Glocal worship

Monday, 17 October, 2011

Graham Cray's monthly e-xpressions column.

One of the most frequent mistakes people make when seeking to plant a fresh expression is to begin with a worship service and then try to attract people to it. There are a number of dangers which follow. You may end up with an event which people attend for a while, rather than a community to which they belong. You may end up with an event for bored Christians and create a culture which is highly inappropriate for unchurched people. Or you may end up with an event which no one attends, because you designed it for them before you knew whom they were, let alone knew them.

Any serious attempt to plant has to begin with listening and be incarnational and culturally appropriate for the people who you are trying to reach. But the time will come when a pattern of worship will need to be established. There is an art to this because it involves being glocal – the combining of a global faith with a local context: the bringing together of two worlds. There is the world of the church, which has patterns of readings and prayers, special rituals with water or bread and wine and a whole host of symbols and special vocabulary. Then there is the everyday, 'common sense' world of the people who have begun to journey with you and to whom you have been talking about following Christ. These two worlds have to become one world, which will probably be different to either the way you have been used to worshipping, or to your new friends' previous experience.

You are the bearer of the traditions of Christian worship. You will bring worship as you know it (what else could you bring?) and the fresh expression will properly take on some characteristics of the particular denomination or tradition to which you belong; but in a way that is appropriate to the culture and context to which you have been called.

What you should not do is to import ways of worshipping which are familiar to you, without checking what they would mean to your fledgling congregation. Some things are essential even though they are strange - some people have never prayed with others before, or may never have prayed at all. So you need to explain and ease a way to experiencing something new. Some may know nothing about the Bible and need to be introduced to it carefully. Others' ways of doing things may have been helpful to you, but may never be right in this fresh expression. You may be used to sitting politely and listening to sermons, when new Christians, or not yet Christians, need a chance to interrupt and ask questions. You may be used to a long period of singing, accompanied by a guitar, when your new friends only ever sing on the football terraces or at karaoke. Liking your favourite charismatic choruses, Wesley hymns or Taize chants is not part of the price of conversion!

A mature expression of church will combine the rich traditions of worship – Scripture, prayer, praise and the sacraments – which all Christian share, with the focus given by a particular denomination, or partnership of denominations, and the distinctiveness of a local context. As a consequence the whole Church will be the richer.



Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
We use spam protection. View privacy policy.