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The Church Of Me

Me Myself I

Rev. Matthew Marino claims a lot of “worship” today is characterized by:

1. Individualism: Me and my experience
2. Narcissism: Me and my desires
3. Power: Me and my potential
And, 4. Entertainment: Me as spectator vs participant (1 Cor 14:26)

A lot of what is sung has Jesus-my-boyfriend lyrics.

How often does the pronoun “I” appear versus “we”? Even more telling, how many songs could be sung unchanged if “she” was substituted for “he” and it became a love song to a girl rather than God?

…after teaching our young to think of Jesus in the same terms as a teen crush, we wonder why our young people’s faith has all the sustaining power of one.

We evaluate our worship by our warm feelings…feelings carefully created by melody line and key change. …

God is no longer the Lord of Creation redeeming and calling humans to join in His great mission to save a lost and dying world. He is a genie in a bottle to be rubbed in order to get more of whatever I want at that moment.

We have reversed the subject and object of our worship. The church has packaged us ourselves and is feeding it back to us. …

I do see a sign of hope. …It is a generation that understand the historic order of worship has the power to shape lives, and that the words we use in worship matter. They are not afraid of the vetted, historic words of the church. Make no mistake, they want passion…but they are not so naive as to think that emotion sustains. They long for more Scripture in sermons and more pastoring in their own lives from their pastors. They know that art gives power to the message, and that the liturgy gives a life-shaping container to both…but also that liturgy without artfulness and a clear Gospel message is like a lunch box without a meal inside.

The deeper question, I suppose, is about the nature of God. And concomitantly about our own nature. This is not a rejection of our God-given, deep needs and desires which it is God’s will to fulfil. This is an acknowledgement that our superficial wants may war against our deep needs and desires. Are we there to follow God’s will, and in doing so fulfilling our deep needs and desires? Or do we see God as being there to follow our will, and in doing so fulfilling our superficial wants (what we might even refer to as ‘sin’)?

Do read the whole, excellent post by Rev. Matthew Marino here, and comment either there or below.

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14 Responses to The Church Of Me

  1. I appreciate the critique of jesus-is-my-boyfriend songs. However, I feel the need to add a critique.

    I am deeply disturbed by this comment: “Even more telling, how many songs could be sung unchanged if “she” was substituted for “he” and it became a love song to a girl rather than God?”

    For one, it implies that changing “he” to “she” turns the song into a lovesong, and that women are objects of romantic attention but not part of the nature of God like men are.

    For another, why is it disturbing if a hymn can be sung equally with the “she” pronoun as a “he” pronoun? I grew up changing pronouns in our patriarchal hymnbooks, and while I support the use of male pronouns for God, I do not support their exclusive use, and I as a woman feel hurt when we collectivly continue to deny the feminine in the divine. Maybe you could say that a pronoun in a hymn is a little thing…but our vision of God is visible through little things, and shaped by little things.

    • Thanks, Teresa, for your important point, one, in fact, that I had noticed as I read and quoted the post. I am preparing a post on rethinking inclusive language – I hope you might keep an eye out for it. Blessings.

    • Hi Teresa,

      I really did not intend to make a statement about hymnals or gender references to deity. I was actually referencing an obscure independent movie, “Never Been Thawed.” In the movie, the band is sold on the idea that they can make big money by “going Christian” by the “Christian Entrepreneur of the year,” a guy who runs a pro-life themed coffee house cashing in on the protest crowd at the Planned Parenthood clinic across the street. All they do is change their lyrics from “She” to “he” and, voila, they have a Christian song.

      And because art imitates life, a friend with a brother in the music industry who grew up Christian and left the faith, told my friend that he knows folks who are not Christians but repackage love songs as worship songs.

  2. These are good points in the article. I just did a quick scan on hymns in A&M to compare. Some use “I” and some “we”. But most don’t use either. They are either directed to God (with ‘you/thee/thy/thine’) or talk about what God has done. This places the importance on God rather than us. And is consistent with the worship style in the Psalms.
    I have also noticed that there is a tendency in sermons towards telling stories about things they did or achieved rather than situations in which they saw other people achieving great things in God’s name. It seems to be something of a generational shift and one that picks up on contemporary assumptions that the only valid experience you can talk about is your own.
    I am not sure about the 4 song pattern. I thought that was a protestant pattern established in the 18th/19th centuries. The more recent ‘innovation’ is to sing at least 4 songs before starting the main liturgy.

  3. As much as I agree in all that is been said, been to many churches that aligns with the lithurgy often treat it as a performance. The choirs practice not even with a word of prayer before or after. It’s a Sunday performance. The prayers are said or sung without any meaning. As much as right words should be prayed and sung, it makes no sense if it’s said or sung without conviction.
    Magnificant was a song sung with the word’s ‘My’, and it is kind of a love song. All of David’s songs were his personal experiences and some of it love songs, songs of Solomon were love songs… So I think it’s entirely not right to judge the form of anothers worship.. If it’s based on biblical teaching and based on true life changing experiences… Let’s not be like the Pharisees.. Bless you sir

    • Thanks, Savi, for this balanced, balancing point. Certainly the performance-replacing-worship experience is one I encounter a lot – across the spectrum from ‘traditional’ to ‘contemporary’. It is often what people first think of when they hear the word ‘liturgy’. Blessings.

