Just a few years ago we had the joy of welcoming a new young man to our congregation. He was from a different country and from a different church background. He had grown up in (and learned to lead worship in) a charismatic, contemporary church. When he came to us, he was gracious enough to want to use the gifts God had given him to help lead us in worship. It was wonderful! He was a talented young man who could play the guitar, the banjo, the piano, the drums, and more. He had a voice to die for, and song writing skills oozing out of him.
One day, early on in our relationship, we started talking about planning worship services. We started talking about thematic tie-ins to the scripture and sermon for the week, and how the service could be structured to flow from beginning to end. We talked about how to help the congregation know where they were going in a song by planning ahead of time which choruses, verses, bridges, etc., were going to be sung and in which order. We talked about planning scripture selections and prayers and transitions ahead of time to allow them to fit in with the theme and to help create that sense of flow and unity to the service which kind of seemed lacking.
After a while of talking through all of this, though, I could tell that he was struggling a bit with all of it. Finally he piped up and voiced his concern: "Where's the freedom for the Spirit!?!"
I have to admit that inwardly I chuckled a bit (a little too superior in my own head), but then we talked about it some more. I pointed him to Exodus 31: 2-11, where God, after He has described in great detail what the Tabernacle should look like and how it should be made, says that He has "filled" certain craftsmen "with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge." I pointed out to this young man how much planning must have gone in to the building of the Tabernacle, and how God was honoured through that planning. It was a great conversation. He listened really well and understood. Ever since then he's been planning great services with excellent flow and thematic unity, and he's been honouring God through that work.
But just this past weekend, as I was sitting in an excellent workshop as part of a worship conference I started to think about our relationship with God some more. And I got thinking: if we're the family of God--the children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, the bride of Christ, etc.,--then what should our relationship with Him look like? If I think of my family, I know that there are times when we have formal, well-structure and planned events. Weddings, funerals, graduations, etc. But most of the time we just get together and hang out. We don't have a great strategy for engaging one another. We don't have an agenda to work through. We don't have a formalized structure to work within. It's messy, and disorganized, and it's FAMILY. So, my question is this: What about our congregational life? Shouldn't it reflect our "real" family life a little (or a lot) more? Shouldn't we enjoy that disorganized, unplanned, unstructured "family time" more often?