Sunday, October 23, 2011

Church marketing voodoo

In our consumeristic American culture it is a common thing to take Jesus and dress him up in flashy, trendy clothes, put an ear-tickling message in his mouth and promote him with the latest form of advertising prowess in order to attract others to him.  We take our cues from Apple and Starbucks on how to be successful evangelists.  Jamie the Very Worst Missionary has written a post on this subject called Creepy Coffee Voodoo.  She connects the dots from successful coffee marketing and the resulting epic fail of the coffee's flavor to modern church marketing schemes and the impending results by sharing some thoughts from an email she received from a pastor.  They raise some serious questions.

" he went on to tell me how his experience at church feels hollow, how he's weirded out by the rock-concert he attends every Sunday, and how he feels like his church is masking the Gospel with all kinds of other things just to get people in the door, which is working, but he feels bad because the people are buying into this false idea of who Jesus is and what He's going to ask of them if they follow him. Then he called the whole business of Church "creepy Jesus-VooDoo", and said something about how "marketing magic" can fill our pews, but our hearts will remain empty if we keep inviting people to meet their Savior under false pretense."

 Immediately in my mind I see a frightening image of (insert your favorite prosperity preacher here) with his creepy grin bearing his wolf-like fangs.  Then it hits a little closer to home and I think of some worship services I have attended that were very emotionally charged and entertaining.  Both of these are certainly examples of a false pretense but are popular attractions to fill the seats on Sunday morning.  As I think more and more about our magical methods, I wonder if maybe there is more to it than just these obvious examples.  

There must be more if we have buildings full of professing believers who are faithfull attendees of our meetings but are unfaithful in their day to day walk.  Somehow "Jesus saves" has become nothing more than a mantra of sorts who claim His blood has covered their sins but show no fruits in keeping with a changed heart.  It's as though Jesus is nothing more than a long haired, scrawny, sweet talking cosmic sugar daddy who acts as our divine vending machine.  What happens when we don't get what we want but instead He gives us a cross to carry to our death through suffering, persecution, and selflessness?  I suppose many will go on hoping to have their desires met while few will adopt Christ's desires and enter the narrow way.

Anyway, it was food for thought.  You should check out her post.

Can you think of any other magical ways christendom has adopted to lure people into the fold? 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I'm a dreamer

I harp a lot on how church as we know it with it's sermon centered gathering doesn't measure up to the body life we see in scripture.  It's not because I don't like sermons or because I have something against preachers.  Rather it is due to God's glorious design for His house that we see displayed in the text of the New Testament as a result of the outworking life of Christ in believers.  A body of Christ that builds itself up in love when they are gathered together is a forgotten paradigm of church practice.  I want you to imagine this dream with me.

A brother and I have been studying the letter to the Phillipians together.  At our most recent meeting we began working our way through chapter 2 which begins as follows:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4 ESV)
In two hours of discussion we couldn't move past these verses.  We were locked in to sharing all the riches that are ours in Christ and how those riches empower us to follow Paul's exhortation to the church in Phillipi.   For the first time ever when reading this passage I could see God's purpose in building the church very clearly.  That purpose is for all of the redeemed to be built up into Christ. So we are to have the same mind, same passion, and with the same goal to build others up into Christ.  Can you imagine how buff Christ's body would be if every member had this mind and goal?  We cannot even begin to imagine the impact God's  kingdom would have if every believer everywhere was devoted to building others up in Christ.  As I got lost in these meditations and fantasies I was reminded of Eph 4
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV emphasis obviously mine)
I used to think of this verse as a sort of proof-text for having certain church officers and positions of authority.  Then one day I saw the word "until" and it completely changed my understanding of these verses.  That word "until" is one of the most overlooked and ignored words in all the Bible in my opinion.  When we overlook the "until" we ignore the goal of God's purpose in building the church and fail to move on into the resulting blessings of a multi-member functioning body that meets to edify one another.  Notice the wonderful results of a body that builds itself up:

  • the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, 
  • to mature manhood, 
  • to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 
  • we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine
  • we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ
Isn't that completely glorious??!!

