Having a chat with my housemate last night, we got talking about what going to church means and for me, it’s more about what does going to church mean, in today’s context, 6 – 8 months after being in Melbourne.
Being in Melbourne is new for me. Firstly, stripped of the comfort of friends and family, the other thing I had to deal with was lifestyle change. Going back to Uni has its own set of familiarity as well as alienation given that I’ve been out of full-time academia for 6 years. Having to find a new church to go to because I’m in a foreign land is another issue to grapple with. It seems the thing to do isn’t it? That the first thing we do is to find a church that will ground us in a new land but somehow, the task isn’t as easy as it seems.
Perhaps I have the mistaken view that Christians are meant to be loving, friendly,hospitable and accepting, but I often forget that that’s not the case. And more often than not, it seems a lot easier for me to assume when a person that I meet in church isn’t a Christian, including those in “service” or “ministry”. But before anybody exclaims “she’s judging”, let me just say that I’m sharing from where I am right now, in my context at this point in time.
The housie is new from another Aussie city and settling into Melbourne. Being an Aussie-Chinese, he has his own set of struggles deciding between a diverse church of various cultures or a Aussie-Chinese dominated one. For me, I’m wondering why am I even going to church altogether. I meet people week in week out on a superficial level. I try to connect with some (takes alot more effort but hey, there are some progresses here and there and I do meet people I really like) and attempt small talk with others. I listen to sermons weekly but wonder what I learn. I sing during the “worship segment” of doing church and wonder why the songs are on repeat every week that I just give up singing them cos hello, where’s variety.
Yes, I’m struggling. And a part of me is still struggling with doing church and what serving in church means. I’m revisiting what it means to do church, what liturgy means, why are churches churning out new songs like some line in a production factory, and why some churches are pimping their songs week after week during service (coincidentally) before the launch of their album, or coming up with inhouse songs is just an attempt at getting past the whole church songs licensing issue. I just sense something terribly wrong with that and don’t see how that differs from when Jesus caused a ruckus in the temple and He said the money changers there were turning his temple into a ‘den of thieves’ (Mark 11:15-17).
After that chat with the housie and just mulling over things, Hillsong’s You’ll Come arose in my heart. Now, I really like that song. It has good melody, some good lyrics, and it’s catchy in general. But somehow, I paid more attention to the lyrics this time and it made me sick in the stomach I just flipped.
“You’ll come; Let Your glory fall as You respond to us“
You’ll come? He already did. He is all around. Should the continuous focus be on Him responding to us because if I recall it right, the awe is in the fact that He allows humanity to respond to Him and the point isn’t about us.
“Spirit rain; Flood into our thirsty hearts again”
Is this a bit too pop psychology like the Spirit is some type of drug that we get a high out of? There is a deep sense in me that we’re not made to stay on this earth to be like human beings hooked onto the IV with the Spirit dripping into us. I have a sneaky feeling that’s not a right image to portray of who God is and what He does.
Textbook lyrics are really bothering me. With the commercialisation of Christianity into some kind of commodity, Christian songs have become more about the melody and how catchy it sounds instead of a focus on words that describe who God is and His glory. How many new songs have you heard that has lyrics that go something like “God, You are glorious”, “You are mighty”, “You save us from death”, “We worship you with all our hearts”, “We honor you”, “You are our God” etc? Do we even know the extent of what we mean when we say/sing all that? I hope so. Too often, the songs just end up like another one on the worship set list to be fulfilled for that Sunday.
How do we know when we serve and if it’s (secretly) about us? Maybe relooking at the definition of what our gifts and talents is will help a bit. Try reading this and refer to the article on Pg 5 titled Unwrapping Presents Or Rolling Up Sleeves? to see what the writer says about that topic.
I’m sure God has a grander plan, despite our (subtly self-glorifying) efforts to do church, our attempts at worship in the confinement of a “worship segment” every Sunday. I’m also sure that whatever it is that we attempt to do, His desire is to transform our hearts and it ain’t about all the stuff we are trying to conjure week after week.
Perhaps my own challenge is to learn to love these people whom I think are a self-glorifying lot, and what loving them means and looks. Let this rut pass…according to Your will.