How indigenous is our corporate expression of worship? How much of our expression of church should reflect our locality and how much the wider Church? It’s Big C and little c .
Firstly a grammatical point to make to make sure we are all on the same page. There are two descriptions of Christian community we will be reflecting upon in this post. There is the Church, and there is a church. Church, with a capital C, is the two-thousand year old Christ centred movement established by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit to the glory of God. It is the world-wide connection of millions of Christians. The second description is church, with a lower case c. These are the many and varied congregational expressions of the Church. There can be many churches, but only one Church.
So, how does, and perhaps should, worship in the local church differ from worship as the global Church?
I’m sure everyone reading this will agree on one thing; no two communities are the same. They may have similar factors – factors of economics, geographics, demographics – but each community is unique. I am currently based in London. London is a city full of diversity. Different areas of the city separated merely by a couple of hundred yards can be polar opposites culturally. So how is/should that be reflected in our churches?
Obviously there are key elements that are important to the Church; gathering together, reading and studying the Bible, sharing communion and expressing our faith in and love for our God – Father, Son and Spirit. But there is so much scope, I believe, in the way those elements are expressed.
This post is dealing primarily with corporate worship, but it would be helpful to see how the whole service is delivered. take studying the Bible for example. Often this is delivered in the form of a sermon. But can it not be in the form of a panel discussion? Or perhaps involve group interaction?
So what does it mean in terms of corporate worship? Are the songs we sing ‘in house’ that speak of a particular church’s situation? Are the prayers we pray geared towards our locality? Is the style of delivery indigenous or a wannabe copy of a model seen elsewhere?
There are large churches that have discovered and developed a model of, usually sung, corporate worship. They are popular and influential in the distribution of products and courses that share that model with other churches searching for a model of corporate worship. I’m not suggesting that this is necessarily a bad thing. In fact there are many positives in sharing tried and tested ideas that work. There are gifted artists and writers whose work should be shared. There is a beauty in churches around the world being blessed in using one particular song or poem or video in their worship expressions.
But there is a danger that rolling out a blanket standard model of sung worship can either rob local communities of their own unique, indigenous expression or make them feel that their local expression isn’t valid because it doesn’t sound like the CD. It can lead to defeatist comments, that I’ve genuinely heard, like “We can’t worship properly until we have a drummer” or “I’m not a proper worship leader because I don’t play guitar, I’m just a singer.”
I suggest that perhaps sharing principles is more helpful than models?
It’s what I’m attempting to do through this site; sharing my thoughts and experiences and lessons learned and promoting principles that, I hope, can be easily transferred to any local setting rather than saying ‘worship should look like XYZ’.
At our church in Waterloo we have core values that underpin the whole life of the church, and that includes the corporate worship element of church life. How do we express our worship together so that it is inclusive, interdependent, influential, involved and intimate?
Those principles can be more easily and creatively transferred and contextualised to pretty much any culture, community or situation. It organically informs the worship expression rather than firmly directing it.
So, how indigenous should our local church worship expressions be?
How could we aim for a healthy balance of shared, global and specifically local ideas?
With the torrent of new material pouring from the bigger players, how can smaller churches influence the bigger churches?