Monday, December 18, 2006

Fault lines revisited

Great comments on the previous post. Keep them coming...

Yes, it's more work but this can be shared - as Liz said. The teaching component can be done by the same team that currently do two services on a Sunday. For example, the morning 'teaching' could well consist of the same sermon being delivered by the same person albeit in different styles. Doing the same sermon twice is not twice the work.

The work can also be shared by drafting more people into being involved in the services -reading, praying, announcing songs, etc.

Stuart's point about pandering to consumerism is one I wrestle with. It's related to the question 'what is church for?' which I toy with in Why Bother with Church? I think church ought to be a place where people meet God, learn about him and are equipped to live a life that reflects his character. It can happen anywhere - in homes, cafes, pubs and special buildings we call 'churches'. It can involve singing and funky powerpoints and sermons and set-piece liturgies. But it doesn't have to.

My focus is on mission. I want to create opportunities for people to engage with the Christian faith in a way they find acceptable and challenging. I want people to meet and follow Jesus. Church is a place where that can happen. I guess the target for this mission is primarily those who have accessed church but do so no longer - or are in danger of not doing so. So it's young people and young adults who find church increasingly disconnected from the rest of their lives and middle aged people who've done church one way for a lifetime and now find it curiously dissatisfying and unengaging (I think I put myself in this camp - but don't tell my leaders!!!)

So, in one sense my proposal is consumerist in that I am hoping to create opportunities for people engage with church in a way that suits their tastes and sensibilities. But isn't all mission consumerist in that way?


Stuart Blythe said...

Good discussion going on here.

At KBC we had two morning services and an evening service and although morning services were a repeat, evening services varied in a four weekly style as to emphasis.

Indeed when it was agreed to build new Church on same site - we knew that we could not increase seating in the main auditorium - but that we could instead build something much more flexible to allow precisely a multi-service rather than one size fits all approach.

I agree that same teaching team could be involved but not sure everyone has the creativity to adapt style of same content.

I do remember my mate arguing for multi styles services by saying 'Church services are one of the things we are meant actually to be able to do so why not do more?'

I guess I have always wanted to avoid the age variation in styles as a defining factor and preferred the idea of 'ethos'. For it may be that at different stages in life (rather than ages) people may want and need to express their worship in different ways. Denied this in present structures the option is to go or not to go.

Consumerism - yes I take your point about mission - just feel that somewhere at the core of such gatherings there has to be places of challenge and committment to one another and Christ and not just choice.

I guess I fear that if we go down the strictly'consumeristic' approach of offering the 'best products' that we are moving in a direction that will disenranchise and disempower the smaller, weaker and poorer Christian communities rather than help the growth and development of the Kingdom elsewhere apart from our own patch. Not sure how to negotiate this.

Anonymous said...

Hi again,

I'm enjoying the debate as well.

I wanted to share a conversation I had with a friend at the weekend who fits Simon's description. I guess our 'church' is the swimming pool where she and I meet weekly while our children have swimming lessons and I struggle with an Open Learning theology course. It's led to some fascinating conversations but not much work! She is searching and describes talking to the 'big guy' but is also trying out spiritualists etc.

She mentioned how she had been to church with her family but they no longer went. Her reasons were very interesting - she did not mention the style or timing of the service, or the type of songs, which is what so often occupies us within church. Her concern stemmed from the fact that she had been going a while and then they had been ill - no one noticed or said anything when they returned except to remind her that she hadn't filled in her 'tithing' form!

It was the lack of community that she said she struggled with, precisely what we are called to be whether we like it or not. Sometimes I'll admit for me personally it is a struggle. It's not easy some days to go the extra mile but she showed me what a difference it can make and of course I'm not expected to go it alone.

Simon talks about church equipping us to live a life that reflects his character and that is what I need from church, someone to equip me to be able to speak to her and answer her questions - to give us light for the journey both she and I are on.

Maybe one day she'll consider giving God and church another go but until then I'm praying our kids stay in the same class!

Wulf said...

I think community is an important ingredient - I have heard quite a few stories that sound familiar to the one Liz mentioned (although, from the other side, people often don't welcome "interfering" with their lives and are very tardy about asking for help when they need it).

While it is certainly much easier to get on with people with whom you have a lot in common ("birds of a feather stick together") there is also value in time spent with people who see things differently.

I think a danger of the multi-service, consumer-choice approach is that you give people an easier answer for short-term happiness but, eventually, they are still going to have to work at the relationships that make community. Hymn singers will be richer for having happy-clappers standing alongside them; young and trendy will be stronger when some of their friends are old and respectful.

It would certainly be a problem in a church like mine to run different flavoured morning services, although I am hopeful that the new small groups we are drawing together will give some scope for "birds of a feather" support as well as the weekly dose of worshipping as a wider congregation.

Jonathan said...

i wonder if we could use a movie analogy, which seems apt given the background to some of this discussion. If we sent our congregations off to the multiplex, would we expect them to choose to see the same film?

For so many reasons - personal preference, age, culturally defined norms, even some gender difference - people would choose different movies. They'd all have gone to the cinema, hopefully they found something they enjoyed, perhaps something that made them think, or had a reflection on their own lives, perhaps it helped them escape the gloom of thier reality by submerging them in an alternate one. Why would this be wrong? Of course it wouldn't.

So, would it be crass to suggest a similar approach to church? I read somewhere of a guy who became like a Jew (actually, interestingly he really was a Jew - something to ponder) in order to attract Jews to Christ, when he was with greeks, he made like the greeks. When he was with the strong he was strong too, and with the weak he became weak. He says he did all of the personality gymnastics in order that at least some of the people he met might have an encounter with Jesus.

From a practical, resource, time and relational point of view "one size fits all" might be the most preferable approach, but it's by no means biblical.

William Booth said he'd preach standing on his head if he thought it would win more souls. I might not like the language, but I love the attitude. I think it's time church stood on its head, instead of sitting on its behind and watching the tide ebb away.

Anonymous said...

Juicy discussions….lovely!

Simon I like the description of what churches are about, but it makes me question the contribution of a typical church Sunday morning service to achieving these aims? What is it we are trying to achieve on a Sunday morning? I struggle to buy in to BaptistJon’s cinema analogy, as cinema is about entertainment, pleasure…..dare I say it…consumerism….. I hope that Sunday morning Services are about a bit more than pleasure, entertainment & consumerism?

Also would tinkering with styles and approaches solve the problem? I think it might improve it a bit but whether it will solve it I’m not so sure. Liz’s story about a friend reminds me about some recent research I saw. It was looking at de-churched folk (previous church-goers, but wouldn’t go if asked at present). In the majority of cases the reason for not going to church was how they had been treated by others, though they still liked God and found Jesus interesting. For anyone involved in Ministry it made upsetting reading.

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in Colossians ch.3 recently, the picture painted is of a tolerant community, expressing Christ’s character to others. The talk of bearing with one another, one body, compassion, forgiveness…….idealistic . And I can’t help thinking that if the occasional visitor on a Sunday morning and the person whose been there 1+ year can experience this then Church would be a whole letter more fruitful.

Rather idealistic, I know, but what else are we to aim for?