Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The What? How? & Why? of building the Church

Many believe that weekly worship services are vital for the properly disciplined Christian in order to hear the Word of God taught and explained, corporate prayer and singing, the administration of the sacraments and submission to the recognized authority of the church and build relationships with other believers.  I believe these things are vital, but not as they are performed in an average church on any given Sunday.  In spite of that, I've been thinking a lot about how a traditional Sunday gathering could be useful for other reasons such as evangelizing and bringing in unbelievers.

Here's the ecclesiological framework from which I'm working (my definition of the church):  the goal of the church is to have a close walk with Christ as individuals and to come together corporately to share Christ with one another through the various gifts of the Spirit in order to build one another up in ways that cannot be achieved if each one were walking with Him alone.  The corporate gathering is designed by God to be a way for Him to display Himself to His dead and decaying creation and become a place where He can live, walk, and rest with His children.  In short, the Church is to be the building made up of people that the Triune God calls home.

In this line of thinking, I don't see how a traditional worship service is necessary or beneficial for a body of believers.  Furthermore it may even be harmful because the very structure prevents the organic manifestation of life among the members.  Therefore I do not believe that church as we know it serves to build up the body of believers.  Even so, maybe it can be a useful tool to bring in those who are less likely to jump right into a more intimate gathering where every person is welcome and even expected to participate.  It would serve as a place for unbelievers to hear and be taught the Word and also to come into contact with believers.  A launch pad of sorts to gain biblical knowledge and begin to build relationships with the hope that they will eventually desire a deeper relationship with Christ and His body and gather together throughout the week with other believers in order to participate with other believers in the building up of one another into the image of Christ.

That brings me to my present questions.  Is forming a new traditional style church gathering really a more incarnational way of meeting people than going to other, already established locations?  I'm thinking of places like bars, coffee shops, night clubs, parks, bowling alleys, or public festivals.  These are just a few things that come to mind when I think of where people would go to meet others for the first time or just to be social.  These are the established destinations if you want to meet people who are looking for relationships.  Here we can find single folks looking for a mate, couples looking for fun people to hang out with, or just about anyone who is looking for friendship.  Wouldn't these be better places to find unbelievers who are looking to build relationships than in worship services?  I think so.  My best guess as to the kind of unbeliever who would be attracted to a worship service are those who are looking for a religious experience or a place to practice their own predefined ideas of proper religion among others who have the same basic definition.

So if we form another worship service in order to attract unbelievers, doesn't that speak volumes about the types of people we hope to attract?  If we hope to attract folks to the corporate body of Christ that is primarily focused on building our relationship with Him and with one another, can that be done from the framework of a traditional worship service setting?  Even if the Sunday gathering is just a springboard to build relationships outside the four walls, why not start outside the four walls in the first place?

I know...I ask a lot of questions.  These are just a few of the what? how? and why?'s of building the Church that are bouncing around in my daily thoughts lately.  I'm hoping that many of you would offer your answers to some of them by shooting me some ways in which these things are working out in your church.

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As in a biblical church gathering, my word is not complete or final. Participation is allowed, encouraged and expected. Please, don't leave without adding something.