empowered by the spirit for mission

Water from an Ancient Well: Celtic Spirituality for Modern Life by Kenneth McIntosh

A book review

Water from an Ancient Well by Kenneth McIntosh is a basic introduction to some of the major themes in the history of the Celtic Christianity. It is packed with inspiring stories of the Celts and illustrations and wisdom from elsewhere that unpacks and applies these themes.

It explains the Celtic view of the cross, the Holy Spirit and spiritual disciplines, their love for the Bible, their experiences of the world of nature and of the supernatural world of miracles.

Water from an Ancient Well tells stories of the saints and monastic communities. It may be overstating the point that the Celts were story tellers and not theologians, certainly some massive tomes of theology arrived way before the Enlightenment. Nevertheless the Celts did love story telling and Kenneth McIntosh delights in imitating the Celts by telling stories himself by paraphrasing and elaborating them as he goes.

Water from an Ancient Well is quite a light read with short chapters that makes it ideal for bedtime. Each chapter has recommendations on how we might apply the wisdom of the Celtic Christians such as experiencing God in nature, building rhythms of solitude and service into your life. These left me feeling encouraged and provoked to see these characters as positive role models despite some of their failings and over zealousness for asceticism.

One of the most interesting ideas is how the Celtic Christians redeemed elements of their culture such as communing with nature, deep spiritual friendships or even the sacred places.

I also like the way Kenneth McIntosh highlights a number of aspects of Celtic culture that look similar to our contemporary world. For example, how the Celts replanted forests after Roman over-farming, leaned towards gender equality and had quite a progressive view of Bible interpretation. It would be interesting to investigate some of these observations more to see how much McIntosh is reading these into Celtic Christianity.

If you want an in depth history lesson you will need to follow the references and do some digging. Also there is plenty here that wouldn’t find its way into your average history book: McIntosh’s own illustrations, stories from elsewhere in history such as the Desert Fathers and of course quotes from the Bible. You may on occasions wonder just where this book is going but each time you will find it coming back to Celts soon enough.

Water from an Ancient Well is very readable and it gives some fascinating insights into Celtic Christianity that will please and encourage many casual readers.


Water from an Ancient Well is published by Anamchara Books.

Thanks to Mike Morrell of the SpeakEasy network for sending me this book to review free of charge.

November 29, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

7 CharisMissional Books under £13 each

UK Customers: to ensure that you get your book for under £10 check out the market place deals. These are still cheaper than the regular amazon price even with post and packing! And don’t forget if you are ordering for Christmas check what postage you will need to choose to ensure your book arrives on time.

These books would make great Christmas presents. I’ve reviewed them all on this blog and would recommend them.

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November 20, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comment (1)

How to Make Worship More Engaging

Have you ever felt bored as you worship God? Well hopefully not! If you are familiar with the contemporary worship scene you might feel a bit embarrassed admitting it. I mean, you may think of more traditional worship as boring but surely not the exciting guitar driven worship that happens in your church.

Even if you’ve never felt bored I think you might agree that there is further to go in worship. The excitement that many first felt may have faded for some over the years. I sense a longing for something more engaging and more interesting. How can we make it happen?

Why might someone struggle with worship?

I think one mistake that we have made is a linguistic mistake. We speak of corporate worship as almost synonymous with music and even a certain style of music – a style that perhaps isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

I also wonder if putting singers and musicians at the front leads to a passive listening. The set up is like that of a concert where you would only join in very occasionally. So it’s no wonder that in situations like this many people just don’t join in.

On top of all that many recent worship songs are so… er… bland. There must be Christian songs of more depth than we sing – but it is now thought to be radical to bring out the occasional hymn or to write a more downbeat worship song like the laments that we read in book of Psalms.

How can we get back on track?

So how can we regain the joy of worship? Am I advocating bigger bands, louder music and more funky music? No! Our thirst for more satisfying worship will not be quenched by hyping things up.

Worship in the early church was understood as much wider than music. Worship encompassed a life style. Worship gatherings had the breaking of bread at there heart as well as gifts of the Spirit and conversational teaching. With the advent of the modern worship movement an emphasis on music has taken over.

Of course this is a matter of emphasis. There is nothing wrong with using music in worship. It does have an important place. We can have some really good times of sung worship and some people do meet Jesus in the music but for crying out loud, haven’t we got it yet – worship is more than music. I’m beginning to rant now!

What is the way forward with worship?

So what I am I actually suggesting? I think that what we need is more planned worship that is both Biblical and relevant and engaging for those taking part. We need to put more time and effort into planning and preparation of our times of corporate worship to include both music and other activities put together as a coherent whole.

What is planning?

Planning and preparation should not be confused with rehearsing songs or musicians jamming together. Planning worship does involve carefully choosing songs but it there is more to it than that. What it means is that we can also work out some activities. Last year as a church we had a weekend away and had some amazing worship times.  The reason was time and effort had been put into planning engaging activities that involved everyone from the youngest to the oldest.

What are creative worship activities?

If you want some ideas for such creative activities there are tons of resources out there on the internet.  For starters you might like to explore Engage Worship that I came across at Spring Harvest this year. I am sure there are many many more resources and ideas out there. Just do some internet searches of your own.

What does planning involve?

Planning could start with a theme and then working out the running order of songs and/or the scheduling of the activities. Of course you can always adapt our plan on the day if someone wants to bring a contribution on the day. But we still need a plan – a plan that includes at least one interesting creative worship activity.

Planning teams

I believe that everyone can contribute in worship. One way to achieve this is to have planning meetings open to all those interested. Ideas can then be generated for an upcoming corporate worship time. Having listened to God together people could go away and prepare their part. The leaders would then just need to confirm with those who had prepared something that everything was ready.

Who plans the worship could also vary. It would make a refreshing change if this was handed over once in a while to others such as those skilled in arts and crafts or to those with a homeless ministry. Perhaps then worship would be more like going to an art gallery or sitting down for a meal or anything really.

Planning to include both music and activities

Of course we must not ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ so to speak. Instead of saying, ‘I don’t like your style we’re going to do it our way’, we can bring new ways of engaging God along side the current and, who knows, we may find our worship songs infused with new meaning.

Let’s go for it!

Come on then! Why don’t we do it? Are we are afraid of people complaining? We probably will get some grumbles from people who ‘don’t get it’? But maybe we fear our experiments won’t work? Let’s admit it – we fear failure. That’s understandable but instead of just sitting there isn’t it time to take that risk?

November 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)