Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Sound of Muzak, Catchphrase Christianity And The Perfect Church

As Christmas approaches, there is one thing that gets on my nerves. Go into a supermarket, or a coffee shop, and blaring out will be the Christmas muzak. Last year, I was driven up the wall at Sainsbury's with The Little Drummer Boy blazing out the loudspeakers, so went to the customer service desk:

  • Me: Could you stop playing that Bieber rubbish?
  • Assistant: It's not Bieber, it's Michael Jackson
  • Me: He's just as bad

And the thing about Christmas muzak is that it is so soulless. Anything Christmassy, whether Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer or O Little Town Of Bethlehem - doesn't matter if it's secular or not - has all emotion removed from it with an effectiveness that would make a Cyberman seeth with jealousy, and what is left is something that is technically perfect, yet bland and meaningless at the same time.

And I am also thinking here about "catchphrase Christianity" - the use of those little catchphrases which sound so full of wisdom, yet are not actually found in the Bible.

If you find a perfect church, don't join it or else it won't be perfect!

One thing you frequently find in sermons is - quite correctly - there are no justifications for sinning.

It's just my nature

It's my upbringing

I've always had a bad temper - just one of those things

I'm not a gossip - I only share things "for prayer purposes"

In the book of Revelation, Jesus has messages for some of the churches - Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. These are a mixture of encouragement and criticism (except for Smyrna).

By the way, I find nothing in the Bible to suggest these represent Seven Ages of the Church.

Sardis and Laodicea are striking. The image there comes across as smug, self-satisfied churches. I guess they would have seen themselves as the perfect church. And I am sure we've come across those.

I know that some, by the perfect church, are looking for one which has the music just right, the coffee and the carpet just right etc. and will be persistent critics who will never be satisfied.

However, just as churches are reasonable in expecting Christians to aim to be Christlike and not to make excuses for falling short, the converse should be true.

Churches should always be reforming, looking at ways they fail to be Christlike (which is different from keeping the person who wants a particular style of music happy), and see how they can change and improve (and yes, each individual church member needs to see themselves as part of the problem and ask how they can be part of the solution). Pointing out that a church is very unwelcoming (for example) isn't something to be tackled with a "No church is perfect" response, but a "OK, where are we falling down on this and how can we improve?" response.

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