Monday, January 8, 2007

New Wine in Old Wineskins? Not So Much...

We're gearing up to start a new contemporary worship service here at the church, and it so far has left me with all kinds of questions. I haven't been to many contemporary services--none if you don't count my flirtation with Pentecostalism (lo, these many years ago) and Emmaus gatherings. Being who I am, this has 2 effects: 1) it produces stress, and 2)I'm doing a lot of reading and research.
The hard part is taking all this information and trying to create something that is genuine and real where we are now. I've read a little bit about what works for Ginghamsburg, and that's not for us. So far what I've taken from that is that some visuals are better than none and to use what amounts to stage dressing to create a mood/enhance the message of the service. I'm reading another book, a "worship manual" no less, that hasn't satisfactorily answered my questions about discipleship. I'm reading a great deal about worship evangelism and how to be friendly to the "prechurched" but not a lot about how to integrate both kinds of worship into one church community. In fact, the manual seems to suggest that the thing to do is to create a separate worship body around the contemporary service and to keep it light on theology and spiritual growth.
What I really dream about are small groups, Bible studies, mission teams, and fellowship events that are filled with children, youth, and adults of all ages. I have this fantasy of the church as a body, composed of people who genuinely feel like they are a part of God's family, who are anxious to do something: to worship, to grow spiritually, to care for one another, to be radically compassionate, to live fully in relationship to God and one another. I imagine a church which meets in multiple worship settings, multiple small groups, but in which all these little circles overlap so that there is truly a sense of unity, even as we recognize how diverse we are in age, race, life experience, color, worship style, etc.
I think this is a big part of the desire to start a new church: to avoid dealing with the church structures we inherit when we become pastor of a church and to create new ones they way I want them to be. And I'm suspicious of this. To begin with, it sounds on the one hand lazy (don't want to do the work of helping a congregation move to this kind of model) and on the other hand like a lot of work (don't want to start from scratch either).
This is all a part of what I wanted when I agreed to consider being an associate pastor: I hoped that I would be working with a senior pastor who shared something like this vision of how church could be, and that I would be learning how to help it become reality. And I think on that end, I've fallen into "high cotton" working with my senior pastor. I think we both see potential in the church we serve to be even better than it is (and it's pretty great, most of the time), and see different (mostly complementary) ways of getting there. I have to admit that it's a lot more fun that I had imagined, but it's also busier than I had dreamed. I play here...and this is just one more part of the game, I guess...

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