  4. I have to admit I do not favour churches where the band is the central focus (like a concert – unless of course it is one), and the teaching of TV evangelists does not impress.

    However these two things aside I have not found most of what Rev Merino says to be what I have experienced of church worship in NZ, both Anglican and other denominations. Most services have contained some form of liturgy, or if this is not within the realm of their tradition, participation of the worshipers in the forms such as testominies. I have had an honest look at modern worship songs I have on file and they contain no more of Me and I than those of old – being fortunate enough to have been raised in the one context and experienced the other, I appreciate and am familiar with both.

    In terms of young people. When I helped teach a youth group (a while back : ) ) but not too far, it was a privelege to see the same youth grow up in the church and then follow them as they became adults. Some did leave the church but of the ones that stayed I found I was humbled by their comittment and faith. One went to work for CofE, one trained as a Civil Engineer as she feels a call to be a missionary, one took a year off and dedicated it to God in mission, one got a job and became a youth and worship leader at our church, one went on a longer mission to Colombia and then returned and got married.

    Perhaps what Rev Merino refers to has more relevance to the USA than NZ or perhaps my own observations/experiences are the exception.

    I do believe one factor was not mentioned in the article and that is the place of church in society has changed. Whereas once going to church was the norm and expected it is now unpopular and definitely a choice. In tandem has come a change in perception, many in my Grandfather’s generation would not conceived of what we call now a personal relationship with Christ, worship was God as Lord of Creation, Almighty, Holy to be worshiped but in some sense beyond ourselves, and a person’s faith was rarely talked about. Of course God as Almighty is true, but the perception has moved more to encompass the woship of a Holy God and a Personal Saviour. When my Grandfather was close to 90 he asked me, “What do you think about the Holy Spirit?”. Ministers he said must have some sort of experience or else I can’t see why they would take up the job!

    • Thanks, Cathy, for he balance you bring. I do wonder about one point you make: I think going to church has never been the norm or expected in NZ. I do think it is normal in USA and still so. In NZ, I guess about ten or so percent of the population is churchgoing. Would it ever have been much above twenty percent or so? Perhaps what has happened is that churchgoing people mix more beyond our group than we used to, and we now encounter the norm that has always been there in NZ. Blessings.

  5. In the 1920’s/30’s 89% of the NZ population considered themselves to be associated with a christian denomination. In 2013 38% of New Zealanders say they have no religion.

    Admittedly I based my comment around my own family history which mostly involved Grandparents (from the UK) committed to church attendance, their children the baby boomers either choosing church or disowning it totally, the baby boomers children a mix of no knowledge of christianity, and exposure to christianity typically through one parent within the broader context of a culture that has lost the Understanding of the tradition and teaching of Christianity.

    Yes definitely America is out on its own in terms of christianity with the number of people noted as christian, as well as with the interesting relationship between Christianity and Governmental Pollitics.

    • Thanks, Cathy. I do not think that one can conclude from the NZ census trends that “once going to church was the norm and expected it is now unpopular”. In the last census 459,771 people called themselves ‘Anglican’. Tomorrow, Sunday, 420-430,000 of those will not be going to church. Will 20% of them go to church Christmas or Easter? NZ has never been a churchgoing nation in the sense of “going to church was the norm and expected”. Blessings.

  6. Too true! The stat’s I quoted refer to affiliation/association rather than attendance. I guess it is more an indication that the majority of people used to feel like they had some buy in to the christian faith in NZ (even if not attending) whereas now even that number has declined. Yes I got the ‘norm and expected’ assumption wrong, assuming here was like the days of which my grandparents talked of their youth in England. Obviously not!

  7. Dear Rev Bosco? Thanks for your responses and the spirit you share. In this time and age it’s soo easy to criticize or ridicule blindly the way others worship. But that doesn’t make us different from the Pharisees, the Jehovah’s witnesses or any other sect or cult. Each thinks they are better and truer than the other.. So we must look at how we can improve our worship, that comes out of our church… To make sure it’s in spirit and in truth… The rock band with lights or someone taking a guitar and singing by the stream…both can be very powerful in the true worshippers heart… One may not appeal to the other but it comes down to the atmosphere you are most comfortable in.. We are called to save the lost, and I believe many churches spend time convincing each other that the way we do things is better than the other.
    My mum almost committed suicide due to a split marriage and was saved at an Anglican Church camp. We then grew up in a charismatic church because my uncle was saved in a charismatic church.. We grew to appreciate both forms of worship. And have a heart and burden to both types of Christians and those who don’t belong to either… God bless you and your ministry.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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