That is why I am so adamant about throwing out our present church practices, traditions and liturgies and having gatherings where every member is expected, encouraged and equipped to minister to the body.  Its because I've been consumed with this same passion to see Christ clearly manifested in a corporate body.   I'm not talking about reforming practices by adding or tweaking existing programs like Sunday school or small groups.  I'm talking about a gathering that could not be scheduled and orchestrated because each member brings what the Lord desires for them to share as they have abided in His indwelling life throughout the recent days.  I'm talking about sharing that small piece of Christ you discovered with the rest of the body to build them up and receiving the other pieces that are brought as we are all built up into Him.

You might think that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Raped by religion and the promiscuity of worship services

When I read this on Facebook I was shocked.  I wanted to share it with you all to see what you think.  It is entitled "no sex before marriage" and was originally posted by a fella named Ransom Backus in the group called The Life of Christ.  I received permission to re-post it here in its entirety.

He writes:

Often times, God has shown me that worship, genuine, meaningful worship is intimate. Often, I compare worship to love-making. It is that special, intimate time with God that we share with other Christians, joining together as one body as Christ's bride.
There is a horrific attitude in churches today that I need to address. That attitude is that we are somehow REQUIRED to sit there and simply have worship dictated to us. I recently had a dialogue with a pastor of an institutional church where he insisted and pressured me to sit in his church service and participate in the worship. That is simply what is expected of me if he is going to work with me.
I slammed my fist on the table and said "NO! Relationship FIRST, then worship."
I thought about my words and realized something very deep in my emotional reaction. This man told me that I needed to just come on Sunday and let all of my guards down, be completely open and vulnerable in worship without any discernment at all. Translation: Take your clothes off, open your legs and let us in.
Looking back at it I see that my reaction was justified. How dare people insist that we just show up and be vulnerable with the most intimate things in our lives without having any context of love and relationship!
I went on to tell this person that love and relationships are more important to me than what takes place on Sundays. I don't trust ANYONE with that most intimate part of my soul and spirit unless I know they fully love and value me. I don't take the words of strangers who have not proven an authentic, tried and true love, willingness to stick with me through anything, into my most intimate places! I am not a whore, sorry.
There is an attitude of premarital sex rampant in the Church today. Intimate worship first, then the relationship. I was further flared up when I discussed the nature of worship.
He told me that I needed to participate in worship. I replied "I can't, everything is being done on stage for me. The words are pre-scribed and it isn't in me to sing those words."
To which he replied "Then make those words your own."
I said "I already HAVE my own words but I can't express them because its too noisy!"
I reeled when I pondered taking words that I don't agree with and making them my own, that is, making them a part of my intimate expression to God. Honestly, it feels like rape, or at least like prostitution. How dare a stranger insist that he touch me there! How dare a stranger take that most intimate part of me and tell me what to do with it without even bothering to be in my world and love me deeply!
Worship is sacred. Worship is intimate. No one has any right to dictate or tell you how to worship or the means by which you worship. No one has any right to tell you what to sing or speak. It can't be pre-scribed. Singing someone else's words, unless they strike a deep chord in me already, is akin to watching a porno movie while being intimate with my wife. It is sterile, impersonal, and cheap!
When I worship God, I don't need words on a screen. In fact, the words on the screen are a bit distracting and the music is kind of a mood killer. When I worship God I sing or speak from deep inside of myself, from what is within and it comes out as unique and authentic.
Yes, sometimes I do play a certain CD to sing along with, but they are songs which closely resonate with what is already inside of me. Not just any old song will do. It already mirrors the expressions of love for God that are in me.
Pastors and "worship leaders" should take heed. Worship is personal, it is intimate, and it is based on vulnerability and trust. In corporate worship, which I DO believe is biblical and right, vulnerability and trust are not to be automatically demanded, but are given willingly based on the level of safety and love felt by the person doing it. I take my clothes off and am completely expressive with myself with only one person, that person who has shown a deep level of trust, respect and love for me.
Do not put the cart before the horse and expect intimacy and vulnerability first. Rather let that come on its own as trust and relationship and love are built.
In other words, don't have sex before marriage.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Barking up the wrong tree

There is a lot of talk about becoming a mature Christian.  Have you ever wondered what that means?  I do.  I thought I knew what it meant but it turns out I was barking up the wrong tree.  Not just barking but growling, howling and yelping till I wanna throw up and the tree picked off its own fruit and began chunking it at me.  What I thought was maturity was definitely growth into something, but it wasn't Christ.  It would more be likened to learning to play the gong or clang cymbals really well.  I wanted to be the best damn cymbal clanger alive and I didn't care if you like cymbals or not, I was banging them to my little hearts content.

