TV last night made me very cross indeed. It was on in the background as Ros was marking schoolwork and I was reading. All of a sudden I mentally tuned in to something that made me stomp and fume around the living room. Picture me stomping and fuming. Grrrr.
The programme was about life on the Scilly Isles. A large segment was given over to how the "church" had finally fulfilled its great ambition to get a large peal of bells. The bells arrived to great excitement and the "blessing ceremony" was covered at length. The vicar sprinkled them with holy water blessed by the bishop, saying lovely things about how people had spent hundreds of thousands of pounds to achieve this highpoint in the life of the church.
Holy water? Bell-blessing? At the cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds?? Horror...
Cutting the vicar in question the most slack I suppose it might have been the editing that made this look so vacuous. But vacuous it was. Anyone watching who already thinks that Christianity is about arcane, incomprehensible, ritualistic mumbo-jumbo, and that churches are buildings where the only aim is to spend lots of money on the premises will have had the opinion strongly reinforced. All the while the presented wittered on about how this was a high point for the church on the island.
There was nothing at all on the programme about biblical church, or the biblical God or his Christ. This was church-as-social-entity, church-as-religion, church-as-ancient-and-utterly-irrelevant-ritual.
But it did just make me pause for one moment. You see I know a good number of churches who have got so suckered into pouring all their energy into their premises and their building plans that whatever their equivalent is of having a new peal of bells has become their aim. At the cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
And I am currently preparing a church service for Sunday. There will be people who like older worship material (as do I), which to a fresh generation - or those who have never met the Lord - is no less arcane and incomprehensible than the vicar flicking "holy water" with a twig of rosemary. Everything about that programme screamed that whenever that congregation has decided to contextualise itself it isn't now. It was a monument or a museum. The question for me is: will what I do on Sunday fall in any way into the same trap? I can give all my good reasons for using a whole range of worship material old and new (and some of the reasons are good ones), but the point at which anyone doesn't understand what's going on, then I have signed up for the bell-blessing brigade.
How are you doing in your church? Is your aim impacting the world with the gospel of the glory of God in Christ? Or are you spending kingdom money achieving some other aims? And are your meetings really biblical church - full of adoration, contemporary, clear, passionate about the Lord and the scriptures, compassionate, reaching out, accessible?
Or are you with the strange bell-blessing people?