Let's try that again.
It may sound like a description of a concert, or maybe even a movie set, but it's not. It's a description of many churches across America this morning
I got up early to watch a live streaming service from my church back in Florida only to be struck with how different this church, looks like from the Church in the Bible.
Ian and I haven't set foot into a modern, western style church service for almost 5 months now. Not necessarily by choice, mind you. Our training encouraged us not to go to a western church while in Canada to get used to what it will be like overseas.
When we first started this process and we learned quickly that the western style church was just that, Western. We learned how most of the world doesn't worship with a rock band (what?! That rocked my world,) have beautiful lights and padded seats, stained glass windows and orchestras, or really use any technology at all.
In most of the world, people meet in small groups, 5 to 20 people, with the sole purpose of replicating the church of the New Testament. There are no music directors or lead pastors, bulletins or video testimonies. Instead, they huddle together, choosing songs that come to their heart, lifting up their voices in praise of The Most High God, bowing their heads in honest, earnest prayer, and studying the scriptures diligently together.
Most importantly, their main goal is to be a replicating, reproducible church.
There isn't a pastor paid hundreds of thousands of dollars. Instead, there is a factory worker, and it's his turn to find a nugget of wisdom in the Bible and share it with others. And the next week? It will be the farmer, because it's his turn.
Sure, after awhile, the person with the best gift of teaching may step up and be "in charge," but he's not the sole decision maker. In reality, he's an equal of all of the other believers in this group.
Often enough, these global churches end their time together with an assignment, that all participants are expected to partake in.
They might model the telling of a Bible story, then ask the people to share it with 3 people.
They might encourage each other to share God's story with 2 family members.
The might say, "invite 1 work mate," this week.
And then, the following time they get together, they ask each other how they did. They hold each other accountable. They expect what we never expect.
Imagine a group of tribesmen, gathered together in Kenya. They are believers, and there is a speaker who has flown across the sea to train them in something from the Bible. They scribble furiously on scraps of paper and stubs of pencils. Why? They are expected to share the good news that they have learned.
Now, imagine a western style church. Imagine yourself at this church. How are you participating? Are you scribbling furiously to get this information down so you can share it with the lady who share your cubicle with you? What about the teacher who shares the work closet with you? More than likely, that is not the image that comes to your mind.
More than likely you envision hundreds of glazed over eyes. Sitting. Passively listening. Oh yes, they are listening (though a few may be thinking about where they will go out to lunch after the service,) but they are listening for themselves. They are listening to hear how it is applicable to their lives, and their life only.
Sometimes they might even tell themselves "that didn't speak to me," or "that didn't apply to me," and they walk away empty handed.
How selfish of us even.
But I digress.
Relevance. I'm sure that's the word that is tumbling through your mind right now. Of course I think it is appropriate to make the church relevant to new generations. We're not saying that the church needs to go 16th century, but are we missing the point?
Are we forgetting that the church's sole purpose is to bring Glory to God? How different would our world look if we modeled our church after that first century church? Small, local groups of believers who met together 1, 2, or 3 times a week. Families worshiping together with singles and elderly, learning, growing, sharing, and honoring God.
The focus isn't on the light show, or how well the female backup singer did.
The focus is on Christ and Christ alone.
On the sacrifice He made and the difference it has made in the world.
That's all. Those are the thoughts that are in my head right now. I hope this challenges you to rethink how you go about "church." I hope this challenges you to become an active listener. Or to be more engaging in Sunday School. I hope you feel the desire to go out and share with your neighbors and workmates.
I'd love to share with you a simple way to run a small group. Let me know if you're interested!