I’ve been thinking
recently about the ‘interactive’ option that we sometimes have as part of our
morning services; an option where people get opportunity to discuss a topic over
coffee & croissant whilst the rest of the church prays, sings and listens
to my preaching.
The feedback is
very positive (which may simply be a comment about my preaching of course). And
it is easy to see how it fits the zeitgeist with participation and interaction,
creating a sense of community and connection. It also fits in with patterns of
emerging church, valuing diversity not uniformity, being relational rather than
goal driven and with a style of leadership that listens rather than informs.
But it also raises
some questions for me. If church gatherings assist spiritual formation in what
ways do these alternative patterns of church help that process: resourcing
people’s discipleship and encouraging transformation? If they form part of our
worship gatherings in what way is the content and structure worship?
And then there is
preaching. I believe in preaching; there is something sacramental about the proclamation
of the word of God. So where does a discussion based approach fit? My tentative
answer lies in three areas. First a greater focus of word and sacrament would
give shape, structure and theological moorings. Second, a change of perspective
which doesn’t see church as providing a programme of different things over a
week (worship, preaching, small groups etc) but a people who engage in an array
of activities over a term. Third a pattern of preaching (from a bar stool not a
conference podium) which encourages an experience of God through Scripture, aims
for spiritual formation rather than education or entertainment, and opens questions
rather than provides answers.