He's not changed. He's forever the same. Is all change bad? Of course it isn't - but change simply for the sake of change is not always wise. If we must change, perhaps we should begin not with the order of service - but the type and regularity of our service to others. Perhaps the words of Petra lyricist will illustrate the type of change I think is needed most:
Another sleepy Sunday, safe within the walls
Outside a dying world in desperation calls
But no-one hears the cries,
or knows what they're about
The doors are locked within,
or is it from, without...
Looking through rose colored stained glass windows
Never allowing the world to come in
Seeing no evil and feeling no pain
Making the light as it comes from within, so dim...
Out on the doorstep lay the masses in decay
Ignore them long enough, maybe they'll go away
When you have so much you think,
you have so much to lose
You think you have no lack,
when you're really destitute
Looking through rose colored stained glass windows -
Never allowing the world to come in -
Seeing no evil and feeling no pain -
Making the light as it comes from within, so dim
so dim!


Sommer said...

Great thoughts! There are definitely things that should not chane...and it is a shame to watch some churches going down that road.

vivianbeth said...

Mmmmm ... I think there has to be a healthy balance between tradition and reformation. I think change takes place in the church when it starts going cold and dead ... when tradition becomes just that ... a set of rules to follow and "we've always done it this way" mind set blinds us to why we were doing it that way to begin with. Kinda like Jesus using the washing jars to make wine for the wedding. Why? I think (remember just my silly opinion) 1) a symbol ... wine becomes the symbol of His blood that washes us 2) to shake up the people and make them talk. I can hear them now "Do you know what Jesus did? He used the ceremonial washing jars to make wine. I can't believe any man from God would do such a thing. What do you think?" LOL We need "The Old Rugged Cross" right along with "Indescribeable" because God wants to hear the sounds of the hearts of true worshippers.

As far as prayer journeys go ... I'm on one of those everyday. I miss church Sunday night so I'm not sure what it was all about. Everytime I polish brass, strip a floor / wax it too ... God is using it to show me things. Like you, I feel prayer is private. I look for "my closet" which turns out to be a huge courtroom ... it reminds me of a church sort of with all the old wooden pews. I do a prayer journal but not on a regular basis ... just when my thoughts are cluttered and I can't figure out what to say, my hand manages to find the words bringing my thoughts into focus. God likes us to talk to Him so I keep journaling to the bare minimum.

Personally, I think ... I think ... I think I'm out of thoughts. LOL This is the great thing about blogging ... can express ourselves and feel safe doing so. :-) Love ya and (((hugs)))

Kimberly said...

I'm not saying we can't have new music and don't need a fresh outlook every so often. I'm saying that changing to appeal more to the world is to change for all the wrong reasons.

But you're right. The blogosphere does create a "safe" environment in which to discuss things, doesn't it!

I like the idea of a constant, daily prayer journey much better as well. It is only when I am in constant contact with Him that I can even hope to get to know Him well enough to become like Him.

vivianbeth said...

Maybe we should put all our blogging together and make a book. LOL Now, I'm half joking and half serious. The things we've talked about on our blogs is pretty good stuff. (Referring to our more reflective type post ... not the rants. LOL)

deals hunt said...

Seems to be Great Idea!! i have lots of blogs posted on internet if i collect all blogs in one it create a big book which contain thought,idea,and information it change the life a person and from this book i also got some nice royalty.