Wednesday, September 07, 2005

church services?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about church services. They seem to keep coming up. From people writing about them on their blogs, to others writing me about them in emails. More importantly, I’ve found myself desperately trying to find ways of somehow taking a really old outline and making it new and interesting. In addition to all of this, an alliance of churches in our community have been considering ways to reach out to the community. One of their ideas was “open airs” (I kid you not).

I, like many of you, have spent the last decade or so trying to amp up church services. Tweaking here, adjusting there, and then presenting the exact same service with the “sermon” in the MIDDLE of the worship set, drama at the end, video throughout, and cool visuals going all of the time. I’ve done services where nobody ever sits down (well, rarely). I’ve done services where the message is primarily shared through small groups. I’ve done services where the song selection, with verses in between, were meant to deliver the sermon. And in the end, I still ended up doing a tweaked version of a church service. Now, I’m not one of those people who want to change things just for the sake of changing them. I used to be, but I’ve learned that that isn’t much more profitable than just doing it the same old way. But it’s pretty clear to me that people aren’t engaging like they need to be. I’m not even engaging like I need to be. It’s also pretty clear to me that we, as leaders, spend a ton of time trying to come up with ways of engaging people in something that just isn’t all that interesting. It seems to me that if we’re having to find ways of getting people interested, that maybe we should just find something else that already does. ???

With that in mind I ask the following questions.

How important is it to have a weekly church service?
Do you see this as a negotiable?
Are there more effective ways to promote all of the reasons we say we have Sunday morning church (fellowship, worship, Bible study)?
When you attend a church service, do you see a congregation that is engaged, or a congregation ready for the service to be over so that they can visit or go home?

This isn’t part of my “A New Kind of Church” posts, but I wonder if the new church might focus MUCH less on big corporate worship services and much more on smaller group worship, fellowship, Bible study, and accountability?

Comments on "church services?"


Blogger Cari said ... (8:31 PM) : 

Do you ever find that people are afraid that if they change things up they may see revival, and that scares them? You couldn't be any more steeped in the history that I am and wonder why honest worship became habitual order, and why all of a sudden I'm so hungry for change I think I might just cook some up for myself...I envy your bravery. You've taken the steps I long to take.


Blogger blogblogblog said ... (4:32 PM) : 

Not to Bill Clinton your first question, but, it depends on what your definition of a church service is. Is a weekly worship service as we currently know it necessary? Only in that it brings the body together. Some would say that it's necessary for some of us to be sure that we are at least worshiping once a week. If it takes a scheduled event to make that happen, our concept of worship is too limited.

I think that some corporate gathering is important, but the current concept of a worship service may not be it. I'm ashamed to admit that I've been involved in more than one congregation in which I couldn't tell you what everyone did for a living or even have an idea where they lived (apartment, house, project, houseboat). These were small congregations where it would have been possible to retain that kind of information. Most of us never asked.

But maybe with changing schedules and the incredibly frantic nature of western life (or is it just North American life?) we've lost some of the other times in the local church schedule for what some affectionately call "the quality hang." We come in, we go to Sunday School (some of us), we worship, we get out. I'd like to visit more and go by a formula fr worship less.


Blogger Pete said ... (7:59 PM) : 

I think what bothers me is a phenomenon that I am certainly as guilty as anyone of - a general hyper-critical approach to worship services.

We often approach and leave worship with an attitude of, "What did I get out of that?" I keep challenging myself (and failing) to instead focus on the GIVE portion of the worship experience. After all, God is the object of the verb "worship".

No matter what the format was - "traditional", "contemporary" or somewhere in between... Did I put my whole heart in to it? Did I focus on lifting Jesus up, with my mind and whole being? Or was I distracted by something.. yet again?


