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Blog // Thoughts
August 27, 2005

On Geoff Bullock And Worship

Thanks to Duncan for linking to the Signposts discussion on Geoff Bullock’s rewriting of some of his Hillsong era worship songs (also check out Geoff’s comment on Hills’ thelogical misdirection). Geoff is now trying to reword some of those worship songs to reflect a more theologically correct view of divine grace. For example, his rewording […]

Thanks to Duncan for linking to the Signposts discussion on Geoff Bullock’s rewriting of some of his Hillsong era worship songs (also check out Geoff’s comment on Hills’ thelogical misdirection). Geoff is now trying to reword some of those worship songs to reflect a more theologically correct view of divine grace.

For example, his rewording of Have Faith In God attends to exactly the problems thoughtful Christian thinkers had with that song when it first became popular. With precision Geoff sums up this theological error we associate with Hillsong as “present(ing) human perfection as an outworking of faith.” This kind of misdirection seems to be part of the ministry of Joel Olsteen, as I commented upon earlier and which has Jason Clark has noted is now highlighted in a BBC documentary. It is worth noting the way the worship songs reinforce the theological misdirection.

I was part of the church Geoff Bullock attended after leaving Hillsong and it was certainly obvious that he was keen to move away from this misdirection. This was a very creative patch For Geoff, when he wrote a string of songs that were not only theologically meatier, but also more reflective than the typical Hillsong material. It is interesting that with this shift in emphasis also came a shift in presentation. I only ever spoke briefly with him ( a few times at church and once at a World Vision conference), but on those occasions he expressed a desire to strip back worship from the ‘concert’ idea into something more personal (he mentioned ‘in the round’ settings and we even did that a couple of times at church). What was interesing was that a smaller and less “theatrical” church gave rise to a different tone of worship and since Geoff subsequently moved to an even smaller and even less theatrical church, the change in emphasis was further cemented.

In the end we always have to embody worship (or do something with our bodies while we worship), which brings us back to a question not just about words, but about architecture. Whether we worship in a sucess-driven megachurch, or a relationally-focussed emerging church, or any of the myriad options inbetween, we are faced with decisions about how we organise our space and those may often have more impact on our theology than we might assume. In fact, I would suggest that maybe our worship influences our ideas about faith more than the other way round. Cathedrals focus us on glory and unchageability, multipurpose halls on practicality and liunge rooms on relationality and the everyday. Sure all these originally arose from an idea, but for those who first experience faith (or renewed faith) through them, they become part of the message itself.

Responses
Toni 17 years ago

Thanks for that Fern.

We’ve been away at a church (Salt and light) camp for a week. I really noticed this time how much performance-oriented some of the worship times were, and how different worship teams facilitated in different ways. There was a Gospel team on one night (forget who right now). They were the most performance oriented of all the teams, yet with them it was possible to dip in and out, then back into worship again. This contrasted with one of the other teams (although strictly speaking they were much more prophetically oriented, than worship) where one almost felt bumped out of worship for prophetic sections.

I wrote quite a lot of notes while I was there, and if I can, I’ll try to create something of substance from them for the blog. I’m also going through a period considering the new-testament church, and how it operated, and this is (I think) all tying in together.

Peter J Shoobridge 17 years ago

Surely it’s well past time to re-examine what God requires of His people in worship. I have been so heartened by reading of Geoff Bullock’s journey in the last 10 years. My life has followed a similar course and all I can say is that after a big life shock it’s impossible in good conscience to focus on anything but the goodness of God to the sinner who knows his need. Isn’t this what the Lord requires of us, His people?

No triumphalism, unless it is in the Cross of Christ. No glory, unless it is in God’s infinite mercy to the sinner.

How would our churches be transformed if we committed to sing nothing but the Psalms for a year, weighing each word and allowing God’s own wisdom teach us what it is truly to be in relationship with Him? Would we ever again presume to offer God anything but His word in worship?

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