Christian worship – reasons and rewards

Why God has better stats than Thierry Henry

I believe that we all have idols which we worship - knowledge, success, wealth, power, fame, relationships, alcohol, drugs, food, technology, cars, shoes, sports teams, art or artists, television, tradition. The list goes on of things we devote countless hours towards worshipping and pursuing with an insatiable appetite.

Knowing this, Jesus said the first and greatest of the Ten Commandments is: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind”. At first glance this could seem like quite an onerous task but the reality is that most of us find worship lovely and very easy.

Thierry Henry is worshipped in the neighbourhood where I live. He was something special at Arsenal Football Club and thousands of kids and their parents walk around with his name on the back of their replica shirts. Some will claim he is the greatest footballer in the world. No doubt he has superb dribbling skills, speed, balance and he scores goals for fun. On top of this, he has style, good looks, humour and is an inspirational leader who had an immense heart for his team.

He knew Arsenal fans loved him. After scoring an exquisite goal, he would run to the corner flag with his hand cupped over his ear to encourage and amplify the cheers of the fans. And they would cheer all the louder. Adoration was gladly given. Would a crowd have taken so readily to a man who instead humbly returned to his own half to await the restart?

Thierry Henry is a footballer. And now he has left for Spain. God is, well, God and isn’t going anywhere. Putting Henry’s statistics beside God’s would only serve to reinforce why God, of the two, is the more worthy of our praise.

As a Christian, I believe He created and sustains the universe. I believe He defined the laws of physics governing how a football can travel from a Frenchman’s foot into the back of the net in such a compelling fashion. I believe Jesus, fully man and fully God, chose not to lord it on earth but to die a criminal’s death on the cross so that we did not have to bear the punishment our sins deserved. I believe the Devil’s main concern is to steal and destroy, and Jesus won a great victory over him, for our gain, by his death and resurrection.

And so I worship him in many ways. A major way is trying to act justly and mercifully in my everyday life, by obeying the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbour as yourself”. However, I also lead the congregation of New River Church in hymns and songs most Sunday mornings. This part of the meeting we call “worship”.

There, we come together to meet with God, give Him our burdens and lift our hands in songs of thanks and praise. We attempt to put Him first, no matter how desperate our other concerns. We come with a hope and an expectation that the Spirit of God will meet us there. That God will cup his ear as we cheer. That He will welcome our adoration and we will adore him. He goes further. It says in the Bible that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Time and time again we have experienced this to be true.

As we worship Him, he counsels us, refreshes us, and often changes us as a church and as individuals. I can testify that it is a joy and a privilege to worship Christ in this way. He loves it and we love it.

Adam is a worship leader at New River Church, Islington, a non-denominational, charismatic Christian church of about 40 people. He has a degree in physics, a PhD in neuroimaging and is a member of the electro-indie rock band Personal Space Invaders.
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The Tinder dating app isn't just about sex – it's about friendship, too. And sex

The lines between sex, love and friendship are blurrier than ever, as I found out quickly while using the app.

The first time I met someone using Tinder, the free dating app that requires users to swipe left for “no” and right for “yes” before enabling new “matches” to chat, it was an unqualified success. I should probably qualify that. I was newly single after five years in a committed relationship and wasn’t looking for anything more than fun, friendship and, well, who knows. A few weeks earlier I had tried to give my number to a girl in a cinema café in Brixton. I wrote it on a postcard I’d been using as a bookmark. She said she had a boyfriend, but wanted to keep the postcard. I had no date and I lost my page.

My Tinder date was a master’s student from Valencia called Anna (her name wasn’t really Anna, of course, I’m not a sociopath). When I arrived at the appointed meeting place, she told me I was far more handsome IRL (“in real life”) than my pictures suggested. I was flattered and full of praise for the directness of continental Europeans but also thought sadly to myself: “If only the same could be said about you.”

Anna and I became friends, at least for a while. The date wasn’t a success in the traditional sense of leading us into a contract based on exclusivity, an accumulating cache of resentments and a mortgage, but it had put me back in the game (an appropriate metaphor – people speak regularly of “playing” with the app).

According to Sean Rad, the co-founder who launched Tinder in late 2012, the service was invented for people like me. “It was really a way to overcome my own problems,” he told the editor of Cosmopolitan at an event in London last month. “It was weird to me, to start a conversation [with a stranger]. Once I had an introduction I was fine, but it’s that first step. It’s difficult for a lot of people.” After just one outing, I’d learned two fundamental lessons about the world of online dating: pretty much everyone has at least one decent picture of themselves, and meeting women using a so-called hook-up app is seldom straightforwardly about sex.

Although sometimes it is. My second Tinder date took place in Vienna. I met Louisa (ditto, name) outside some notable church or other one evening while visiting on holiday (Tinder tourism being, in my view, a far more compelling way to get to know a place than a cumbersome Lonely Planet guide). We drank cocktails by the Danube and rambled across the city before making the romantic decision to stay awake all night, as she had to leave early the next day to go hiking with friends. It was just like the Richard Linklater movie Before Sunrise – something I said out loud more than a few times as the Aperol Spritzes took their toll.

When we met up in London a few months later, Louisa and I decided to skip the second part of Linklater’s beautiful triptych and fast-track our relationship straight to the third, Before Midnight, which takes place 18 years after the protagonists’ first meet in Vienna, and have begun to discover that they hate each others’ guts.

Which is one of the many hazards of the swiping life: unlike with older, web-based platforms such as Match.com or OkCupid, which require a substantial written profile, Tinder users know relatively little about their prospective mates. All that’s necessary is a Facebook account and a single photograph. University, occupation, a short bio and mutual Facebook “likes” are optional (my bio is made up entirely of emojis: the pizza slice, the dancing lady, the stack of books).

Worse still, you will see people you know on Tinder – that includes colleagues, neighbours and exes – and they will see you. Far more people swipe out of boredom or curiosity than are ever likely to want to meet up, in part because swiping is so brain-corrosively addictive.

While the company is cagey about its user data, we know that Tinder has been downloaded over 100 million times and has produced upwards of 11 billion matches – though the number of people who have made contact will be far lower. It may sound like a lot but the Tinder user-base remains stuck at around the 50 million mark: a self-selecting coterie of mainly urban, reasonably affluent, generally white men and women, mostly aged between 18 and 34.

A new generation of apps – such as Hey! Vina and Skout – is seeking to capitalise on Tinder’s reputation as a portal for sleaze, a charge Sean Rad was keen to deny at the London event. Tinder is working on a new iteration, Tinder Social, for groups of friends who want to hang out with other groups on a night out, rather than dating. This makes sense for a relatively fresh business determined to keep on growing: more people are in relationships than out of them, after all.

After two years of using Tinder, off and on, last weekend I deleted the app. I had been visiting a friend in Sweden, and took it pretty badly when a Tinder date invited me to a terrible nightclub, only to take a few looks at me and bolt without even bothering to fabricate an excuse. But on the plane back to London the next day, a strange thing happened. Before takeoff, the woman sitting beside me started crying. I assumed something bad had happened but she explained that she was terrified of flying. Almost as terrified, it turned out, as I am. We wound up holding hands through a horrific patch of mid-air turbulence, exchanged anecdotes to distract ourselves and even, when we were safely in sight of the ground, a kiss.

She’s in my phone, but as a contact on Facebook rather than an avatar on a dating app. I’ll probably never see her again but who knows. People connect in strange new ways all the time. The lines between sex, love and friendship are blurrier than ever, but you can be sure that if you look closely at the lines, you’ll almost certainly notice the pixels.

Philip Maughan is Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad