Don’t End Up Just Banging Dustbins

Without realising, this man had offered a fine theological defence of the regulative principle of worship. I daren’t argue that I wasn’t quite a fully paid up regulative principle adherent – though I’m not so far away in practice – because, despite our divergent logical paths, we both alighted on the same conclusion: that’s not church; it’s just banging dustbins.


It is amazing how certain comments stick in the mind. It is hard to know whether it is the context in which they are spoken or the sheer simplicity with which the comment nails its intended target, but nonetheless some things remain with you. I am regularly reminded of one of the funniest, and yet searingly clear, comments I received whilst engaged in mission work.

The context was my regular pilgrimage to the Holy Land; or, Llandudno as it is more commonly known. I was co-leading a week of mission. Much of the work involved cold-contact evangelism; approaching folk on the promenade and trying to generate conversation. The aim would be to share something of Christ and perhaps leave them with a Christian book or piece of literature to read in their own time. Sometimes conversations take off – often in ways you wouldn’t expect – and excellent theological discussion can take place. RC Sproul was right when he noted, ‘everyone’s a theologian’.

One particular afternoon, I got chatting to a couple of couples. It was the usual Llandudno clientele: nominally Christian, vaguely religious types who believe in ‘something’, probably God, but generally don’t bother with church and whose supposed Christianity had very little practical outworking. I remember mining some of their inconsistencies. They had strong views on what Christianity was supposed to be but little in the way of anything to back it up in practice. They were certain church should be traditional but didn’t see much need to go.

At some point, however, things took a slight detour. I suppose in a bid to sound a bit more religious, presumably feeling a bit exposed and wanting to fit in with the God-botherer presently forcing them to consider matters they had long tried to block out, one of my interlocutors volunteered that they did watch Songs of Praise periodically (presumably as they were led by the Spirit, who apparently saw no need to lead them to a church). The lady proferring this defence of her religiosity clearly hadn’t counted on her husband’s similar view of the programme to me.

In the way that only a plain speaking Northern man can, he said something approximating this. The final key sentence, however, is verbatim:

It used to be OK. It used to be traditional hymns and that. But last time we turned it on, they had that Stomp on. It were a right racket. I mean, that’s not church; it’s just banging dustbins!

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