Instead of Church

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We seem to have a "set pattern" for our church services in bigger cities that does not deviate much from denomination to denomination. Is it time to try a new pattern? What about something that looks and feels completely different and still centers completely on Christ and His bride, the church?

Instead of putting our pastors and worship leaders in a place where they perform and we critique, this is a place where we are all active participants. As we progress as a “body” some will naturally begin to lead, but the pressure of performing will be mostly removed.

Instead of being a place of laughter and fun, this would be a place of real emotion. We would let the Spirit lead us to weep, lament, cry out, praise, laugh, and be silent.

Instead of a church that says community is important, it would be a place that intentionally builds community. People that want to be entertained once a week would not be attracted to a place like this…we hope.

Instead of a place where teachers are upheld, it would be a place where we uphold the seven greater gifts of being apostles, prophets, teachers, healers, miracle workers, speakers in tongues, and interpreters of tongues.

Instead of a place where we try to show how good we are, it would be a place where we work as a body and show appreciation for the various parts of the body. We would celebrate our differences and individual gifts.

Instead of letting the church be run as a secular business, we would let the Spirit lead. We would encourage others to speak out, and then discuss if this is of God or not. Church is so careful to make sure that there is no false teaching or bad ideas. We would discuss them as a body of Christ, using the great commandment as our guide, prayer, and the scripture.

Like every other church we would follow the great commandment of loving God and loving others, discussing and practicing weekly what this means.

How?

As a church plant, advertise this as a place to worship God if you do not like to go to church. Advertise it as a place that tries to carry out this mandate: Luke 15:4 (NIV) “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?

Have cards that can be handed out with place and dates of meeting on it. Start a website only if there is someone to maintain it daily.

It would have to be a place that is easy to walk into. Also, it should have an open area that allows for different groups to sit together and talk. A children’s play area should be in one corner, so that children can play while their parents look on. There should be a supervised outdoor play area for children to have easy access to. There should be a room that parents can take their kids into if they are having tantrums.

Have a sign at the door that says every week you will be assigned to a group. You can choose the same group you had before or request a new one.

People go into the building and go to the group they are assigned to. There will be a greeter who makes them feel welcome and lets them know the layout of the building. At 10:00 sharp, they start their group by asking about the week, asking if there are things to be happy about or things that make them sad. 

As the weeks progress, the groups will find an order that works for them. If no one wants to talk, then have silence and prayer. This is a time of bringing your week to the Lord and his people, sharing and caring, and preparing to come into a place where all God’s people get ready to seek God and praise God as a corporate body.

A worship “leader” then calls everyone together into the presence of God to worship Him. It is a time to quietly reflect on who God is, be led in song so that everyone’s voice is important, and to corporately lift our hearts and voices to God. The leader should only be heard loud enough to lead the other voices. It should not be a performance. Instruments should not be allowed until the players can play so that it enhances the singing, not drown it out. It can be a time of lament, or silence, or singing, or reading a Bible selection together. A screen at the front would direct all eyes in the same direction.

This is the time when the group leaders come together to discuss needs and issues in their groups. If anyone has asked to share their story or would like corporate prayer, this is the time to bring it up. If there is nothing to share, have someone come up and speak in tongues and get the congregation to give their interpretations.

Then everyone returns to their groups to discuss what they experienced and to talk and pray about issues they would like help with. Some can go and play with the children, or talk with the youth, or make plans for the rest of the day, or plans for the week.

There should be a choir group that meets during the week so that adults and children can learn to sing again. Maybe a Friday Community Night. 

Hopefully with an idea like this, community would grow out of the energy that Sunday mornings generate.  

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Community Builder

I find it difficult to relate to what you're saying because it doesn't describe my experience of church AT ALL. And yet, Montreal is not exactly a small city. Maybe you haven't visited the right churches before making your sweeping statements? Come and check us out at Montreal CRC.

Too bad Montreal CRC is so far away!  I am in BC.  I have visited a lot of churches.  I do not want to change church because a lot of people like it the way it is.  I am looking for something less polished.  If I want to learn soccer, I do not go to a place and listen to someone tell me how to play soccer, I also want to practice it.  I feel like church tells us how to be the church, but we never get to practice it.

Community Builder

Interesting ideas. Have you experienced anything like this yourself? I'd be interested to hear more.

Because our pastors and worship teams are expected to "give us something good", they do not often want to leave the tried and true path of teaching in church.  I am told that all these ideas can work in a small group setting.  But I see all the empty faces watching the stage when I go to church and know that many are wanting something more.  I am participating in a very small church.  I get to lead the singing because no one else wants to.  I encourage input constantly.   Slowly we are getting out of 'me running the show' and into corporate worship where others contribute as the Spirit leads.  The pastor loves to teach so I try not to impose on him.  I have asked if I could pray in tongues.  As nervous as the group is about it, there have been some powerful interpretations, but I do not want to insist on doing this every week either.  I would love to have a place to try out these ideas, but I have no authority as a layperson.  

It's an interesting picture. I looked for a place in the meeting plan that reads and proclaims God's Holy Word. It felt rootless to me, somehow. The assumption that people come to be entertained is not backed up. Can we think of ways to engage community and still maintain the place of Scripture when we meet? Is there to be a core of beliefs? If so, how is it taught and maintained? Tell us more about this.

Scripture and prayer should be the core part of worship.  Thank you for your questions.  It helps me clarify my own ideas.  Because God is calling us to be a body, I am saying that during a church service, the people need to proclaim God's word and move as the Spirit leads.  We have so many mature Christians in the churches.  They are led by Christ daily, but we tell them to sit in our services and be fed by our leaders.  If our leaders would act as facilitators so that members of the congregation could read and interpret scripture as it applied to their own lives, then the facilitators could discuss with the congregation if this is a true interpretation of the word of God.  I find our leaders too concerned about false teaching to let anyone speak.  Jesus was unknown, but he went into the synagogues, read the scripture and interpreted it.  The leaders listened carefully and could find nothing wrong with what he said.  The rest of the congregation listened carefully and because the leaders accepted what he said, then they did too.  

I would like to see more of a reliance on the Spirit.  He leads us daily.  If we stopped trying to create perfect, polished services, and instead focused on awkward silences, taking baby steps in using our Spiritual gifts, and working together, I do think we would be a truer body of Christ.

What if we used our Heidelberg Catechism as a weekly guide?  One could do a whole service just on Lord's Day 1, Question 1.  We could read the question and answer together, and then read through the scripture verses, meditating on them and having individuals read them out loud and give their input on it.  The facilitator can maintain order in worship but all the congregation would have to be actively engaged.  Maybe this has been done before, but I do think that our "seekers" in this culture need to be a part of the process of finding out who God is.

Sandra if you are ever in Kelowna come check out the Well. We do a variation of what you are suggesting. It continues to shift and change through seasons, but most recently we’ve been eating breakfast together around tables to connect about our weeks to start out with, we worship from videos because we don’t have any musicians, we pray over each other each week and our teaching is also explorative and includes discussion. Bless you as you let God’s imagination shape your worship! 

Thank you for seeing it as God's imagination.  He does like to be creative and wants us to be also.  I would love to come to see you at the Well.  I will try to some time in August.