the baby and the bathwater

ready meal
October 27, 2007, 11:13 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

ready meal: prepackaged, frozen or chilled meal which usually comes in an individual package. It requires very little preparation and contains all the elements for a single-serving meal.

Is it just me?

Am I the only one who never wants to see, read, watch or listen to another ‘resource’ in my whole life.

Maybe it is just me. But the word ‘resource’ now just leaves me twitching, stressed, running for cover in need of a large whiskey. It used to mean something that helped us, taught us, inspired us. Unfortunately it now, more often than not, means something that confuses us, disappoints us, lines the pockets of some-of-us. We are largely confused by the sheer quantity-of-it, disappointed by the poverty-of-it, and suspicious of who is gaining-because-of-it. If I look back over recent years, I am struggling to think of more than a handful of books, cds or dvds that really really helped me in my role as a worship pastor. So much so that I’ve almost stopped buying and reading most populist Christian books, and stopped listening to most mainstream worship cd’s (even the one’s I happen to be on), and now positively avoid the dvd-of-the-course-in-ten-easy-steps. And probably I’m missing out. But actually I generally find more substance in a Jeremy Clarkson book or a Yes Minister DVD. Sorry.

O.K. so maybe you think I’m going a bit over-the-top-with-it this time. And I probably am.

But I am slightly confused.

Our bookshelves are full of more books than ever before. Our cd cases are filled with more worship cd’s than ever before. You can’t blink without another DVD being produced. As the church in the west, we are in total resource overload. And yet I have to ask the question ‘is the church better off?’. And I need alot of convincing that it is. My observation, generally, is that whereas it’s never been easier to find a book, cd or dvd for our own particular circumstances, it’s never been harder to get anybody to lead or serve the work of the church. Whereas we find it easy to get someone to buy a book, cd, or dvd, we find it hard to get them to give money to fund the vision of the church. We are supremely over-resourced in terms of materials, but supremely under-resourced in terms of people and money.

That’s why I’m confused.

Is it really just me?

Maybe it’s just another symptom of a largely consumeristic church culture.

Anyway, my point is this. I think we spending too much time trying to resource people, and not enough time trying to lead people. We are teaching people to stack their shelves with stuff of every size shape and colour imaginable but at the same time we are breading a generation of people who just don’t seem to be able to think for themselves, create things for themselves, lead themselves.

It’s like, instead of teaching people how to cook, we’re creating an ever increasing number of ready meals for people to nourish themselves with. You know, those meals that, whatever supermarket you get them from, they all taste pretty much the same – meals that probably have roughly the same ingredients, use approximately the same recipe, are more than likely all made by the same producers, but then just packaged differently and sold as ‘own brand’.

Just like most worship cd’s really.

Whoops! There’s the ultra-cynical Bennetts emerging again. I must try and control it.

There’s that old phrase ‘give some one a bowl of rice and they will eat for a day, but teach them how to grow rice and they will eat for a lifetime.’ Well in terms of worship songs, maybe we could re-write that as ‘give someone a song and they will have something fresh to sing for a season, but teach them how to write songs and they will have something fresh to sing for a life time’. If we resource people, we give them a range of options to choose from, depending on their circumstances. If we raise up leaders, we teach people to listen to God, to interpret the community and culture around them, and be creative for themselves.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are some very original, theological, thoughtful, helpful books out there. There are some incredible songwriters producing some wonderful songs and music. I’m not sure about DVD’s, but otherwise some of this stuff is truly inspiring. But there is also a huge amount out there that just seems to either recycle the same ideas, or appears to have no connection to the real life of doing church.

But rather than just rant, let me try and suggest some things that could make a difference. Let me just ‘put them out there’ and see if they resonate with anyone. My focus is really on the whole worship industry, but I think these things could equally apply to other arenas.

Firstly, the business models that those of us involved in producing resources use may need to be adjusted. If our business model has, at it’s heart, a need to create new product just to be viable, then it may be the wrong business model. In my mind, this means that generally we are too driven by the need to produce something – anything – rather than the need to be responding to fresh and new moves of the Spirit.

Secondly, and this is related, we need more of the intellectual and creative ownership of resources to be based within the church. It doesn’t mean that there is no room for strong partnerships between churches and distributors or service providers. But in my mind, this move would bring a creative edge back to many of our songs, books and cds. There would then be less pressure for writers to conform to a standard, other than the one that God is laying on their hearts.

Thirdly, we need to amend the way we train and invest in people, which needs to be far more relational based, and far less program based. Too often I fear we are teaching that one size fits all. The big worship conferences have their place, but I fear that, whereas they may be increasing our general skill levels, they are maybe not producing more creative, risk taking leaders.

And then I think we may be surprised. I think we may find that the baby is capable of a whole lot more than we currently give it credit for.

Anyway. I Must go. Top Gear is just about to start, and my Tesco Tikka Massala is just about done.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

It’s sad that we rely so much on books/dvd’s for teaching when we have an amazing resource already available…people…you and I….relationships.

I’m not knocking them as I know they have a place but I’d much rather sit down and chat to a fellow christian and chew over issues than just be pointed to a DVD.

Comment by Andy

Andy. When I think of the times when I have been most impacted in my worship leading, it’s not been through conferences, the latest big cd or anything like that, it’s been when someone who is far more experienced and gifted than me takes a few minutes out and talked to me. It’s totally changing the way I view the value of a load of stuff I do.

Comment by Neil Bennetts

Yes, it’s amazing those nuggets of Truth that people can impart with just a couple of minutes chatting…

I don’t think we (me included) make enough time for that. I’ve been reminded recently of a commitment that I made to myself to speak to 1 random person each day…I’ve been rather lax at it lately. But sometimes it is these conversations…the words we say…they can have a massive impact.

*mental note to self – talk to people you don’t know more often. Be more tuned into God and maybe he will speak through me more often*

Comment by Andy

I think so many organisations (not just church, but secular ones as well) just do “resourcing” when they think they’re training and equipping – its not – its just a book, CD, DVD, website et al…

The move from simply resourcing to equipping is a real shift for lots of people…

I totally agree with the comment about rice and songs – if you know what I mean!! AND I know the times I’ve learned the most is when I’ve simply played keys for a more experienced leader – whenever I play with Gareth or Pete, I learn so much. And I just love being sat down and talked to by those who are way further on then me.

Big challenge when people ask for your time for similar reasons, and you’re totally strapped for time – in this I admire my hubby’s profession (barrister) – its an unwritten rule that if ANYONE more junior than you asks for help or advice, its given – no excuses – hence you get appeal court judges in starbucks with brand new barristers – and its amazingly equitable….

Not sure where I’m going on this – but heh ho..!!

Excellent writing again, Neil – thank you.

Comment by Nicole

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