Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Dumb Down

Genuine Tesco product labelling, pointed out to me by my wife at breakfast this morning:

pasteurised, homogenised, semi-skimmed milk.
Allergy information: contains milk.

Oh my goodness, what has the world come to???!!!

I've been thinking about Ben's comment on my Probes post: "...Been feeling for a while that there is a need for a new model of teaching and learning, just as there is for worship." (I agree 100% we need a new model of teaching and learning.) The thing I've been thinking about is the connection between 'teaching and learning' and 'worship' - and, therefore, the connection between "a new model of teaching and learning" and "[a new model of] worship."

Over the years, I've experienced first-hand several different church patterns of teaching and worship (primarily Church of Scotland, post-Brethren, traditional Church of England, and charismatic evangelical Anglican/Baptist co-habitation; with 'exposure to' many others, including Asian and Australian Anglicanisms, United Church of Zambia, Pentecostal, and Lutheran). Although they have varied widely in style, the relationship between worship and teaching is pretty much the same: that a time of corporate worship opens/prepares the individual to hear and receive the word of God, usually expressed through a sermon. In other words, worship is (in a large part) a means to an end (the end, possibly ironically, being the worshipper).

Personally (and at the risk that only Ben understands what I mean), I'd like to see the worship/teaching dichotomy deconstructed.

I've heard it said that "worship" declares who God is (i.e. his nature) and "praise" declares what God has done (i.e. his actions). I'm not sure how far you can divide divine being/doing, but insofar as it is a helpful distinction, I'd suggest that worship is a response to who God is and that praise is a response to what God has done. But, these responses - at least at a corporate or community level - have perhaps been dumbed-down over time: singing a series of songs, or progressing through a series of liturgy, that make a series of general statements about God. At the moment, it might be timely to consider the place of responses to particular aspects of God's nature, particular things he has done...

Here is an example of one possible model:
We believe that God is Creator (being), so, why not show video images of creation (doing) - an unborn human baby in the womb; a nebula of burning gas deep in space; the Amazonian rainforest - these are all "words" that reveal God - and allow a response to God as Creator to rise up (there is no reason why such a response cannot be ordered/structured)? Why not give the preacher the week off, and invite someone qualified to do so to speak about fetal development, or the universe, or ecosystems, as jumping-off points for worship? Why not include parallel images of human activity - both creative and destructive of creation - and allow a response of intercession for the world to rise up?

At the very least having a pattern where worship flows out of teaching/learning gives an alternative to teaching/learning following worship that may work as a preservative, stopping the gathered church from going stale too quickly. But that in itself is not nearly enough. More than simply flipping the existing running-order, such a model actually begins to break down the artificial distinctions that have been built up between the two. Teaching/learning and worship are not intended to be two separate entities: whatever the "new models" Ben and I (and others) are seeking will look like, they will need to integrate the two - not continue to address each as a parallel track...

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