Month: February 2008

The ‘Grand Challenges’ for Theology in the 21st Century

The Complex Christ asked what these ‘grand challenges’ are.  Here are a few highlights that inspired me to think:

Vanessa Elston (teacher) In very basic terms how do we move from a reformation/protestant/enlightenment emphasis on the salvation of the individual to one of communal participation in salvation.

As protestants we get so hung up about the reformation and the need for personal salvation.  When taken to the extremes, people can become only concerned about the moment of conversion.  When this happens we lose all grasp of discipleship and community living.  We forget the shared experience and how to carry each other on the journey.

Becky Garrison (writer / satirist) The challenge is finding ways to communicate theological change without becoming yet another crass Christian marketing machine.

This is a difficult one.  We are to be missional.  We are to attract people to the gospel.  We are to market Jesus.  And yet we’re not…

And a word from Kester himself:

However, finally, the question is whether any of this is any different to any other time in history. If these are the grand questions now, have they ever been any different? And if not, are we failing in our theological practice, or simply evolving to cope with a changing world?

The challenge is believing in a God who is the same yesterday, today and forever whilst living in a world that is not.  Truth was present before the world and after it and yet we move through a time of change.  I don’t beleive that the church facing the challenge of change is a new phenomenon, I am sure that in all centuries there have been great obstacles that need to be overcome, issues that need to be faced and conflicts that need to be resolved.  The question is, how do we today engage our issues with the God of truth who was and is and is to come?

Why start a new alt. worship event?

I have been asked to “be involved setting up an alt. worship service” in a church “aimed at the 20-30’s”.  This raised many questions for me – such as are the 20’s-30’s an appropriate target group and should we be looking to see what the demographic of the area is?  It has made me get back to basics and dig out Dan Kimball’s emerging worship and start putting together the list of key questions that I need to be asking at the meeting we are having next week.

  • Why are we going to do this?  Us it just to jump on the band wagon?  Are we just trying to be hip and groovy and down with the cool cats?
  • Who is the service going to be aimed at?  Are we just looking as supplementing the worship of people who go to other congregations or are we being missional?
  • What is the relationship between this service and the rest of the church?  Are people just going to see it as a way of funnelling people into the ‘main’ Sunday services?  What about finances?  What about the long term planning groups….etc…
  • What about the ongoing spiritual journey?  Is there going to be any additional structure for the people attending the service?  How are real relationships going to be fostered?
  • How are we going to organise the services?  Who is going to be involved and how do you get them involved?  How do we facilitate people as they develop the social capital to be involved and use their gifts?

The list goes on and on…  At least I will be prepared to ask the difficult questions.

When does Worship Start and Finish?

I am currently writing a dissertation about how to engage alt. worship with Anglican Liturgy.  One of the interesting dilemmas it raises is the language we use to describe our worship.  I find myself using phrases that try to explain a cohesive theology through each and every sentence.  It is difficult to find a wording that sums everything up that isn’t a paragraph.  Let me show you…

When the singers get up to worship…

But worship isn’t just singing.

And the musicians got up to lead the sung aspects of the worship…

But the worship isn’t confined to this service.

As the singers got up to lead the music in the sung aspects of the service that formed part of the ongoing worship throughout each day of the week…

I’m sure you can see the problem.  The language is either insufficient to convey a complete theology of the nature of worship or it is so unwieldy that it becomes unusable.

My old lecturer in liturgy once complained about the way each service he leads ends.  At the end of each service he would instruct everyone to ‘go in peace and serve the Lord’ and lead them out of the door.  As this happened each and every member of the congregation would sit down in silence.  He called them to action and they proceeded in typical Anglican fashion. 

I wonder what would happen if the Church of England authorised the words “Time to leave church and go and worship” as a form of dismissal.