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Years ago I attended a lecture for worship leaders about “How to Implement Change”. Our lecturer was a hip, middle-aged Detroit youth pastor with kids adopted from every continent (like Angelina Jolie, but with smaller lips and more facial hair). The thing that I remember most clearly from that lecture is the intense feeling of frustration that sat with me for days because of something the lecturer kept saying : “We’re not called to change them; we’re called to love and serve them”. Even when they are wrong and stubborn and silly. Serve and love.

Then, my frustration was at ridiculously unimportant issues like “Why can’t I have a tattoo just cos I’m a worship leader? Charlie Hall has a tattoo!” That I allowed myself to be so worried about so tiny a thing is sad. It wasn’t worth getting frustrated.

But some things are…

The Church seems always to be in desperate need of reform. Everyone knows it. Very few have any idea how to do it in a loving way and with a servant’s heart.

Take the way we worship. As a worship leader, I am constantly faced with frustration at the way the congregation come to be entertained instead of to participate with their gifts. And yet, it is precisely the way that I lead worship that conditions them to be that way! Everything from the sing-song formula to the architecture of the sanctuary encourages people to sit back and enjoy the show.

Take the way we interpret the Bible. The One I Love was all about love and inclusion and redemption. Yet we use His Word to exclude the homosexuals from our memberships, we use them to exclude each other from our denominations, we use them to instil fear into people to make them believe what we believe about everything from baptism to creation. As if the Bible were a club given to us to bludgeon the world into submission, instead of the revelation of God’s love for us in Christ.

Take the way we spend our money. Mega-churches pay people to guard expensive cars outside their services and put down vast amounts of money on building decor, stationary, sound equipment, and the next massive building. What for? This money could fund indiginous missionaries in China and India, or feed AIDS orphans in Swaziland. And yet, by putting these mega-churches up on the pedastal of our definition of success we propogate exactly this disgusting greed and waste.

We are doing it. Not “them”. When we think of the history of the Church and worry about her future, it’s so easy to try to distance ourselves from her. We want to say “I hate the Church! She’s so full of hypocritical tradition!” But how can we say this?

We are the church. Makes you crazy doesn’t it? Makes you want to start a revolution.

The problem with revolutions is that they are very seldom loving. To love and serve, remember? Change has to come according to God’s gradual but unrelenting program for the Church. Under the radar these little reformations slip into┬áHer consciousness and conscience. As frustrated as we get struggling against both complacency on the one hand, and bitter hopelessness on the other, we should never assume that Christ feels the same. He has a plan for His bride. It’s a long term plan – but it’s perfect.

And it ends in our perfection.

A few weeks ago we held our inter-house athletics meeting. What I love about the event is the little conversations between the little people competing. Somewhere between the flood of hormones and the drudgery of homework, children lose their invincible optimism and become teens. It is the greatest tragedy of the growing process. Two examples will illustrate this:

Two little grade 1 boys were lined up at the third exchange of the 4 x 60m relay for boys under 7. The one was a natural athlete, who comes from a family of natural athletes. He had come first in the 60m and 80m races earlier that day, and his team were far ahead on the points table. The other little boys was just as genetically disposed to losing as the other was to winning. He was thin, with knock-knees and a silly grin on his face. As I walked by, both boys were adamantly proclaiming, with equal noise and conviction, that they would win the race by at least a minute. The previous losses of the day meant nothing to our knock-kneed little champion – in his own mind, he was a guarenteed winner.

Another boy, on the verge of adolescence, had always been one of those fat boys who run the last twenty of the 100m backwards, waving to the crowds, doing their bit to make up for the entertainment their athletic abilities could not give to the paying public. This last year however, he had lost a lot of that puppy fat. In spite of the encroaching teenage angst, encouraging him to jokingly proclaim himself guarenteed last place, I saw in his eyes, a faint glimmer of that childhood optimism. He knew something had changed. He ran that race – the 150m for boys under 12 – in record time, with teeth gritted and every muscle straining. At the finish line he feigned shock at his win, but his little smile gave him away – he always knew he was a winner.

Sometimes I think we should all revert somehow to that simple faith in the stuff God put into us. We should go into every battle, expecting to win, and never be phased by such trivial things as previous failure. Don’t you wish you could be like that?

About Me

Ecstatically married to Leane. Studying Theology and Teaching. Working as a worship leader, teacher, coach, guitar teacher. Living in the Mighty City of Mkondo in the sunny province of Mpumalanga, in the blessed country of South Africa.

Favourite Thoughts – Outbox

Religion is to be defended - not by putting to death - but by dying. Not by cruelty, but by patient endurance. - Lactantius (c.304-313).
What is essential Christianity? From first to last it is scandal, the divine scandal. Every time someone risks scandal of high order there is joy in heaven. - Soren Keirkegaard.
Where there are two Christians, there are three opinions... [Actually a Jewish saying, but at least as true for Christians]

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