Soulfly tribe

Soufly live in concert at Glasgow Garage
Soulfly live in concert at Glasgow Garage this evening.

Soulfly rocked in Glasgow this evening, at the Garage; although they really deserved a much larger venue and a larger stage.

The support band Skindred were surprisingly good. Their guitarist was the spitting image of Danny Wallace; at least from a distance. I sent him a text to tell him that. Danny, I mean, not the guitarist. Their vocalist was like a squashed version of Derrick Green from the mighty Sepultura. Not quite as tall, more stocky, but no less presence. He quickly won over the whole crowd and had us all bouncing to their unique brand of Ragga Punk Metal. Besides vocals Welsh frontman Benji ‘played’ samples on a small Casio keyboard, and ended their set with a most beautiful rendition of the built-in Casio keyboard demo. Great humour, great music and great presence. Look out for Skindred in the future.

I remember years and years ago in my bedroom in Selkirk listening to the album Beneath The Remains by then little-known Brazilian band called Sepultura. Their frontman and rhythm guitarist was a man called Max Cavalera. The man is a legend, rising out of Belo Horizonte to become, at one time, one of Brasil’s largest exports after coffee and drugs!

Tonight I was in the same room as Max Cavalera — who was sporting a Scotland FA shirt — watching him with his current band Soulfly ripping through a “best of. . .” of Soulfly and Sepultura tracks, such as Babylon, Eye For An Eye, Prophecy, L.O.T.M. (Last of the Mohicans), Refuse/Resist and Troops of Doom. The art of shredding is not dead! Thrash metal is not dead!

The only problem about seeing a thrash metal band in concert is that they can get through 15 – 20 songs in only 75 minutes. Which is just what they did. And SHOCK! no encore! First headlining band I’ve ever seen not to come on again for at least one more song.

But it didn’t detract from a great evening of REAL METAL™.

Crazy little thing called Church

Blue cross on black background

A few years ago I joined The Alban Institute, an organisation that describes itself as

an ecumenical, interfaith organization founded in 1974, which supports congregations through book publishing, educational seminars, consulting services, and research

and on the whole they are a very good organisation that offers a lot of thoughtful research and thinking about all aspects of Church: leadership, size transition, models of church, worship, salaries, community, and a whole lot more.

It was Alban that was key in helping the Scottish Episcopal Church put together the Mission 21 programme, which I always described as a bit like “psychotherapy for congregations”, in that it allowed local communities of believers to exam what they did, why and invite them to consider different patterns of behaviour to encourage growth. Mission 21 was a good thing, in my opinion, and to be honest I’m a little surprised why it hasn’t got the same high profile as it did five years ago. I drew this cartoon for the church’s Inspires magazine a few months ago, which seemingly upset a few people:

Cartoon showing a man reading an A-Z of Scotland saying That is weird, I can see the M8 and M9 but where is M21?

I didn’t mean to upset anyone. It was simply highlighting that this, at times, very effective tool seemed to have dropped off the average church member’s radar. We don’t seem to hear about it very often, and that’s a shame.

Cover of Congregations magazine
Anyway, back to Alban. As a member I’m entitled to discounts from their excellent bookstore, and any conferences that they run. But since most of those seem to be held in the US, I’ve not been to any of those yet. I also get their quarterly magazine, called Congregations.

The magazine is excellent, packed with very thoughtful and thought-provoking articles usually based around a theme or topic. (It’s a bit like a prog rock concept album but in a magazine format!) This month’s grand-arching theme is “Congregations and the Future” and this article I have found very encouraging.

The article is entitled “This Thing Called Church” and in it “Pastor and author Anthony B. Robinson argues that a renewed focus on theology has the power to retore vitality to today’s congregations.” And I think they are onto something.

It appears to me that many of us in the Church have forgotten — or got confused — to some degree what Church is about, and if we’re not entirely sure then no wonder those outside the Church don’t know either. In some places, it seems, Church has become little more than a club for like-minded religious people, or an arena for religious-themed entertainment, or else a community gathered around a charismatic leader. But Church is more than that.

The very word ecclesiology provides clues to its importance in understanding what it truly means to be a church or congregation. It comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which means “a people called” and “the visible assembly.” Church is not the building in which people meet, nor is it the leader. It is people gathered into community in response to God’s call in Jesus Christ. Church happens, as Jesus said, where “two or three are gathered in my name” (Matt. 18:20).

Churches, like other organizations, develop their structures, systems, and rituals for governance and continuity. These can be quite important, for they sustain common life and work, but such structures are in the end provisional. In Paul’s words, they are “clay jars,” not to be confused with the “extraordinary power [that] belongs to God” (2 Cor. 4:7). The church belongs to and owes its existence to God and not to us. God has created and claimed the church for God’s purposes.
(This Thing Called Church, in Alban Congregations (Winter 2005)

Recently our ministry team preached a series of sermons entitled “A Church to which I would like to belong”. It made us think about what we regard as essential for Church to be Church. What is the Church? What are we here for? What is our purpose?

Congregations and clergy seemingly have often misconstrued or misunderstood the closing scene in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus meets the disciples on a mountain and charges them with the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).

Somehow it seems we have heard Jesus say, “Go therefore, and make members . . .” That is not quite the same thing. Frankly, making disciples seems to me both more interesting and more valuable . . .

A culture of membership, partly shaped by the ethos of consumerism, turns the church into a provider of goods and services dubbed religious or spiritual. Moreover, it is “our church” or “my church,” not “God’s church”.
(This Thing Called Church, in Alban Congregations (Winter 2005)

A call to make disciples not members is something that excites me, and is something that requires us, like Jesus, to get ‘out there’ and start sharing the good news of Jesus (which is what the word “Gospel” means).