Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Building Blocks (2)

To pick up where we left off...

4.  Prayer.  I struggle with corporate prayer, to be honest.  I find it hard to feel involved if someone is leading prayer from the front; I find it hard to feel like I'm really praying if I am leading prayer from the front; I find it hard not to slip into a fairly mindless ritualism with liturgical prayers.  Still, I think the gospel demands it, as our common response, our speaking to God in reply to his speaking to us.  I am not sure how it can be well done.  One thing I think we should steer clear of over-using is the 'time of private reflection'.  We can pray by ourselves at home; in the church, let's pray together.  I think I favour a mix of brief, front-led prayers, with occasional liturgical prayers.  Either way, I'd like them to be well written, and not extempore.  (I do not always keep this rule myself, and I always regret it when I don't).

5.  Confession of faith.  Our culture, both inside and outside of the church, is riddled with subjectivism and relativism.  In that context, perhaps more than ever before, we need to be responding to the gospel by declaring our faith together.  It doesn't matter so much how it is done, but I would favour having two 'creeds' - one would be the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Creed, which would help to remind the church of its catholicity, and the other would be a local creed, which would express the truth as it particularly needs to be said in the context within which that church finds itself.  We could alternate between them.

6.  Some expression of community.  It matters that our Sunday worship be primarily on the vertical dimension; that we lift up our hearts, and that we expect God's blessing to come down.  It is right that we go to church to meet with God.  But we do it with other people, and they are the people into whose fellowship we have been called when we were called into fellowship with Christ.  There is a danger here that this becomes tokenism, and an excuse for not being community in the rest of the week - just offering a sign of the peace on a Sunday.  Still, some sign of fellowship, something which deliberately orients us for some part of our time together towards each other must be a useful primer for the rest of life.  It may just be that we incorporate the coffee time into the service, rather than just leaving it as the no-man's land between 'Amen' and first gear (not my phrase, but I like it).  Perhaps we eat together on a Sunday more regularly.  Perhaps we restart the tradition of the Agape feast, and incorporate the Lord's Supper into a fellowship meal.  Something like that.

7.  The Lord's Supper.  We take bread and wine together.  I'd have this every week; it should be at least a couple of times a month.  At the level of straightforward obedience, it's a Dominical command.  It is also the most profound way we can reflect on the gospel together, and the most profound way we can feed on the gospel, taking it into ourselves in a way that will shape us for the rest of life.  In the churches I'm most familiar with, the Supper often feels like something tacked on rather than central, like we're doing it because we know we're meant to, but we're not sure why.  I'd like to see it more central.  I'd also like to have less words around the Supper.  We talk a lot in evangelicalism, and it would be nice if there was this one things that we could do simply.  I don't see that much more beyond the words of institution (with a very light fencing of the table) needs to be said.

I'm out of things.  Anyone got any more?


  1. Hello,

    I have a question or two:

    How long would your typical service last?

    How would you like/expect visitors who either (a) aren't from your church family (b) aren't Christians to feel about the service when they come?

    Just curious

    John Perkins

    1. Hi John,

      Thanks for your comment. In answer to your questions...

      1. I guess about 90mins. If the question behind the question is 'how could you fit all this stuff in?', I think the answer is cutting out all the unnecessary talk that tends to crowd evangelical worship. (And shortening sermons - but I can't bang that particular dream without gross hypocrisy). I would, however, have a monthly (or at least bi-monthly) 45min service so that the kids could stay in for the whole thing.

      2a. I'd hope other Christians visiting would primarily feel like 'these people worship the same God and believe the same gospel'. Beyond that, I hope not too much discomfort - clear (but brief) instruction/explanation of what is happening would help with that.

      2b. I'd hope people who weren't Christians would feel welcomed, but also definitely on the outside - and hopefully, on the outside of something great. I should say, I don't think non-Christians are the main consideration in planning worship, but it does need to be borne in mind.

      What do you think?

    2. Hi,

      I tend to agree about 90 minutes or so. I was thinking something along the (poorly thought out) lines of this - I like songs run back to back so there is less of the stand up sit down... random talk... up... down... up... down... and making more of choosing songs that have some kind of direction between them. I appreciate a well thought out service that weaves some of the elements you list above together that leads my heart in a certain direction. Too much bitty-ness/clutter doesn't help. I wonder if trying to fit so much in to 90 minutes might make this difficult? I don't mind things being longer - I don't like being short changed on Sundays and most complaints in my experience about long services seem to relate to 2 - making it harder for people who weren't Christians to come along. But I tend to agree with you on that as well. Things to bear in mind without letting them set the agenda.

  2. Next time you're in London come visit grace church hackney.

    1. They (you?) have a nice website. Maybe I will some day, although I get into the big smoke a lot less than I used to...