the baby and the bathwater


lament: a holy moment
January 23, 2008, 6:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Sometimes God’s timing is incredible.

Last night we had our ‘hungry for God’ evening. As a church yesturday we also had a day of prayer and fasting for two main things – our up and coming building project and, more importantly, those in our congregation who are seriously ill at the moment. We have our ‘Hungry for God’ evenings once a month, where we gather to pray and seek God as a church. I love leading worship at these times – there always seems to be a huge anticipation for what God may do. And last night was no exception: the church was crammed with people wanting to meet with God.

After a time of worship at the beginning, we started to pray for those who were ill. And of the 150 or so people who came for prayer, there were many who were very seriously ill. There were others who also came forward for prayer who were representing loved ones who couldn’t be there for one reason or another.

It was one of those moments I will remember for a long time.

There I was singing and leading the band gently as others prayed, and I was able to look out over so many of my friends, some of them very close friends as they were prayed for, and as I say, some who were very ill, possibly with life threatening conditions. I was reminded again of the huge privilege it is leading worship for my church. But as I was sensing it was time to move on back into worship, the question was ‘what do I sing?’

In one sense, if ever there was a time for a song of lament, then surely this was it.

But as I stood there, I just knew that there was no way I could lead a lament. I couldn’t do that with my congregation, my friends who I loved.

I just had to sing a song of hope.

And it was as if God was confirming some of the things I have been challenged with over recent weeks. The theological exercise I had been going through was suddenly brought sharply into focus as I was faced with this very real situation.

It was a holy moment.

In that building last night we were gathered as a people with a huge range of life situations. Those dealing with painful situations were standing alongside those who were feeling stronger. We stood alongside each other and prayed with a passion. And there were many tears along the way. But last night we were still a church full of hope, and a people marked out by praise.

And as we sang a song of hope, a song of praise, the sense of God’s presense was incredible. And what a testament to those who were ill and suffering that they were praising with such a passion.

I was chatting with my friend and pastor Mark Bailey and sharing what I sensed, and he also reminded me of another time in our church. We were doing the funeral of one of the church members – a lady who had died relatively young and left a husband and family. Mark said that he had talked to one of the guests, who wasn’t a Christian, after the service who said something like this: ‘I wouldn’t mind coming to this church again – I had expected it to be miserable – but it was so full of hope’.

I have enjoyed this study. It clearly has not been as extensive as those done by others. In fact some may say that I may have only scratched the surface. But I am coming to believe that the focus that so many worship leaders and theologians have been trying to give to this whole area of lament is not just unhelpful, but is a big distraction to the real mission of the church.

So my request to the 5.2 worship leaders and a dog who probably read this blog is this: Please write more songs of hope. Please write more songs of praise. Please write more songs that help raise the levels of faith and the commitment to intercession and service in the world that grow the kingdom.

And to record companies, my request is this. Please never release another album called a ‘lament for a nation’ or any such title. Please don’t. It is a distraction. Don’t worry if it means loosing out on a few sales. Seek out songs of hope and praise.

You see, the church should embody the hope that is Jesus Christ. The church should be marked out by praise. And the church should be one that seeks the extension of God’s kingdom through the passion of it’s prayers and the sweat of it’s brow.

And as a worship leader who feels his primary purpose is to serve the church, this is where I want to focus my efforts from now on.

Hope.

Praise.

Growing the kingdom.

BRING IT ON

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6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

neil – I’m not a worship leader so I am assuming that I am the dog which I am sure stands for being a member of the Digital Online Godly (a technologically savvy Christian).

Great blog…keep it up.

Andy (aka Loxley) McConnochie
D.O.G.

Comment by Loxley/Andy

I guess the thing is to have kinda gritty hope that is honest about the struggle and the pain of life, but always looks to God’s promises in Jesus. Then we can be sorrowful when life hurts, cry ‘meaningless’ with The Teacher but still praise God for the hope we have.

Comment by thebluefish

Neil,
I picked this up on my mobile phone via RSS last night. Thank you. It made my evening. I am glad you reached the conclusion you did, as I was previously uneasy with the track of this “series”. Obviusly there is a place for lament in the church; we will always cry out to God for one reason or another, but not in worship. As a relatively new worship leader I was struggling with the earlier thoughts, as my one desire has been to lead others in praise and joy, (tempered with reflection). I couldn’t see a place for lamentation.

As an aside, I would be interested in knowing what you played last Sunday, as I have a similar event in the near future.

Comment by Christopher

I think I count as the 0.2 . . !

I like where you ended up. It’s odd how often God will be there in our studies only to reveal himself in very practical ways when we actually do the stuff as it were. Needless to say you couldn’t have had that depth of insight from the experience if you hadn’t studied so intentionally on the subject.

Two thoughts – firstly, as a song writer of limited ability I feel pressure to write things from lots of different people on different themes. One at the moment would be to write more songs to appeal to men. You rightly exhort the church to write songs of hope. I wonder whether the best songs capture something of both lament and hope, reflecting the ‘now and not yet’ of the Kingdom? A song, whatever certain ‘theological’ perspectives would say, is not primarly a manual for understanding God or a textbook set to music; it is an artistic expression of spiritual truth which goes beyond our mental faculties , touching parts that concepts can’t reach.

I love the songs like ‘When my heart runs dry’ because they encapsulate a journey. They express the distance, then the steps to get back to where you want to be, then just praise. Lament should always be incorporated in a context of hope, otherwise we weaken the gospel. Why do feel we have to keep songs to one ‘theme’ when the gospel is as much a story as a revelation of divine tenets?

Secondly, and with apologies for posting such a massive comment – a key lesson for me in leading worship was to realise that with a lot of people in a room, the ‘song’ will be experienced in many different ways. So with a song like ‘You never let go’ one person might just love declaring ‘I will fear no evil’ while another will revel in the hope of the chorus . . . I geuss what I’m saying is that lament will expressed by those who need to express it and joy will be expressed by those overflowing with joy if you write songs which lead poeple into ‘that place’ where God is just so close, presented as a loving father who wants to dwell in and with us – so maybe we need more songs that say ‘ nothing is unacceptable to bring to God in communion, and we stand together whatever happens.’

Keep writing!

Comment by MattCrossman

Lox – next you’ll be telling me there is a DOG facebook group.

Bluefish – absolutely.

Christopher – the song we sung was ‘I will bless the lord forever (Made me glad)’. Truth is, that I was sweating trying to think of the right song – one of those panic moments!!. And even now, as I look through my songbook there are very few songs of this nature that I have around. We need more!

Matt – totally agree. This is one of the mysteries of worship – how we can all sing the same songs from our own life situations. It works because the song is purely a means to an end. The end is our encounter with God.

Comment by Neil Bennetts

Neil,

Re your 5.2 worship leaders . . .

Be encouraged that i’m sure there are far more people tapping into your postings than you think! I have been regularly checking for your latest updates since I first stumbled across your blog in November.

Keep it up, keep being real. It’s great. . .

Thanks 🙂

James
Worship Leader
St Andrews, Starbeck, Harrogate.

Comment by James Sharratt




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