Blogger Bill said ... (10:34 PM) : 

I enjoy your wrestling with this idea. I am in my second appointment neither has been a place where sundays have ment much to me at all. As a white officer in an african american recovery corps I have learned its not about what I want. My wife is blessed by the music and preaching, the congregation seems to see it as an opportunity for change but God meets THEM. I rarely meet God anymore on sundays. The ideal church for me would be gathering with a few close friends and sharing our lives, real and honest, no restrictions, no BS. When I have those times they are precious. But Sundays are not about me any more. So the question should be a guess, what does the community want/need. Further I suppose that we don't really know the answer.


Blogger Laura said ... (6:51 PM) : 

I guess I'm just confused. I thought that worship was about God and not about what I want or what I think I need. That the responsiblity of worship is on the part of the worshiper. That our worship is directed to Him and for Him. Therefore, no matter what worship environment we find ourselves in... whether the service is stacked with liturgy or spontaneity, whether there’s a brass band or a worship band, whether the congregation is mega or small... we would seek God in that place and perhaps we just might find Him.


Blogger Tim said ... (7:25 PM) : 

This, of course, is the easy answer but begs the question; if this is the case, then why is church necessary at all? If it's just about worship, and I "can do it anywhere", then why not do it at home or with a small group of friends? I thought there was more to church than just worship?


Blogger Kathryn said ... (3:35 PM) : 

Which gets us back to the definition of church, no? If church is what happens when a group of people gather round the person of Jesus, to pray, to learn, to give each other support in their Christian lives (which is something like a definition ++Rowan Williams produced) then it's hugely necessary...but needn't look as it does in terms of Sunday worship. But if the worship alone/with good friends model comes to predominate, then there seems little hope of mission to speculative bypassers. One thing about the Eiffel Tower is that it's highly visible; maybe that's one value of traditional church? I blogged a bit about this here
The thing that strikes me is that we've lost a concept of need of church...which we would be frantic for, were we truly engaged in mission.
Hmmn...don't think I'm adding much to this debate. Sorry. I'll get my coat..


Blogger Tim said ... (4:17 PM) : 


Are you suggesting that mission can only take place within the four walls of the church building? I'd argue that very little mission can take place within the four walls of the church building these days. There seems to be more and more a need to get out and go to where the people are.


Blogger Kathryn said ... (11:17 PM) : 

No...absolutely not! Sorry to produce a cringe, when it's only Monday, specially as I'm in complete agreement with you that the main work of mission is beyond the railings...but in a very trad local parish context, while i think its vital that the human elements of church are outside the walls as much as possible (and indeed i keep getting whinged at by congregation because I'm "spending too much time with people who don't come on Sundays")I'm also very aware of the people who "pop in for a quick word" but don't appear to worship...and those who do appear after a beravement and need to feel they have somewhere recognisable to go with those feelings and that void...Am I making sense?? Sorry to raise your blood pressure with earlier inadequate expression of what I'm trying to say...wonder if this will be more successful.


Blogger blogblogblog said ... (3:57 PM) : 

I think I understand what you were getting at. I've had a couple of experiences of being part of a congregation "on Main Street"--the kind of church that's easy to find in a community. The front door opens right onto the chapel and it's really the kind of place where people with no previous association can easily and do walk through the door. That's the Eiffel Tower reference, which assumes that popular culture, particularly for anyone over 40 (because it's what they grew up on) dictates that "church" happens at 11am on Sunday morning. If you feel like you need to go to church, you can walk into several different worship services at that time because you can count on the fact that worship will be taking place.

The upper room had a lock on the door. That doesn't mean it wasn't an inviting place, it simply means that you had to know someone (or the secret handshake) if you wanted to get in.

More to the point? Or have I completely mucked up your argument?


Blogger Kathryn said ... (9:27 AM) : 

That's it exactly :-)
Glad I made sense to someone,- it must be my lucky week!


Blogger Evangeline said ... (10:59 PM) : 

I'm not sure how much this comment will help the discussion...

This week, as worship leader, I'm feeling led to scale things down to one corporately-sung song, and really up the amount of prayer used. I'm feeling as though I'm in a scene from a Indiana Jones movie, where he holds his breath and steps onto an invisible bridge... all because I'm taking most of the songs out. LOL.


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