When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord , who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. – Deuteronomy 6:10-12
Wells you did not dig…vineyards and olives you did not plant. Sounds like the Israelites had a very good inheritance of many things they did not build or plant in the Promised Land. God reminds the Israelites that they should eat and be satisfied, but they need to be careful and remember God. How often do we inherit wells we did not dig? I think one of the most obvious examples of this in the Christian community is when we benefit from the hard work and groundwork done by those who came before us. This groundwork can take the form of bricks and mortar in a church building, but it also applies to the spiritual and relational heritage left by others.
Part of our inheritance as Christians is a rich fabric of creeds, hymns, and writings which we did not “build” or “plant” yet we can partake of them and be satisfied….or not. Many newer Christian churches strive to be culturally relevant and “hip” in order to reach out to God-seekers who have not grown up going to church. These churches are very important and form a necessary part of the Christian ecosystem (I attend one myself). Sometimes in an effort to be modern and relevant they jettison the hymns, creeds, and other spiritual inheritance we share as Christians. Other churches hold tight to tradition and refuse to reach out to spiritually curious God-seekers. Then there is a middle ground where traditional hymns and creeds are transmogrified into more modern versions.
For example, one of my favorite song writers and singers is Rich Mullins. Unfortunately he was killed in an auto accident many years ago, but he took the Apostle’s Creed and put it to music in a song called Creed. He created an amazing song that was more palatable for many Christians, especially new ones like I was when I first heard it. There are those who think he took something away from the creed by putting it to music the way he did…I humbly disagree. Another of my favorite songs is Amazing Grace, originally a poem written for a sermon in 1773 by John Newton, and published as a song in 1779.
There is room in the Christian ecosystem for a range of styles and forms so that all can find the niche that God has prepared for them. At a previous church they mixed old and new styles and forms together to serve a congregation of mixed ages and preferences. This worked to a point and had the advantage of requiring members of the church to experience ways of worship that were not their preference. I think this bred healthy discussion and conflict about what it means to worship and what, or more correctly Who, motivated many of those who came before us to create the creeds and hymns.
Prayer: God help us to appreciate the rich inheritance we have as Christians and the many forms it takes.
You touch on something of great interest to me as a worship leader. So often we have these songs that sweep across the church, and they’re great songs, no doubt. But they are “wells [we] did not dig” if that makes sense. The best example I can think of is Matt Redman’s “Heart of Worship” that seemed to be on every album and in every church when it came out. But did those worshipers go through the struggles Matt’s church did? Did they come to the point of saying “We’re missing God in all this commotion we call worship” like Matt’s pastor and team did? Did they grapple with “What does it really mean to worship You, God?” and did they come to the point of saying, “None of the show matters. What matters is we come before You and fall at Your feet and listen for Your words.”
We don’t often value what we don’t pay for, and I wonder if some of these experiences are the same way. I can hear that song and say, “Oh, job well done, great song, and yeah, great point about worship.” But I don’t value it like Matt probably does, because I didn’t pay that cost.
Ranty, sorry, but I really enjoyed your post and that’s what it made me think of.
Thanks for the thoughtful comment “sonworshiper”. I have been praying that my blog would become more of a conversation and less of monologue.
My wife and I have been talking about the concept behind this post too. I agree that we can sometimes live vicariously through someone else’s faith journey, especially as a new Christian. To some extent I am OK with spiritual “training wheels” as long as one knows when it is time for them to come off so we can ride on our own. Thank you for being a thoughtful worship leader.
Conversation is hard and takes time. I think most of us are happy to reply to comments, but it’s hard to consciously sit down and say, “I’m going to go look for other blogs to comment on.”
That might sound like an indictment on you, but I really mean it toward me. 😀
Great analogy of the training wheels. I think of my kids. They cannot, must not, end up having “my” faith, because I’m not going to be there with them in the moments of tough decisions about obedience. They have to have their own.
We watched Ragamuffin with my teenagers, and when it gets to the point of Brennan Manning and Rich Mullins talking about God’s love, I paused it to emphasize, “This is the point, this is the reason you’re watching this film, this is the thing you have to get. Because mom and I screw up. We’re not perfect. But your Father in heaven loves you with such an amazing love, such a perfect love. You have to know beyond any doubt that His love for you is vast and wide and jealous and forgiving.”
Basically at some point, your training wheels need to come off and you need to ride into the storm of His love on your own.
Boy I love to rant. I’ll shut up now. But thanks for giving me the chance to think about these things and share my thoughts with you. 😀
God works in interesting ways..I was watching Ragamuffin last night. I really learned a lot about Rich Mullins and the difficult journey he was on. I have always admired Rich Mullins and the work he shared. His songs were part of my early life as a Christian. His song “Hold me Jesus” still makes me cry. Good point about engaging in conversations myself…I have a long way to grow. It sounds like you are really working hard to help your kids think through hard things. I know from experience that it is not easy.
Yeah, I didn’t remember that Mullins had so many issues going on. I knew he was sort of on the fringe of the CCM thing, but (assuming the movie is faithful to his life) I didn’t remember hearing about his issues with relationships, with alcohol, or with the industry itself.
Good reminder that we don’t have to be perfect.