Monthly Archives: October 2009

Worship and Praise, CU Style

Odd title I know!

This totally caught me unawares last week while at my universities Christian Union (CU) meeting, I may have to go into a little background here so please bear with me 🙂

At City University, we have a somewhat unique challenge that I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few other universities in London with the same challenge, that is that the student population is majority asian and international student (at least that is my personal view and assessment) and that Christians are in the distinct minority compared to Islam (again this is my personal opinion and I don’t know why this seems to be the case) so we have always struggled with getting reasonable numbers to attend.

Until this year (been at uni in some form or another for 3 years already – long story for another day!) attendance generally dropped off after the first week of term to a dedicated core of about 8 (often less) also I personally found worship and prayer to be a bit “lifeless” and lacking the presence of God almost bordering on the edge of mute sometimes. Now I want to be clear here I do not want to discredit the musicians that led us, their skill is amazing and God given and I can’t do it, at least not play an instrument anyway. I think the biggest challenge a CU faces is pleasing everyone as everyone will come from a slightly different denominational background from Non-Charismatic (such as most Anglican churches) to Charismatic (such as Pentecostal or Newfrontiers) – I think I need to dig out a reference to charismatic and non charismatic here and post it. Each different church background do things in different ways although there tends to be some cross over, from traditional old hymns to more modern contemporary christian music (CCM – and I hate that term), the challenge is striking the balance that meets everyones needs, allows everyone to connect with God on there own level, something which I have found to be a problem previously, not because the musicians we had couldn’t do it, but because our previous leadership had either:

  1. Been closed to seeing that everyones needs were met in this way
  2. The previous members were all generally from the same background
  3. That it had just been the way that it was done before them
Now I don’t know how long the CU at City has been going, but i know that this problem must go back more than 4 or 5 years, until this year this is! With attendance staying above average (currently averaging about 15-20) and, I don’t know whether this is a bad thing or a good thing or what but that we dont actually have a proper musician to currently play for us and the person that leads us is what I can only describe as a bit “radical” in a good christian way!
Because we don’t have a proper musician we have to rely on things like YouTube and CD’s which means that the more traditional stuff is not as readily available, most of the stuff freely and easily accessible tends to be more uplifting/upbeat/CCM in style, because we have a slightly “radical” person leading us in worship we get an “interesting” choice of song occasionally, this week it wasnt so much an interesting choice of song, it was a great song choice, just a totally different style to what I expected (I am a friend of God – but very very gospel’y)
This whole style and is seeming to be the key to worship for us as a CU, I don’t want to discount musicians here because I think we need someone more than ever, but it seems to me that more current songs and more alternative styles seem to meet people more and people are not afraid of trying a new style as long as it’s singable.
While singing the last song this week (I am a friend of God – the gospel version) I got totally hit by the fact that I was probably singing louder than anyone else, normally this happens and I very quickly “quieten down” in embarressment slightly, this week I didn’t at all, I just stuck with it totally unashamed (or normally cringing) that I was probably going flat on all the higher notes or just plain out of tune for the most part, I couldn’t hear properly so I didn’t care. It totally struck me again that worship is not about singing the perfect notes in perfect harmony with the music and others and not just belting it out, it’s about the heart and just going to God and giving it all to Him it’s about forgetting where you are and what your doing (within reason – sound engineers and words projection!) and saying to God,
“I am here Lord, meet with me and show me Your Glory.”

It doesn’t matter if your singing is embarrassingly bad, it’s about the heart and wanting to show God how much you adore Him, I am all for doing things with excellence but sometimes it takes little events like these to humble us that getting the sound mix pitch perfect and words displayed in perfect time is not the be all and end all of worship they are only accessories to worship that aid people to worship, for me I love to worship God by doing sound engineering well or other technical things well at church it’s my skill and my passion, where playing an instrument definaltely isn’t!
It totally summed it all up, when Jeff our speaker for the evening at CU started by saying,
“I have never felt the presence of God in a CU meeting like that”

In my heart I was crying out “YES YES YES” I have never personally felt the presence of God like that in a CU meeting before or any Student sort of meeting outside of my church circle before. I pray only that it’s not a one off, I pray that it grows. I pray that it only gets larger and pulls more people in, I pray that people walking along the corridor will hear and feel it and be challenged to enter the room, I pray that those who dont know Jesus will experience it will want more and feel convicted of their sin and want to know Him. I am expecting great things of God this year at uni!
Will you pray with me for these things?
P.S. Woohooo first non geek article in a while, I promise for an update soon! (honest!)