Last week I suggested that a church is something like a specialty store in the world of internet sales. To survive and thrive we need to provide two things, a community and an experience.
Churches certainly provide an experience, often one that is seen as something to be endured rather than anticipated. The church has struggled with this for the last half century. During that time more churches have split over what songs to sing than over theology, more churches have died over worship style than over ethical issues.
Perhaps these struggles exist because we fail to define the goal of the worship experience. For some it is to feel good, for others it is to reach the lost, but both of these, and any other, is a false primary goal. Fine in a secondary sense, but missing the point.
Worship has only one primary goal: to experience the living God.
Therefore we have to approach worship asking ourselves what can do that?
I grew up in a church that looked down on high church liturgy and ritual, and used an order of worship straight out of the revivals of the Second Great Awakening. People talk about the dichotomy between Traditional and Contemporary worship styles. “Contemporary” has not been that in thirty years.
The church has a repertoire nearly 2000 years old and touching almost every culture on the planet. We need to broaden our scope beyond praise choruses and hymns.
We need to engage those who gather in a variety of ways to reflect that human beings experience the world, and therefore God, in a variety of ways. We need to be able to adjust and adapt and change to be engaged.
We experience God in the familiar and in the new, in the rational and the irrational, in the emotional and in the logical. We experience God in sight and sound and touch and smell. We do not all experience God through the same means, nor do we as individuals experience God the same way every time.
I know what I am comfortable with and I know what, as a leader, I do well but I recognize that not everyone is the same. I want to be something like the head chef at a nice restaurant. Have the established menu but put out specials and see how they go, see if they need to be incorporated into the menu.
I want the church service to be a place that people experience God. I want it to be both familiar and new, comfortable and challenging. I want to engage the whole person. I want it to be something that cannot be passively endured, but something that compels interaction on at least an emotional and intellectual level.
If we can create community and give people a chance to experience God then we will survive. Not only survive but thrive and in thriving change the world.