I had a small slot for input at the Just Worship gathering at the weekend and talked about the difference between instructions and invitations.
People leading worship use invitational language all the time: “I invite you now to stand”, “I invite you to turn to the person next to you and…” I think this reflects a genuine desire to be open, welcoming and invitational to the people who gather for worship.
But we all know what it’s like to receive an invitation that isn’t really one. Like when your boss invites you into their office for a meeting. Or when your mother invites you to a family gathering and there really isn’t any way to say no. That would be an instruction – even it its dressed up in invitational language!
Does it matter?
Mike Crudge shared some research he’s been doing about people who self-define as spiritual’s perceptions of the church. And as is the case in other similar research projects one of his findings is that people think Christians lack integrity.
I’m not sure that Christians are especially worse at behaving congruently than anyone else. But we do have a vocabulary that includes justice and mercy and we talk about working towards a world in which that’s more fully realised. “Proclaiming the Kingdom of God”. It seems to me that if we want to talk about, work towards and proclaim justice that we need to look at our own practices of leadership – the language we use, the ways in which we position ourselves as leaders and members of the worshipping community.
If we are extending an invitation, there needs to be a way to “RSVP” – to accept or decline the invitation.
Which doesn’t address the place of confrontation in worship… More on that next time!