Week 3 of being back in the pulpit and this past Sunday we introduced an element of conversation to our gatherings. There are several things I love about this addition:

  1. While I appreciate so many things about evangelical and liturgical worship, I worry that it has become a one-directional stage performance – a spectacle that encourages people to be spectators.
  2. When everything is pre-planned (and even scripted) it may lose its element of sincerity and deep engagement.

Now, admittedly, the above two concerns may not always be the case – but I am under the conviction that the situation is far worse and that I have actually understated the seriousness of the issue!

In a society of spectacle, the form of the church service has not changed but its power has. In an agrarian society of a previous century the form of liturgical worship would have provided a certain function. The 20th century brought most places in N. America through an transition of industrial and then into a technological society. In post-agrarian (and even post-industrial) communities, the liturgy (or the order of service)- even though it has not changed –  has changed the role that it functions in people’s life.

Here is how I think about this change:

When life in an agrarian era is relatively consistent and even predictable, the church service is an exciting highlight with big music, ideas, and relational connection.

Then something happened in the 20th century and the church started playing a different role in people’s lives. 

Life got busy and society got unpredictable. Some might even say chaotic. Life in the 21st century can be exhausting, confusing, overwhelming and even discouraging. The result is that people wanted their mainline churches to be stable, predictable, and comforting. In a word – safe.

What this has led to is an interesting dilemma for the 21st century:

“Is the church a supplement or a complement to people’s week and life?”

I have posed the question to lots of people who both go to church and those who no longer do so. The overwhelming answer seems to be that church is a supplement to people’s lives.

Life is hectic and unpredictable – so church is a nice break from that.

What I am hoping for is an engagement when we gather as the church that is not a vacation from the chaos of life but one that prepares us for it. I don’t want church to be a supplement to life, I want church to complement your life.

When it comes down to it, I am hoping that what we do when gather as the church is to practice faith together so that we are ready for the week ahead and the life of faith. We want to create space to engage new ideas and wrestle with challenging issues.

In a digital age, people want a place to ask hard questions, wrestle with new concepts, try out new things, and most of all to contribute something of value.

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