Looking back on my noise making days I realise that my motives were good but my technique was all wrong.  I wanted to help others grow but I was giving them teachings and doctrines to feed on when all the while I had the bread of Life to share with them.  I remember a time when I considered heavy doctrinal teaching to be a feast and today the only feast I desire is to feed on the body and blood of Christ.  There is a big difference.  One is is system of teaching designed to help us to live right with God the other is a living person inside of us empowering us to live in Him.  One way leads to death and the other to Life.  I speak from experience.

I've stated here before that listening to sermon after sermon is not the way to mature as a christian.  The reason I say that is because sermons (at least the one's I have heard) are mostly always about breaking down a passage of scripture in order to nail down some doctrines.  A solid doctrinal base does not equal spiritual maturity.  Contrarily, the more we emphasize select doctrines the more prone we are to arrogance and judgementalism toward others who don't see things the same way we do.  Rather than displaying maturity through our knowledge we get puffed up, seek our own glory and shame the name of our great and holy God.

Maybe I'm all alone in this, if so someone please straighten me out because the more I look at scripture the more I believe that doctrines are the things we do and the way we live not the systematic points we believe to be true.  Some say that you can know a persons doctrine by the way that they live.  I certainly agree with that .  Knowing a persons doctrine by the things they say? ...not unless their tongue sounds more like a noisy gong and they are not speaking from love.  Then it is pretty obvious that their doctrine needs a little more Jesus and a lot less knowledge.

So now, instead of spending all my time trying to mature in my knowledge of doctrine I spend my time maturing in building relationships with others.  I'm learning more through experience than I ever did in years of deep word studies and combing through commentaries.  Rather than letting my actions be dictated by intellectually contrived beliefs from scripture that are based on my own subjective understandings I'm letting the Spirit lead me where He will and I'm finding that the Bible objectively confirms His leadings as truth.

Maturity comes through experiencing the Life of Christ in us as we walk in the Spirit not through endless preaching and teaching of historical creeds and confessions.  If we want to mature we must have relationships with others who are more mature than us and imitate their way of life.  If we want to help others mature we must walk through life with them and live a life worth imitating.  But first we gotta stop barking up the wrong tree and decide instead to hike our leg on it and move on.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What if Pastoring Looked Like This? | Anxious to Impart

Our brother Patrick Mitchell at Anxious to Impart wrote a probing post today called What if Pastoring Looked Like This?  It is part of his Wednesday "what if?" series that he just began doing a month ago.  He asks some great questions and I encourage you to check them out.

This particular post he quotes a book by Eugene Peterson.  You know, the pastor guy who wrote the Message translation of the Bible.  Well the author describes the kind of pastor he wants to be as he reasons to the elders of the church why he wanted to resign after three years in the ministry.  Here is some of what he quotes from the book:

 "“I want to be a pastor who prays. I want to be reflective and responsive and relaxed in the presence of God so that I can be reflective and responsive and relaxed in your [the elders and congregation’s] presence…I can’t do that on the run…I feel too crowded.”

“I want to be a pastor who reads and studies. This culture in which we live squeezes all the God sense out of us. I want to be observant and informed enough to help this congregation understand what we are up against, the temptations of the devil to get us thinking we can all be our own gods…It demands some detachment and perspective.”

“I want to be a pastor who has the time to be with you in leisurely, unhurried conversations so that I can understand and be a companion with you as you grow in Christ—your doubts and your difficulties, your desires and your delights. I can’t do that when I am running scared.”"

Knowing that Patrick is a pastor of a local church himself and after having known several pastors and church planters personally I'd say this is nearly a universal list of desires among them.  What if pastoring looked like this?  Or a better question is how can we get to where pastoring looks like this?

The answer to the first is simple.  Pastoring would not be such a burden on the men who have been given the gift and desire to be overseers and shepherds.  They would be able to guide the flock through relationships as God intended.  Only then would they be examples to others and lead in a way that others can imitate.

