Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An Idea: What if The Strong Helped the Weak?

An Article Published in Challenge Weekly in May 2011

I had an idea the other day, and thought I would share it with you. Recently a friend of mine who attends a very large Auckland church shared with me that the church was full of musicians. I asked them whether they were involved in the worship teams of the church. She responded that they weren't; rather, these musicians preferred to get in, enjoy the service, and shoot through, without getting involved. This got me thinking.

In Auckland (and other contexts) there are many churches. Most have a terrible problem with getting musicians together to do a decent job of their worship. Some even use backing tracks as they can't get together a team. Some have musicians that can't handle the changing music forms of today. On the other hand there are big churches with multiple worship teams, musicians and leaders. Here's my idea. How would it look if these big churches made the active choice not to hold onto all these people but to actively send some of them out to these other churches (regardless of denomination) to give leadership to their music? Of course, we could apply this principle to other ministries, like youth and children. We could even do it with money, with wealthier churches giving to the poorer, but that is much more complex.

The natural instinct for big churches would be to do so on the condition that they can control these churches. Let me humbly suggest that the gospel we uphold is not about sending people on condition of control; rather, we send them unconditionally to serve.

How might it look if a senior pastor got up one Sunday and said something like this: 'I know we are overstocked with musicians, children's leaders, and youth leaders (etc).' We have realised we don't want you all here, we are over-resourced. So, I am asking many of you to leave today. Go! Serve in the struggling churches in our area.'

I suppose it comes down to whether the Christian faith is stronger with a few big churches and a whole lot of little ones who are struggling and closing, or with a whole lot of vibrant churches scattered across the city, all reaching their communities with life and vibrancy. Maybe I am wrong, but I kind of think the latter would be better.

Of course, sometimes this idea won't work, because some of the churches have lost the plot completely, and the newbies wouldn't be allowed freedom to express themselves. But let me tell you there are heaps of churches in Auckland and no doubt elsewhere, where leaders would give their right arms to have more to help in worship, youth, children's, and other ministries.

So how about it? Is it time for senior leaders or even the worshipers themselves to make give it a go? Or is this naive idealism? Go deeper.

Additional Note:

Since I published this column, I received from a pastor this (details removed for anonymity):

Hi Mark

I was fascinated, and somewhat amused, to read your recent missive in the Challenge Weekly titled Just an Idea.  

I am the pastor of one of those small but growing churches you describe (detail removed) but who struggle to get decent musicians. So we have no option but to use backing CD's. And while it's quite nice to have Hillsong, Chris Tomlin and the like singing in our service each week, it's not the same as the real thing.

And so it was that I wrote, cap in hand, to the senior pastor of a very large (detail removed) church, asking if we could possibly have one or two musicians who couldn't quite get in to their A, B or C worship teams. I suggested it could be considered a mission opportunity, we only wanted them for twelve months and we were prepared to pay travel expenses.

Not getting a reply to my first letter I requested the courtesy of a reply which I did receive. Sadly, it appears this church apparently has problems getting musicians and therefore couldn't possibly help us out!

My response is best summed up, though not particularly gracious, with the words appearing on an advertising billboard ... – "Yeah, right!" (That billboard is not too far away from one advertising the said church).

Thanks for the article (detail removed).

What a brilliant and sad illustration of the need. Christianity is about the strong helping the weak, so that together, we can work to bring God's message to the world. I am deeply saddened by this. I pray and hope for a change to come over the Church in this nation so that the strong recognise their call to help the weak, so that all can be strong, amen.



Rupert de Bear said...

Though I can't help but wonder if God would actually be offended if a few of Jesus friends got together to worship and actually had no music occasionally, instead of "resorting to CDs". I suppose the problem is without the noise God might get a word in edgeways...

Mark Keown said...

Fair point Rupert. Singing and making music is essential to Christian worship isn't it (cf. Ps 150 etc). While, worship is much more than worship, and singing and music is one expression we find in the OT Scriptures, and in the NT e.g. the embedded hymns in the NT (e.g. Luke 1; Phil 2; Col 1; Eph 5; Rev 4-7 esp).

Using CD's is ok and I am sure God is not at all fazed at one level, he listens to the heart. But isn't it like going to church and listening to canned prayers, canned sermons etc? Surely, we would want to grow to do the worship ourselves. Some churches need a hand for this.

The point is, why don't churches share resources. While I focussed on worship through music, the principle applies across all church. There are thousands of 'unemployed' spectator Christians in these big churches who could be great servants of God in other churches that are desperate. There are pastors who, like the one in the email, are desperate for help. There are others who refuse to. What is Christian about that?

Has it occurred to you, God enjoys the noise, if it comes from hearts who love him?

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