Doxology, Mars Hill and Wales

So it’s true after all, blogging about Martyn Lloyd-Jones + controversy increases your blog’s traffic by over 100%! I’m sure I’ll return to that topic some other time, but in this post I move to a different subject.

This post in Welsh | Y cofnod hwn yn Gymraeg

Although I’m not one of those Christians who’s totally dismissive of this world and spends all day staying indoors (probably in my bomb proof house) polishing my 12-ball waiting for the end-times I must admit that I’m eagerly looking forward to the day when I’ll get to heaven (through the sinners door). For those of you, like me, who love music I promise you that heaven is the place for you. Heaven will be like a rock concert (or Jazz, or Pop, or whatever floats your boat), the biggest and greatest rock concert ever! I find it hard to understand those Christians who reject the use of instruments whilst worshiping; those brothers and sisters in Christ will get a shock when Jesus himself starts handing out the harps and cymbals in heaven (Revelation 15:2-3) so the heavenly rock out can begin.

Ok, perhaps the guitarist on the right has gone one step too far, but you get my point right?

Ok, perhaps the guitarist on the left has gone one step too far, but you get my point right?

I feel more compelled than ever to address this issue at the moment because here in Wales we really need to re-discover the true spirit of worship and to start worshiping on earth as it is in heaven. Worship, of course, is more than just singing but if we look at the Scriptures there is no denying that singing praise is an important part of praising God. I believe that one can only truly worship God from his heart if he does so using his own culture and idiom. I can only worship God from the depths of my heart if I do so in Welsh rather than English, Welsh is my mother tongue. It would be impossible for me to worship God from the depths of my heart in anything but my mother tongue. My point being is that you worship God using your own culture and not someone else’s; in the same way as language can be a barrier I believe that style can be a barrier as well. In the same way as I wouldn’t be able to worship from the depths of my heart in English I can’t either worship from the depths of my heart singing Organ driven Victorian-era hymns. It is Welsh culture and I am indebted to it but it’s not my living Welsh culture, I need to worship using and in my own culture if I am to worship from the depths of my heart.

 

I love the rocks outs they have over at Mars Hill Church in Seattle (although apparently the congregation on the whole are too “cool” to sing along with the worship band!). When dorks think Seattle they think Microsoft and when us self-proclaimed “cool” Christians think Seattle we think Mars Hill Church but most ordinary folk think Nirvana and Kurt Cobain. What’s great about a lot of the worship bands at Mars Hill is that you can hear two influences at work; the first of course is the Holy Spirit but the second, which is not to be overlooked, is Seattle’s famous Grunge scene. There is nothing wrong with that, in-fact it is a model to be imitated by the Church world wide. That’s what true worship is, enjoying and using the best of our God given unique cultures to praise God in the spirit of the new heaven and earth.

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5 Responses to “Doxology, Mars Hill and Wales”

  1. Steffan Says:

    Diolch Rhys. Wnai ymateb yn Saesneg gan fod y blog, ac felly wy’n cymryd, lot o’r darllenwyr, yn ddi-Gymraeg.

    A few questions in response:

    Do your comments about heart-language mean that it was impossible for Hudson Taylor to be truly worshipping in Mandarin (not his mother tongue) in China?
    What about William Carey in India, or John Davies in Madagascar?
    If it is impossible to worship God in any other language, what does this mean for cross-cultural mission?
    What implication does this have for our fulfilling of Acts 1:8?
    Do your comments reflect something of Peter’s attitude before Paul’s rebuke(Galatians 2)?

    Regarding the nature of worship, etc. It’s always good to assess the spiritual condition of our churches (although this is primarily the duty of our elders, our appointed shepherds). As you can quote M LL-J, I’ll refer to him too! – he claimed in 1969 that too much of what passed as church services is lifeless and too formal. The answer he gives, which I would agree with, is that the preaching is lifeless and formal and so that is where we need to start. We worship in spirit and truth. Logic on Fire as he called it. What happened to that fire? If the truth isn’t communicated clearly, faithfully, passionately, then why are we even bothering to ask about forms of gathered worship?! There are deeper questions we need to be thinking about.

    (Incidentally, thinking of your blog on M.LL-J and RTJ – have you read chapter 1 and 2 of Preaching and Preachers? True reformed preaching, he says, has always led to the greatest of social reforms, which he does believe is important for us to deal with – but not to the detriment of gospel proclamation, which heals people eternally.)

    Anyway, here are a few more questions:

    If we are to reflect “our” culture, what culture is that, in a highly multi-cultural context?
    Is there a danger of falling into selfish, consumerist attitudes? Everyone wanting their own tastes reflected? The picture of the church as a family must affect our demads?
    Come to think of it, is the gathered worship in many of our congregatations (traditional and newer) based on taste rather than Biblical principles?
    You mentioned people being too cool to sing – is this right? Isn’t public worship at the very least a collective verbal declaration of God’s praise?
    If we say that we cannot worship God in a certain style, does that mean that our worship has become dependent on the quality and relevance of the singing to “me”? Does this make a mockery of the wonderful truth that Christ is our one true mediator, our Great High Priest?
    If we were truly worshipping God with our hearts, mind and strength, in the name of Christ, stirred by the Holy Spirit by His Word, would we even notice (unless it was ineherently sinful) the form of the worship?
    Have we lost the uniqueness and glory of Christian worship? Do we assess our spirituality by secular categories? This is probably summed up by one – admittedly extreme – quote I read by a guy, saying that he had a similar experience of God in the nightclub as in the church. What exactly was this experience?? A lot of what is described as “the Holy Spirit moving” sounds to me just like what I experienced recently when I saw Wales beat Australia, or when I saw Coldplay play in front of 20,000 people. What is it to worship God “in spirit”? What does this look like?

