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By Paul Beasley-Murray.

An overview

Christian worship, declared Karl Barth, 'is the most momentous, the most urgent, the most glorious action that can take place in life'. Worship is the occasion when we men and women become truly alive; when we humans, made in the image of God, begin to fulfil the very purpose of our existence by relating to the God who made us. It is the moment when we are caught up into heaven itself and join with the multitude around the throne, singing the praises of God and the Lamb.

Or is it? If the truth be told, worship is not always glorious. Far too often worship is dissatisfying, frustrating, downright disappointing. God does not break in, boredom breaks out. What's more, it is not just traditional services with Bach chorales and Monteverdi vespers which people find boring. The so-called contemporary services with their praise songs can be equally boring. That's why many people - not least our young people - no longer go to church. Church - worship - is boring.

All the more reason, therefore, for us in this issue to focus particularly on worship. We have before us three very different contributions. John Bell, himself a prolific song writer, tackles the theme of change in worship. The new wine of the Spirit needs new wineskins. Geoff Colmer reflects on worship from the point of view of a former professional orchestral player. Music enables worship to capture our emotions. Ian Green shares some of the fruits of research underlying a Master's degree and reflects on worship and church design. Worship is deeply influenced by place.

A preview

The next RBIM day conference is scheduled for Wednesday 19th November at Melton Mowbray. Robert Warren, National Officer for Evangelism in the Church of England, will be tackling the important theme of From Maintenance to Mission. He is well known as the author of Building Missionary Congregations. There he writes:

A church effectively engaged in mission will see that participating in the missio dei will involve shifting emphasis from a focus on the life of the local church, and a concern to keep everyone in it happy (which too easily passes for 'pastoral concern') to a concern for the world in its needs, joys and struggles.

In other words, if churches today are to be effective they must shift from maintenance and 'keeping people happy' to engagement in mission. Indeed, it is more than a question of effectiveness - if churches today are to survive, they must shift from caring for themselves to caring for those who do not belong to them. Churches must become 'missionary' congregations.

Robert Warren is also a major contributor to the Bible Society's Emmaus course, which is reviewed by RBIM Trustee Bob Sneddon on page 50.

I find it fascinating to note that this re-discovery of the word 'missionary'. As far as cross-cultural overseas work is concerned, the term 'missionary' is no longer in fashion. 'Missionary' societies have renamed themselves as Action Partners or Inter-Serve or Latin Link. The Church Missionary Society became the Church Mission Society. Missionaries are now 'mission partners'. But just as the term 'missionary' has begun to be dropped from overseas work, a new trend emerges: the term 'missionary' is applied to mission in the UK - and helpfully so. It underlines the fact that the UK has become the new missionary frontier.

The following RBIM day conference will take place in Chelmsford on Tuesday 3rd February. John Perry, the Anglican Bishop of Chelmsford, will speak on the Church As A Sign Of Community. This is yet another vital theme. If the church is not community, then it is nothing. I have no idea precisely what direction John Perry will take, but I would go on and say if the church is not koinonia, it is nothing. Community in terms of fellowship is more than being friendly. Most churches, thank God, are not like that apocryphal church which was

Gothic in architecture, Arctic in temperature and where the deacons walked up and down the aisles like polar bears!

No, I hope that most local churches would be characterised by a certain degree of warmth, which in itself can be very winsome. But fellowship (community) is more than warmth. Fellowship (community) is something which goes much deeper. Fellowship is about being real with one another, it is about loving others - warts and all.

I am greatly looking forward to both day conferences. Remember that for RBIM members there is a substantial discount. See you there!

Paul Beasley-Murray

Senior Minister of Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford<br>and Chair of Ministry Today

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You are reading Editorial by Paul Beasley-Murray, part of Issue 11 of Ministry Today, published in October 1997.

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