One of the tensions faced by young and older members in the same worship service together is that of the introduction of new songs. Young people are quick with picking up new tunes. They are passionate with singing songs that resonate with their heart. They keep tabs with the latest in Hillsong and Bethel worship. The worship team knows this and gives to them what they want. So they introduce new songs after new songs. A few may get sung again and again, and become part of the church’s repertoire and worship memory. Many fall by the wayside and are forgotten.
To resolve the tension, we need to take heed to wise heads like C.S. Lewis. He mentioned that like dancing, worship works best when you do not have to think about it.
“As long as you notice and have to count the steps, you are not yet dancing, but only learning to dance.”(C.S. Lewis in Letters to Malcolm)
Thus the more familiar you are with a worship song or hymn the more likely you will be able to focus on God’s presence, instead of trying so hard to follow the tune, and catch up with the lyrics. Thus in worship, familiarity enhances, enriches, empowers the God encounter.
Does it mean then that we do not learn new songs? New songs are important as they express our adoration and need in ways that the children of each generation can relate to and identify with as their voice. This is a powerful way by which God’s presence nourish young people’s minds and moves upon their hearts.
The best way then is for us to introduce new songs intentionally and systematically. This means order and discipline is needed. Sing it over several Sundays till familiarity breeds worship, not contempt. Worship then becomes “like dancing”.
The plot of INCEPTION
The film INCEPTION, starring Leonardo Dicaprio, poses an intriguing proposition, and by extension an interesting spiritual application. The action film is science fiction with a tantalising idea: that ideas and secrets and technology can be extracted from people while their subconscious mind are at their most vulnerable- during dream state. So the hero is skilled at extracting secret industrial information from people, and is highly in demand by competitor clients, as well as a fugitive from those who have been milked. The tension is set when he was asked to plant an idea rather than extract ideas from a particular heir of a near monopoly. Its a tight fast-moving, suspenseful movie which ends with a successful conclusion and we are meant to assume that the idea bore fruition and the client who hired him reaped the harvest from the growth of that idea.
How is preaching like INCEPTION?
Some people think that preaching is passe and ineffective. The monologue they say is doomed to failure in a world that is increasingly interactive, and that grew up on sound bytes, moving visuals and immediate gratification of senses. Young people and increasingly the older ones as well are having shorter attention spans than ever before. It used to be 20 minutes but I speculate that it is much less, perhaps a worrying 2 minutes! Is the sermon as a method of communication past expiry date?
Despite all this I still believe there is a place for the sermon. It does help to have power point visuals, or fill in the blanks outlines in the bulletin, or to keep the sermon interesting. However, the sermon is not a lecture, or an interesting public talk. A sermon has life: it is impregnated by the preacher’s soul and the Spirit’s life-giving power. And the worship service is the equivalent of the dream state, when a person, with all his rational and spiritual powers intact (unlike in dream state), is most receptive to receiving an implantation of the eternal, life changing good news of Jesus Christ. With the implant of an idea, that God in Christ reconciled the world to Himself, and joined them to the life of the Triune God, the recipient would have received a word that would generate life and transformation, leading to a harvest of the Spirit, the fruit of righteousness.
INCEPTION means the beginning, the start of a process, a project and it does appropriately describe what can possibly happen through preaching of the good news of God’s grace, and its reception into the receptive, believing heart. When the Word is implanted it is just the beginning of a process, a project that will culminate in life transformation and the greater glory of God.
During the revival, speaking in tongues was a common phenomena during the meetings, whether for prayer or worship services. There would be loud speaking in tongues with tears and crying. People were convicted and overwhelmed by the Spirit and speaking loudly in tongues, sometimes with interpretation, but most times without.
My understanding about tongues and its use in church gradually shifted with exposure to different churches: Anglican charismatic, Methodist charismatic, Baptist charismatic, Love Singapore meetings and even mega church Pentecostal services. This coupled with theological training on the interpretation of scriptures formed and shaped a nuanced understanding of the usage of tongues in the church. However I found it difficult to put it in words or to explain them simply. Until I came across this video in Adrian Warnock’s blog by Terry Virgo the founder of a network of 600 churches in 50 nations called Newfrontiers. They are Reformed Charismatic and Evangelical small churches. He spoke about the use of speaking in tongues in the church service, and it resonated with me.
5e. Free to worship from Terry Virgo on Vimeo.