Having a few days break this week (so no blogging) but the question of worship gatherings has been in my mind recently. As a church we have been looking at the future of our services as some grow in numbers and some decline. Among the questions are:
1. Content: to what extent should we aim to do what people want and to what extent should we do what we think best? (Or at what point does pastoral episkope become patronising boredom?) And what elements are integral to worship gatherings (what do we loose if there is no sermon and no singing)?
2. Commitment: it used to be, for many in a free church tradition, that attendance at Sunday worship was not only expected but it was anticipated that you would come to several services. What should our expectation be today and in any case what is the relationship between commitment to discipleship and attendance at church?
3. Convention: the pattern for many in recent decades has been morning and evening services; when the morning service is too large you simply have two morning services (and do childrens / youth work in one of them). But why? What other patterns are there and would they in fact work better in our culture?
4. God: the problem is all the questions above is that they place us centre stage whereas worship is about being drawn by the Spirit to confess who God is and gather in the name of Christ. It is about meeting as the humble people of God who acknowledge their falleness, give thanks for their redemption and reconciliation in Christ, and listen for the word of the Lord.
So no answers but lots of questions. I tried to sharpen them in my mind by asking myself, "if I could choose and design a worship gathering that suited me best, what time, format, etc would I choose?" And, "If God was to choose and design a worship gathering that suited me best…..?"
If you were to start with a blank canvas and design church worship gatherings what would be in your mind?