The answer to the second is a bit tougher because it requires a lot of sacrifice.  The only way to get to a place where pastors are free to have time to focus on relationships is to get rid of all of the other things that take away their time.  Things like planning the next worship service and filling in the numerous slots in the liturgy, writing a 30 to 60 minute sermon, the responsibility to visit every hospitalized and sick person in the congregation, the role as the sole facilitator for funerals and weddings, and the numerous meetings for this committee or that committee.  All of these things must go.  In other words we have to sacrifice the pastor as we know him and replace him with the pastor we see in the New Testament.  As a body there must be a confession that we have hijacked the pastors function in the Body and made him to fit a mold that God never intended him to fill.  That confession must be followed with the total abandonment of those old ways and a resolve to do everything necessary to free our shepherds from this bondage.  Call it congregational confession and repentance.  Only then will these men be free to lead lives as godly examples for the rest of us.

Not only would the pastor then be freed form all the added responsibilities but the rest of the body would be free to build one another up when they gather together.  The weight of filling the time would no longer fall on the pastors shoulders but everyone would be expected to minister to and edify one another.  The needs of the body would be met by the rest of the body, not just one member of it.  This kind of transformation would not only change the pastors lives but it would change the face of church as we know it.  Without a complete overhaul of the church system, our pastors will always desire something more and feel trapped in an office that only a multi-member functioning body of Christ can fill.

At least that is my opinion on this week's "what if?".  What do you think?

'via Blog this'

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Answers in the unknown

Answered prayers.  That's all there is to it.  That is what I want to share with you all today.  Answered prayer.

When we were convicted to leave behind organized religion as we knew it we felt as though we were stepping out into the great unknown.  I admit, I was very uncomfortable with the whole idea.  I had some serious reservations against walking away from the church I was familiar with.  There were many worries about falling into sin and away from the Lord through my actions.  But I also had this nagging conviction that God wanted much more from His children and that trying to tweak the system I grew up in would result in nothing more than a sore forehead from repeated bangs against a wall.  So we followed our convictions and stepped out of the institution while seeking to strengthen the relationships we have with those who remained.  The Lord has not let us go, in fact it has drawn us closer to Him.

No one likes to be all alone and that is how it felt for some time.  I have this glorious idea of Christ's bride made up of a united family of believers who all lived by Christ's life as individuals and came together to share small glimpses of His glorious person when they assembled.  Finding others who share that vision, well that's not exactly as easy as we might think it to be.  My desire for the Church seems so lofty, so impossible, so much like a utopia that I wondered if it was just unrealistic.  Can we really be united under the headship of Christ and share in His life together without the trappings and hindrances from our sinful flesh?  Well, probably not totally, but we can surely all seek after that together.  Together, not alone, with Christ in us as the goal, has been my dream.

Some new developments in our journey have begun to take shape.  I'm pretty excited to share them with you.  I've already spoken about a family we have been building relationships with.  We continue to go deeper.  There have been times of vulnerability and transparency in dealing with some life issues that would cause many people to run the other way seeking shelter from the storms.  Life is like that sometimes, it seems to suck really bad and these folks have stuck by us through it all.  Along with that we have begun studying scripture and coming together with our notes and thoughts only to find that as we come together our notes get multiplied, united and formed into something even bigger that we had pictured through our personal study.  It's really cool.

Another answered prayer has been another family that has moved into our area.  Well, they live about 20 minutes away but that's close enough.  They moved from Gainsville, GA where they were a part of the established Organic Church in that area.  They have only been here a few days so we haven't spent much time together....yet.  The two families only live about 10 minutes away from one another and were like I said about 20 minutes away.  That is a bit of a geographical obstacle for seeing each other often but I'm still very thankful and hopeful.  I'm looking forward to a time when we can all come together and begin to build one another up in Christ.

So like I said, answered prayer.  There have been many prayers going up for God to build together a body of believers that are devoted to gathering under His headship.  He is answering those prayers and I feel like singing.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Remembering Steve Jobs': Give and take

You're gonna love this piece by ipoet laureate as he shares his thoughts on the passing of Steve Jobs.  Here is some of what he wrote:

"The two stories, Jobs’ death and Occupy Wall Street, stir so much of the same tensions in me. I have these competing desires to simultaneously worship the progress of our society and burn it down. I’m sure I’m not alone. I don’t have the wisdom or the time to postulate an answer. But, I suspect that living life is finding some middle ground. Not as a cop out or compromise but because in every generation humanity has been called upon to find virtue in its advancement. Our portable technology is not evil. Our digital lives are not evil. But, they are susceptible, just like the buggy and the plow, to distraction or to misuse or to self-aggrandizment or to laziness.

