the baby and the bathwater

Plan B
July 25, 2009, 7:23 am
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Apparently there has been a backlash from some parts of the Church of England over their desire to baptise children at the same ceremony as marrying their parents. You can read the story here.

Of course, when this happens it is clearly not plan A – not the ideal order of things. But even if it is plan B, it does sound like something from Acts to me. Whole families coming to faith and wanting to declare it publicly. Those in the Church of England who against the arrangement are against it because it seems to celebrate sex before marriage, and it doesn’t fit into their liturgies. I think it celebrates grace. Stuff the litergies, in fact.

In fact I wonder whether ‘liturgy’ is the opposite of ‘grace’?

Anyway, I leave that little thought with you. And if that doesn’t stimulate much debate within you, maybe knowing that if you do want to marry people and baptise their children at the same time you can buy the order of service from the C of E for a few quid short of £300 will do.



At least It Wasn’t An Avalon
July 24, 2009, 8:06 am
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July 6, 2009, 3:11 pm
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We held our anual heartheadhands day here in Cheltenham on 27th June. It was a great day where we were joined by many worship leader friends and their teams from around the region. The main teaching of the day was incredible – from Alan Scott – which you can listen to by going onto the pod-cast page of our church website If you are there, I recommend also listening to his talk from Sunday morning too.

It was great to join with a number of the songwriters for our afternoon seminar: in case it helps, here is the outline talk:

Biblical context: God loves it when we sing songs to Him. Songs are often a herald to, and a consequence of, acts of power in the Kingdom.

Cultural context: Great songs cross religious and cultural barriers. Speak to someone about God and you may put them off, yet thousands will sing a U2 anthem with no problem at all.

Church Context: The impact of worship leader/songwriter celebrity status, and the financial consequences of success can cause mixed motives.

Given the biblical, cultural and church context at the moment, how do we navigate through it all in our approach to songwriting.

1. Write songs for your church. Don’t write primarily for the big event, for the next CD, for the promise of global recognition. Write for your church. The best people to write songs for your own church is you.

2. Write out of what God is doing. Most of the great songs come out of great moves of God – reformation, vineyard, hillsong. Look and listen at what God is doing in your church and see if there are ways you can turn that back into a song. Don’t worry if other churches don’t ‘get it’, as long as your church does.

3. Articulate the song story. A great discipline – can you articulate what the song is saying in a few short words or a simple sentence? What is the ‘one idea’ that underpins your song. Worship is a journey (psalm 84) and most people can only cope with so much at any one time.

4. Remember it is to be sung in church. Most people in your church are far less musically skilled than you are. Most people just want to sing songs to God that don’t test their musical expertise too much. People moan about the three-chord trick. But often that can be the best thing. Too many songs are too complex musically or too personal lyrically to be sung in a gathered worship context.

5. Theology is massively important. People retain theology from the songs they sing – make sure they sing truth. It is the truth that sets people free. Bad theology always comes back to bite you. Run your songs past theologians and church leaders. You may not always agree, but the discussion can be hugely helpful.

6. Get some good ideas form other people. Don’t steal. But do learn. Work with people who compliment your own particular strengths.

7. Don’t be afraid of re-writing again and again. Often the biggest stumbling block to a great song is the prophetic voice that won’t be refined. Single small changes can make a good song great. The diamonds often take the longest to find.

Flesh and Bood
July 3, 2009, 5:21 pm
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Quote of the week:

If our struggles are not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), why does all our stress come from having to deal with people?

You have to admit the question is worth asking.

Reputation and Reality
July 2, 2009, 1:51 pm
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The only reputation worth holding on to is a reputation that truly and honestly reflects our reality – the reality of what God is doing amongst us; the reality of our unfolding story as followers of Him; the reality of the hope we have for the future in Jesus Christ.

These days it is all to easy to have a reputation that is based on sand: the sand of a fabricated story; the sand of a faint memory of a distant time in history when we were successful; the sand of a clever marketing strategy. Some companies are very good at it. Some politicians are good at it. Dare I say it – even some churches and Christian leaders are good at it. And to be honest, I wonder how often I personally fall in the trap of being more concerned about a reputation that isn’t borne out of a living, breathing reality. And like anything built on sand, it is doomed to fall and fade away.

As part of the leadership of a large church with a strong UK and international reputation it would be all too easy to focus on maintaining a reputation whilst the reality – even a reality that was arguably the cause of the reputation in the first place – starts to fade.  As a worship leader it would be all too easy to be more concerned about the reputation that comes with profile and records and songs whilst the reality of our worshipping life as a local church becomes powerless and ineffectual. And as a worshipper it would be all to easy to sit on the front row of church with my hands held high whilst my own personal walk of faith grows tired.

Reputation is hugely important. As the wider church we don’t realise this enough. But that reputation is only worthwhile if it accurately reflects our reality. As soon as the two things start to diverge then we become hypocrites.

In Revelation 3 we are warned about the dangers of having a reputation of being alive when inside we are dead. It seems that the reputation itself isn’t the problem – only the fact that the reputation isn’t representative of the reality. And in this passage we find the antidote to all of that: obedience. Remembering what we have been called to and doing it. This is where reputation and reality should find their convergence – in obedience. In fact, the only reputation really worth having is that of a leader, a church, a worshipper who is pursuing the life of radical surrender to God.