I recently went to a workshop for church leaders that was entitled "how to have exceptional sunday services". I enjoyed the workshop, but I really can't help but shutter a little inside when i hear such a title. There are many reasons the idea of us focusing our energy on exceptional services doesn't sit well with me, but the largest issue I have with it is something I have only experienced more recently.
Brandon and I have currently been pioneering "church relationship" ministries since '07 when we realized a huge need in the area of networking churches in order to see regional change in our communities. And as easy as that sounds, the task has been an extremely hard one, and at times, absolutely exhausting. None-the-less, the Lord has us forerunning ministries that require the Body of Christ to work together in order to thrive......and we know its the love of God that compells us to keep at it even when there is no budge.
It's unfortunate that in the more we worked with church leadership (not all, but a lot) how ingrown our vision and aspirations have become. And though many churches prayerfully and financially support others on the mission field, its few that actually do the same for their fellow localized Body. For instance, we often see churches thriving in light of being "missions" minded, supporting people over-seas and aiding them in furlough, etc., but when it comes to working with other churches or leaders in their own region there's just not enough time, energy or emphasize on what that would even look like for most. And though we recognize we are the ekklesia, "the called out ones", we rarely have the availablity to go beyond what our "own" family of God is doing to aid in what God might be doing regionally. This has been very true for the prayer movement in the city of Rochester. If you don't know any of the history of the prayer movement in this city, you should know that for YEARS men and women of God have been trying to get sustainable 24 hour prayer and worship happening, with many houses of prayer falling and dying. It's been an unending task that has been on the heart of God, but its people continually burning out. It's because in order to have true regional reformation it will not come through one man, one church, or one stream.....it will come through the entirety of the Body of Christ working together, being in covenant-relationship with one another. This is the heart of God.
So how does this correlate with my point in the beginning? Here's my case, in which I hope the heart behind what I'm sharing is heard openly.....if we are the ekklesia, which isn't a building, a business or even a sunday service, but an "assembly" of believers loving God and loving each other radically....how would we change our approach on how we "do" church? Really. Would we even have seminars titled "how to have exceptional sunday services" or would we rename them something like "how to host the presence of God on a sunday morning"? I don't know. But something needs to shift in our minds. Something needs to shift in the way we think about church.
I am fortunate to go to a healthy-cultured church, so this is no means attacking churches. I am FOR the Church! God is just so ever-redining my places of worship and enlightening my own idea of what it really means to be the Church. Tell, what do you think? What are your thoughts?
Obviously what I'm writing is a generalization and every church has its own culture, values and traditions and the article is based upon experience and not what every church does. But its written with an open heart to challenge our thinking. Please receive with a willingness to grow together in the things God desires to show us all. Even as leaders, we should remain teachable.