I guess I’m just trying to learn a little bit better about how to give and take.

Now click over to read the rest and checkout the feature which is what makes this blogger so special.  He not only writes blogs well but he writes poetry that revolves around current events, puts it to music, and shares it with us all there.

Like I said:  you're gonna love this.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I know you are but what am I?

Two men woke up one morning to pray.

The first man prayed  "Thank you Lord for bringing me out of organized religion.  Now I no longer trust in rituals and habits to know you more.  I speak out against the hypocricy of the modern day Pharasee's that are the so-called leaders in the Church.  I talk about Jesus all the time and tell others about your eternal purpose in Him as often as I have the opportunity.  I understand the New Testament church much better than most people who sit in pews on Sunday.  I am a much better disciple maker because of that.  Again, I thank you and praise you."

The other man, a church going fellow, fell on his face and prayed "Lord, maker of heaven and earth, hear my humble prayer for myself and for your people.  Our church, like me, is falling short in so many ways.  We need you to fill us with your love so that we can love one another more.  We need your strength to get us out of the rut were in.  We need your life in us so that we can be a light in this dark world.  Help us Lord, have mercy on us even though we have fallen so short of Christ, our goal and treasure."

Which man do you think went home justified?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What does the local church look like?

This doesn't seem to be a very difficult question but from what I gather, the answer many give is made of men's traditions and not what we see in scripture. Even those who believe that the New Testament churches only serve to describe the church gatherings and are not to be considered as a blueprint for what the church should look like today often pick and choose traditions that are based on a handful of out of context verses that they think should be followed like a law.  It is very inconsistent to say the least.

I recently watched a video from the Gospel Coalition with the same title as this post.  It was long so I mostly skimmed through it just to get an idea of what they were talking about.  According to these men, the local church is mostly defined as a place where the scriptures are preached in an expository manner, there is a focus on making disciples and they have proper guidelines for membership status.  Really???  I keep looking for the passages that describe the church congregation or elders voting someone into the church and I can't find it.  Maybe someone could help me with that.  Likewise I haven't found the passages that show a leader preaching a sermon to a body of believers.  If these are the marks of a healthy church then the first century churches that Paul planted were not worthy of imitating.

Why would we want to be like the first century church anyway though?  It's not like they were the picture perfect group of folks that were sold out for Jesus.  There was fighting over their favorite leaders, bickering amongst the women, show-offs dominating the gatherings, greedy people eating up all the food before everyone else arrived, some were teaching that real followers of Christ had to be circumcised to prove it.  I mean really, these folks were jacked up.  Surely we have matured a lot since the first century as a church, right?  Why would we give up our comfy pews where we listen to a skilled communicator and teacher break down God's Word for us?  And...don't our modern membership guidelines keep the jacked up people out of our congregation and make sure everyone is on the same doctrinal page?

Not exactly...

So, what does the local church look like?  If it's a biblical church it will look very similar to what we see in the New Testament.  It will be full of folks who have a lot of room to grow.  They may even be as jacked up as the ones we read about in the Epistles.  Yet, they will have one thing in common:  faith in Christ.  They will need to be constantly reminded to focus their gaze and minds on Him.  They will give of themselves, of their time and resources in an effort to build others up by pointing them in the direction of Christ.  They will depend completely on the indwelling power of Christ's Spirit to bring about their growth and they will boast only in their weaknesses.

What doesn't look like a local church?  The opposite of the above.  It will look drastically different from what we see in the New Testament.  It will be full of folks who think they have it all together.  They will give the impression that everything is just hunky-dory in their daily life.  They will have one thing in common:  a church covenant.  They will keep themselves very busy with programs and church functions so that they are not distracted to commit the most heinous sins.  They will come to church and be a part of the programs that benefit them the most.  They will depend completely in the right teaching of their preaching pastor and Sunday school teacher to bring about their growth and they will boast in how much they love their pastor and church because they are doing everything right.