    And isn’t worship the whole of life anyway? Romans 12?

  2. welshwilderness Says:

    Thanks for the interesting comments Steffan. I will come back to a lot of your points in future posts but for now I should point out that I didn’t say that you can’t worship in your second language at all, what I said was that it is, from my experience anyway, one step removed. I can and do truly worship singing Victorian-era hymns (you know me Steff and therefore you know that it is in that context I have and still do spend most of my singing praise time) but because of the cultural difference I find it easier to express my self using modern culture.

    Your raise interesting questions about the “feeling” you have when supporting Wales or getting a kick out of watching Coldplay. I have been thinking about this type of thing recently and wish to write about it soon; but in short for now I would note that those deep feelings of happiness, even praise (?), you get in non-Church context I believe actually stems from God. Common Grace and the Joy of Creation, Man created on the image of God, can work sometime in un-regenerated Rock stars I believe… will write more about this soon i hope.

  3. Steffan Says:

    Thanks Rhys – I shall look forward to reading your posts.

    I agree that feelings and emotions are important. True religion has to be “felt religion” as the Puritans used to say. It must be felt, it must affect our emotions. The reaction of the disciples on the way to Emmaus show this (Luke 24), as do passages like Colossians 3:16, Phil.4:7, and large chunks of the Psalms, etc. When the life of God enters our lives, we cannot but be affected emotionally as well.

    There are feelings to be enjoyed in creation too, as we’ve discussed. I agree about your point about common grace. The fact that we can enjoy his good gifts, and reflect His character in being creative, etc, is a wonderful thing. The fact that our God is a Trine God (3 persons) should make us appreciate diversity. He allows us to enjoy things such as sport, music, etc. The Christian faith is a holistic one. Colossians 3:17 says that “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” This reflects Romans 12 doesn’t it? When we enjoy God’s good gifts and His creation, giving thanks to Him as the Giver of these things, we are actually worshipping Him. This is another reason to praise Him in song.

    Yet, although all of this is worship, we are talking about very different things.

    The object of our feelings watching a match, or listening to music, etc, are human – skills, aesthetic quality, harmony, beauty, etc. There is a human, God-given, reaction to seeing these things, as we are created in God’s image and appreciate such qualities. Yet these feelings are temporary earthly blessings – they leave us on a high for a while, largely driven by adrenalin, then fizzle out.

    The object of our feelings during doxology (whether privately at home or with other believers) is, by defintion, God Himself. As our minds are filled with truths about God, as “eyes of our hearts are enlightened” by revelation from God’s Word (Eph. 1:17-18), our love for Christ grows. As we see His grace and compassion, His power and glory as revealed in the Bible, and shown most clearly at the Cross, we are filled with awe, wonder, praise, worship. This is enhanced when we meet together with other believers, and share this joy – which is why the church is such a wonderful gift and not to be neglected. Often this might affect adrenalin (depending on different temperaments) but it’s much deeper, and the fruit of this experience is seen in our daily walk with God. There is a desire to love Christ, to honour Him, to be more Christlike, to declare Him, to worship Him in everything we do. There is a long-lasting effect. This is the unity and life, the gathered worship, that I’m praying for in my church.

    I don’t want to create too much of a wedge between the two. I do believe that there is some room for appreciating the beauty of God’s creative gits in gathered worship (why sing at all if this isn’t the case?), but I just wanted to flag up the danger of being naiive in thinking that because we are being “moved” then God must be at work. I pray that I would be moved and driven by the truth about Jesus, by the beauty and glory of Him as revealed in the Bible, and by singing truths about Him, rather than just moved by enjoyable music and a crowd mentality.

  4. gethin Says:

    interesting stuff. i’ve not been able to read all the comments in detail but the stuff about feelings sounds interesting. i’ve just been thinking – where should feelings come into things in praising God? should it not be because of the truth of what we’re singing about? so i wouldn’t be able to praise God in a language i don’t speak at all, but as long as i know what the meaning of the words are, is that not what should fill my heart with joy and humility and awe? should the fact that it is our mother tongue or our favourite kind of music really matter? am i seeking to have praised God in the words i’ve sung and to have encouraged other believers by doing so or am i seeking to feel like i’ve praised God? or should i rather be resting on the wonderful news that regardless of whether or not i feel we’ve just had a good worship session, God accepts me in Jesus. should i gague how close i am to God by my feelings or by the gospel?

    whether or not we’ll be doing rock concerts in the new creation, should we not rather look forward first to the wonderful truth that we’ll be home with God – rather than looking forward to what we might get up to then? and should that not be what affects the way i praise God first and foremost?

    sorry – just a load of questions that just came to mind.

  5. Can you praise God through Coldplay? « Says:

    […] my post Doxology, Mars Hill and Wales, which I published here back in February, Steffan, a friend from Aberystwyth, left a comment […]

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