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?