If you're looking for the 9 marks of a healthy church you can start by looking for the marks on their knees from prayer, the marks on their hands from service, the marks on their Bible from persistent study, the marks of their past where the Lord has corrected them, the marks they have made on the lives of those they come into contact with, the mark of humility, the mark of joy and the mark of peace that comes from walking with the Lord everyday but most of all look for the marks of the Spirit living through them to love, serve, grow and bring others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Sorry to bust your bubble but expository preaching, evangelism, and strict membership guidelines including a voting process for new members is not what makes a church.  It certainly doesn't mark a healthy church.

A flesh and blood body of Jesus Christ living by His Spirit is what makes a church.  Period.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Trying out something different

For two weeks now my family and I have gathered with a local church plant that is a part of the Acts 29 church planting network.  Several months ago I visited one of their "village groups" and had coffee with one of the planters.  The village group was great.  It was comprised of mostly unbelievers, new believers and the core planting group.  We talked about some of the materials from the "gospel in everyday life" curriculum for small groups.  There was lots of participation, questions and answers, and edification.  Heck, we even shared a full meal together and sang songs.  It was great.  The following day I met with one of the leaders for coffee.  That conversation was where things went south.  He was uber-excited about beginning to have a more traditional Sunday gathering with a building and preaching, a bulletin, some liturgy, the whole nine yards.  I was not enthused.  I was very anxious to remain a part of their home fellowships and to join with them in serving the community (which is one of their core beliefs that they put into practice very well) but not so excited about going to a more institutional gathering, as you might expect.  Because of that I was no longer involved with their village groups because for them, the two went hand in hand.  Like love and marriage:  you can't have one without the other.  One guy kept in contact with me after the coffee shop conversation and seemed genuinely concerned for me.  He and I have had a few conversations over the phone since then and we also spent an afternoon in the park talking church and life in Christ.  I love the relationship that has begun and has been building.

Fast forward to last week.

I went to their Sunday gathering. As far as my christian consumeristic preferences go, it was fantastic.  They had guitars and drums and great singing that blended newer songs that were rich in doctrine with some older classics that can be found in a hymnal - only without the organ, which I appreciate.  The sermon was a introduction of sorts to the upcoming trip through the gospel of Mark in which the speaker tried to go through the entire Old Testament narrative in his time slot and point to Christ in each type that came to mind up to the time of John the baptist's appearance.  A very lofty goal.  Nevertheless, the entire spoken piece was centered on the person and work of Christ typified in the Old Testament and that was a major plus.  I was certainly edified.

This past Sunday the brother I have spent the most time with from the body there (who knows a little about my ecclesiology) gave me a very interesting piece of info via text.  He said that the preaching pastor was going to try his hand at a more dialogical approach to the sermon time.

I was very interested, so we went ... again.

They said the theory was that since they were a new church plant they could try things (within biblical parameters) and if the idea bombed, it was okay.  A big advantage was the fact that this was only the third week in so there aren't any established traditions and things this particular body is comfortable with.  They are all still feeling their way through the larger, corporate gathering.  Reasons for giving it a shot:  many people learn better through interaction and dialogue, that is the way Jesus taught.  True dat!  I can also think of several more very good reasons to promote participation in the church gathering.

Now granted it was not a participatory gathering according to a simple/organic understanding.  It was more like a Sunday school type of setting where the guy up front read the text and asked questions to which the congregation responded.  I remember four or maybe five (including myself of course) who participated in the exercise.  I'm not sure if they consider that to be a success or a bomb but one thing is for sure, in my own opinion, it was interesting.  It was the first time I had ever seen dialogue attempted during the time slot for the sermon.

I think more churches should try this.  Especially if the leaders of that body have been convicted that edification is the primary act of worship described in the NT when the church gathers.  Not everyone is ready to jump right into a participatory gathering and so this would be a good way to encourage and equip the members of the body to minister to one another.  Of course I know of other folks who are trying to lead believers to participate like this in Sunday school with minimal results and Sunday school isn't nearly as idolized as the liturgy of the worship service by the long time members.  Trying to change something at the 11 o'clock hour may become an exercise in shooting yourself in the foot and causing a big stink.  Still the question is there, is it worth it?  Or should we just keep going along with business as usual?  I guess that is a question every leader must ask themselves every time the Bible challenges our practices.

Have you ever been in a more traditional/institutional gathering where the preaching pastor employed a dialogical style?  If you are a pastor, have you ever tried this or thought about trying it?  What was the result?