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“Power  is  a  very  real  issue  for  the  church.  What's  more, it  is  a  dangerous  issue in the church,  precisely because  it  is  all  too  often  unrecognised”1. That power can be healthy or unhealthy, used well or abused, overt or subtle. The effects of power are often evidenced in spiritual confusion, distorted faith paradigms and the stifling of personal and spiritual growth and freedom. Many give up on faith altogether. The following is one perspective on the power dynamic in the expression of faith. 


 1 Paul Beasley-Murray, Power For God's Sake (Paternoster Press, UK 1998) p 10



The power the institutional church and traditional religion has over its followers is undeniable. As a believer, one is faced with a plethora of expectations. Whether these be expectations the believer places on God or on themselves and others, the power these expectations very often mould and form one's faith. Failing to comply with the status quo is seen as dangerous, while in my opinion, ‘harmonious' living often looks like resignation.

The expectations are often created and communicated through the songs we sing in congregational church. Music is a very powerful tool that is used in church to inspire and unite. However, it is important to remember a lot of our theology and ideas about ‘how God works' is shaped and informed by the words of the songs we sing. This not too subtle ‘propaganda' often reflects an immaturity of thought and a simplistic desire to create a God who will protect us from life rather than living it with us. These choruses are very powerful, working their way like mantras into the minds of unsuspecting Christians who are all too happy to accept the ‘promises' but are all too often unprepared to deal with the consequences when life doesn't match up.

I was reminded of this last week I spent a few nights at a well-known Christian holiday park. I was staying there with a school group passing through on a field trip. The accommodation and facilities were fantastic, the staff extremely helpful and the costs very reasonable. It was during our stay that 200 intermediate aged students arrived to experience “Kid's Camp”. Apart from the annoyingly brash behaviour of a few of these young people, their arrival did not impact much on our trip. In fact, their presence went by almost unnoticed.

On one night I was walking to the kitchen and I stopped by the hall to listen to what the “Kid's Camp” crew were getting up to. I stood in the dark listening through the door to what was being said and sung. Of course, they had a crash hot worship band in action, an entertaining speaker and a lot of hyped up pre-teens riding the emotional roller coaster so many Christian leaders like to whip up on these occasions. It was when the singing began that I really started thinking…

The worship band counted in and lurched into the old teen classic, “Jesus got heaps of lambs”. Now, apart from butchering the English language, the songs lyrics cut crisply into the night, illuminating to me their inherent danger and over wrought simplicity:

            “I was lost but now I'm found, no more walking on stony ground” 

Here I was listening to 200 young people claiming that with Christ, there will be no more stony ground. I felt sad. I thought back to my own youth and the huge promises Christian songs had made to me.

No more stony ground. That would have been nice.

 “Jesus is the rock, and he rolls my blues away” (…and then the walls come crashing down.)

This quick-fix Jesus being sung about had become so foreign to me. Almost mythical.…

I know from my own experiences that this type of charismatic propaganda had set me up for a fall. When I was younger, I wanted to believe those things. I did believe those things - unfortunately to the detriment of truth and honesty.

As a teenager, this form of collective ignorance in regard to the nature of faith and Christ put me into an impossible bind.  When the stony ground came, I was left with only two alternatives: either God had abandoned me, or I had abandoned God. Fortunately, neither one was true. However before I discovered that, I was devastated. I had never felt so lonely, betrayed and ostracised - and what made it worse was that it was my God who I thought was rejecting me. I believe this damaged me more than the actual crisis I was living through.

Why does our Christian culture perpetuate such myths? Is it an unspoken desire to mould God into an ethereal security blanket?

By encouraging Christians to believe the in the quick-fix Christianity recklessly perpetuated by the “Jesus got heaps of Lambs” school of thought, we actually prepare ourselves for more stony ground than we could imagine.

After a long time of struggling, I remember one time telling a friend I was considering going to a counsellor. He went very quiet and then challenged me:

“Isn't Jesus the greatest counsellor? You need more faith. Tell Him your problems and He will heal you, not a counsellor. You are putting your faith in man, not God.”

He was wrong. Jesus is not interested in keeping us away from the stony ground or rolling our blues away. The Christ I went on to discover was a Christ who preferred process and journey. It was in my honesty and self-evaluation that I finally discovered truth about myself and God.

I don't wish stony ground on anyone, but sometimes it comes. However, with a little less myth and a little more preparation, perhaps it might not have been so painful.

Submitted by J.W.

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