Blogs about events can easily become a list of gripes and congratulations. So for a different approach I thought I would compare it to a regular month at PBC.
- Prism. As a church we run ‘Interactive’ on a monthly basis, as an alternative alongside the usual Sunday morning service; the feel is deliberately dynamic and seeks to engage each person in conversation with others around a particular theme. Seeking to value creativity carries risk because there is always an element of the unknown. Assembly seeks, via Prism, to do something similar. The biggest dangers are that the format quickly becomes ‘traditional’ because it settles into a pattern and that the content becomes disconnected from the ‘main’ event because it has different values. Yet it is a risk worth taking and remains an essential element of Assembly and church life.
- Worship. Seeking to use songs familiar to a range of people is always tricky, as is choosing songs that reflect the traditions of the church as well as contemporary culture. PBC’s Sunday services have less emphasis on songs written between 1980 and 2000 and while we have yet to use jazz we routinely benefit from several classical musicians. Like Assembly we try to ensure that Scripture is used beyond the sermon, and that times of worship make use of items of liturgy and include periods of corporate prayer. At PBC we struggle to find ways to use creative arts, drama and testimony; but so does Assembly. Maybe it is the planning but overall Assembly produces more consistent excellence.
- Preachers. Assembly benefits from a plurality of voices but choosing preachers isn’t easy as most of us don’t get the opportunity to excel at preaching to a thousand people or more. In terms of style my preaching is probably closer to Jeff Lucas than the others (though he has more jokes and delivers them better). Because I routinely preach with pictures on the screen Assembly feels a less visual experience than PBC.
- Deliberation. How do you seek the mind of Christ when there are lots of you doing it together? When we talk about being open to God speaking how do we give space for this? And how do you balance the corporate nature of this with vision, leadership and direction? Assembly has tried a couple of innovations recently but Assembly and PBC need to work on this.
Theologically Assembly isn’t just a big church worship gathering, but it shares many of the same dynamics. Sometimes the tight programming isn’t attentive enough to the emotional dynamics of worship gatherings and the separation of different sessions means key messages can be lost; something our church attendance patterns have made us attentive to in PBC.
If PBC had the same budget (!) as Assembly the differences would be small but would focus on taking delegates on a journey, more deliberate feedback and on connecting the event to life in the local church. But overall I have to say ‘well done’ to all the people who put in the hours to plan, prepare and produce the Baptist Assembly 2011.