Jan 14 2014

Working Out the Numbness

Mandela TutuThere are two things that I don’t like very much: numb-heads and numb-legs. We’ve all sat in that meeting/class/small group that felt like you needed to just get up and do something rather than talk anymore. By the end of it, your head is just numb.

Often those meetings have another side effect: numb-legs. If I sit for too long, my legs go to sleep and my lower back feels numb. The worst part is when you attempt to stand up and walk it out. You try to get up and walk, only to have that horrible tingly feeling all over as you wobble around until your legs are normal again.

This past week I’ve been completely immersed in my 1-week intensive course on the topic of reconciliation. For the past few days we’ve explored the journey of reconciliation from many angles. It’s a topic I’ve learned is deep, complicated, and powerful.

It’s also a topic can be difficult to put into action. We looked at reconciliation efforts in places like Rwanda and South Africa. As we did, we discussed and critiqued what has been done in different situations. Sometimes these discussions can be frustrating as we critique too much. If anything doesn’t meet the ideal, then it gets picked apart. After a week of this, you get numb-headed.

I can’t help but draw a conclusion between these two frustrations of numb-headedness and numb-legs. In class, we often critique the latest strategy or model. Maybe that’s a church model, maybe it’s a model of reconciliation, or maybe it’s a strategy for effective evangelism. The truth is, we can only sit around critiquing for so long. We have to stand up and get on our feet. I believe we’ll find out it was harder than we expected. Our legs will tingle. We’ll wobble around, and hopefully we’ll find a way that feels right and our legs are strong again.

I always feared coming to seminary because I’d rather be in the field of action than sitting in a classroom. As I’ve been here at Candler I’ve learned that critique is necessary because no model, system, or strategy is perfect. Critique helps us get closer to the ideal. Candler helps me engage in important critiquing. Admittedly, I’ve felt that numb-headedness come around a time or two, but this has also been a place where our legs are moved into action. Learning happens within the context of serving others through Contextual Education I and II. Candler has been a place where critique and action meet face to face.

In their book, Reconciling All Things, authors Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice write about leaders saying, “Leading is not about knowing where you are going. It is about starting somewhere then taking a next faithful step, then another and another.”[1]

I find this to be true in almost any line of ministry. At times the critiquing can create fear of going out and being the church God is calling us to be. Yet we have to get up, work out those awkward first steps, and continue faithfully.


[1] Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice, Reconciling all things: a Christian vision for justice, peace and healing, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 129.

–Mark Kimbrough

Mark is a second-year MDiv and student ambassador at Candler.  From Springdale, Arkansas, he completed his undergraduate studies at The University of Arkansas.


Oct 29 2013

The Heart of Worship

CannonI sit in a room full of scholars and students asking hard questions, searching for justice, and hungry to engage their faith in the world. The architecture in this room is wonderfully symbolic. We sing from hymnbooks. We read liturgy. The organ is our lead singer. Sometimes we have choirs in robes, sometimes a drumline, sometimes a string quartet, and sometimes a soloist. We follow the liturgical calendar for preaching. There is a pulpit. There are no fancy lights. No fog machines. The room is full of contemplative focus.

Now I sit in a large auditorium that seats 2,500 people. It is full of many different types of people with many different agendas. There’s a full band, a billboard sized projection screen, and a backdrop to the stage that’s of the same quality found at a major rock concert. The band sounds like a professional rock band. The lyrics are on the screen, not in your hand. There are lights, lots of lights. There is fog rolling from the stage. There is not a pulpit when the preacher preaches, just a round bar table and a plasma screen to his left. The room is full of energy.

Now I sit in a room in Venezuela that serves as a bar or event space during the week and a church on Sundays. The people gathered are hungry for worship to begin. There is no A/C, only fans blowing at full speed. There is a band but no fancy lights, no flat screen TVs, no fog, and no pulpit. The sound system is loud for sure, but not of any great quality. We are led by a band of students with one adult guiding them. The words are not in our hands nor on a screen, but in the hearts of the people. The room is full of anticipation.BuckheadThis past year has been a journey for me in the realm of corporate worship. My first year at Candler was one of interesting paradox. I attended a mainline Methodist seminary with a chapel service that, most weeks, was liturgy-driven, with an organ as our worship leader. Then I would attend non-denominational churches such as Passion City Church or Buckhead Church, where worship was more like a rock concert and liturgy was hard to find. My weekly worship experience was drastically different most of the time. Then this summer, I went down with World Methodist Evangelism Institute and worshiped in a small charismatic Venezuelan Methodist church. Each one of these uniquely different worship spaces was meaningful and wonderful.

So, worship.

Is this a matter of style? Is this a matter of theology? Is this a matter of liberal vs. conservative? Traditional vs. modern? Fundamental vs. progressive? Is this a matter of what is the right/best/most real/most personal/most collective way of worshiping?

Well, in short, yes. Of course it is, and it would be a lie to ignore all of those things when considering what worship means to us. I wonder though if we, in our modern church culture, couldn’t do more to learn and appreciate from one another.

I grew up in a church that had three worship environments: “contemporary” “modern” and “traditional.” Putting aside that these are slightly ambiguous terms, I found myself naturally being pulled towards the “modern” worship. As I grew older (I’m only 26 now), the traditional service began to eat me alive. Why is this even around anymore? Who really sings these songs and means them? Is there any Spirit found here? So needless to say, I would put myself in the camp of people that didn’t like a high liturgical or “traditional” worship setting.

VenezuelaThis year has changed me. Candler has stretched me. I have experienced an authentic encounter with God in so many different spaces and styles. Whether that be at Candler’s chapel services, Passion conferences, or small Venezuelan congregations.

I don’t think it is about style, or low-church vs. high-church, or any of that. I think it’s about the heart of the worship.

So it comes to this. It’s not how I worship, but whom I am worshiping. Am I worshiping style, or am I worshiping the God of all creation? And this God of all creation, doesn’t this God deserve and need to be worshiped in a multitude of ways? It’s really less about my style and more about my heart.

I have found this to be true: a community that is singing with its heart makes worship powerful. The community gathered in that space makes it powerful. Sure, what happens in the worship is important and should be done well, but style and liturgical preference will never trump the community gathered and the Spirit they bring to the space. So, whether I’m singing “Take Me As I Am,” “Your Love Never Fails,” or “La Creacion Hoy Canta,” if the community is worshiping as one, it is truly a moment that is special. The body unleashing its heart in true praise to God gives us worship. Give me that, in any style, and that is something I want to be a part of!

–Mark Kimbrough

Mark is a second-year MDiv and student ambassador at Candler.  From Springdale, Arkansas, he completed his undergraduate studies at The University of Arkansas.