Sunday, 2 June 2013

Life Church

Worship Service, Sunday 02 June 2013, 11am
Pastor: Adrian Galley

If shouty, clappy, hand-waving worship music is your bag, and if you also fancy a little dance into the bargain, you’ll feel very much at home at Life Church, an independent pentecostal congregation that used to call itself the Apostolic Church. As at Hope! Church and Edinburgh Elim, the music was loud, percussive and as generic as a genre can be. I’ve said it before, but there’s nothing about this kind of music to engage the ear, mind or spirit – limited vocal range, dumbed down lyrics, bland melodies, etc, etc. – and yet the faithful were instantly on their feet, throwing some shapes with their hands a-waving as the band launched into a 50-minute praisefest in which one forgettable chorus segued seamlessly into the next. I joined in, of course, for everything except Jesus, you’re my superhero, which I’m afraid I just couldn’t bring myself to sing. That one was for the kids, in case you were wondering.  

The musical frenzy calmed only for the odd word of prayer, and here’s my first question. The worship leader told us in one of her few non-singing moments about God’s “unconditional love”. I’m wondering now, where in the bible are we told that God’s love is unconditional? Maybe I missed that bit, because God’s love seems to be very much conditional – on obeying his commandments, for instance, or in believing in the divinity of his son. The old testament is all about a god who makes a contract with people who find it difficult to fulfil, and the new testament is about a god who finds a new and more complicated way of striking a different kind of deal with a wider group of people. But every deal comes with conditions attached.

Howsomever, that’s just a little niggle about an unguarded but no doubt sincere comment from the worship leader. The main teaching was given by Pastor Adrian Galley, who quoted from Hebrews, Romans, Peter, Ephesians, Philippians, and Corinthians (nothing from the old testament or the gospels) as he expounded his theme of maturity in Christian life. St Paul chided early Christians for being mere infants in Christ, and the problem persists to this day among “old Christians” who still haven’t grown up. Freedom comes in a moment, but maturity comes over a period of time, said Adrian. There’s nothing else that God needs to do for you once you become a Christian, but there is more that you have to do, and you have to take personal responsibility for achieving that growth in your walk with Jesus. It’s like fitness, apparently. Talking to a really fit person about their training regime won’t actually do you any good; it’s up to you to get down the gym and start working out for yourself, and there’s no shortcut.

What he didn’t tell us was exactly what all this growth and maturity entailed. My own experience is that the more you read the more you uncover the inconsistencies in scripture, so unless maturity brings with it an ability to reconcile the irreconcilable I’m not sure how anyone achieves the growth from Christian infancy to fit-for-heaven maturity, which is why I don't reckon I'll be fit for heaven any time soon. It’s also a rather disappointing message for anyone who’s taken to heart the promise that salvation is theirs simply because they’ve accepted Christ … now there’s a yes/but rider to the bargain, and no great clarity about exactly what you’re supposed to do next. Although, if you're saved anyway, what incentive is there to mature? Why not remain like a little child? Isn't the kingdom of heaven for such as these? So many unasked and unanswered questions. Woolly, woolly, woolly. 

On the plus side, the people were all very friendly and welcoming. This is something the evangelical churches are good at, to judge by my experiences so far this year, and certain of the more mainstream denominations could take a leaf out of their book. 


  1. It depends how you define "love". The bible is not very clear on this. I think the love that is unconditional is a sort of procedural love rather like the love you are supposed to have for your whole family. Which is why it relates to one tribe initially.

  2. Interesting. You've prompted me to do a quick search on the word "love" in the KJV (where would we be without Bible Gateway?) and roughly half of all instances are in the new testament, which is disproportionate considering how much shorter it is. Also, maybe we're supposed to take it as read, but there are remarkably few statements in the old testament to the effect that God loves his people, as compared with the number of reminders that his people are supposed to love him.
    On a slight tangent, I'm not sure if it's significant that Greek lexicalises divine, sexual and brotherly love separately, while Hebrew has one catch-all word to cover all categories. You're the Classicist, Gordon. Any thoughts?