Friday, November 11, 2011

a story of (un)skillful worship and the mission implications

(I wrote this on a piece of work I was marking today. For me, marking is not about the grade, but about the learning opportunities being created. In this case, I wondered if a story might help clarify the issue a student was wrestling with – understanding worship in missional contexts.)

I was speaking at a conference a number of years ago. When I finished, a person got up to lead closing prayers. They began by noting key features of the day, a few skillful phrases that reminded us of high points. Together we laughed, and nodded, and sighed.

I thought it was a call to worship – it was drawing us together, not as individuals but as a gathered group. It was named (thankfully) God in our midst. I was admiring the skill when the person stopped and said “now we will start worship, with a call to worship. Please turn in your books …”

For me it showed both skillful and unskillful worship. It showed the ability to work with what is, to read context, to read communities, to use phrases to express communal praise.

In contrast to a repetition of words from books. The irony is that in origin, all calls to worship were most likely so skillful, so context appropriate, so life giving that they were repeated. And borrowed. By writing down. And repeated. So that over centuries, they become empty repetition removed from the context and events that gave them birth.

I think the skill of missional worship, is to be able to connect the liturgical forms and richness of the wider church with context and in context appropriate ways. (This is the DJ image I use in chapter 8 of my Out of Bounds Church book.) This requires the ability to read a context, the knowledge of the storeshouses and the skill to weave them together.

Not new for news sake. Nor repetition for repetitions sake. But the skillful movement between the context of life and the storeshouses of the church universal (through time and space).

Posted by steve at 10:57 AM

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