I find myself in a quandary: I thoroughly believe in gathering together as believers. Scripture seems to describe two different venues for this: “Temple” (Sunday Morning Church would be our equivalent) and “breaking bread from house to house”.
We have lost the second one for the most part. Oh, I know: There are small groups, Wednesday Night gatherings…but gathering just to be with each other doesn’t really happen.
I have tried to have gatherings in my home, but very few people engage…
Sunday Morning Church is largely uninspired and, quite frankly, boring for me.
So, here’s my thought. Below is a survey. I would like to hear about your desires and experiences:
1. What works for you?
a. “Just let me go to Church on Sunday Morning; don’t bother me the rest of the week.”
b. “I would thoroughly enjoy a small gathering where people really get to know me and I get to know them.”
c. “Sunday Morning gathering is richer when I have had contact with believers during the week.”
d. “I would rather meet with people who don’t go to the same Church as I do for my small group.”
e. “I want my small roup or midweek service to be with those who go to the same Church as I.”
2. Church is:
c. An institution.
3. Church should be:
a. run by clergy only.
b. A place where all believers use and strengthen their gifts.
c. Elder run.
d. Forget all that; just gather and have fun.
4. What makes “successful” Church gatherings to you?
a. A good sermon.
b. Beautiful music.
c. Rowdy, upbeat worship.
d. Good coffee and cookies afterward.
e. Good fellowship hour.
5. Do you have questions or comments?
You desire truth and authenticity, the freedom to be and do you; you want enough safety to become vulnerable; you want significance. I want that, too.
Like you, I learned to be cautious and mistrustful. I am anti-establishment and ever seeking new ways.
Do you remember wanting these things? I do.
What happened? Why did you give up on these and settle into the status quo?
I know so many of you – you still value authenticity, social justice, idealism and freedom. You have not lost the fire in your hearts that cause you to work for a better world.
Dear generations in between:
You want identity, prosperity and freedom.
Do these not add up to the same things that milennials and boomers seek?
We are in this world together, searching and working for the same things.
Let’s join hearts and hands and include each other:
Boomers need you, Xers, Mes and Milennials;
I hope you recognize that you need us as well.
There is such a lie that has been promoted – Anyone over 40 is done.
No! We’re still here; we’re alive and desirous of the same things.
Instead of opposing or excluding each other, let’s come together in the unity of our ideals and searches;
Then we’ll see what God makes from all of this.
“When I first began leading worship, I served at a tiny suburban church plant in West Fort Worth. The pastor of that church constantly reminded me that folks would never leave our Sunday gathering humming the sermon he preached. They’d leave humming the songs we had sung together. In fact, they were far more likely to have the words we sang rattling around in their minds all week than any words they heard from the pulpit. For whom do we sing? I believe we sing for ourselves and for one another, that we might come to believe more fully the truth of the words we sing and to love more deeply the God to and about Whom they were written.
That belief has transformed the way I personally worship God in song, the way I plan the musical portion of any worship gathering I’m involved with and the way I discern which songs should or shouldn’t be a part of our corporate worship life. If music is, in essence, sung theology, then things like lyrical content and melodic hook become significantly more important to consider.
However, that doesn’t completely quench my desire to know “why we sing.”
If that was all there was to it, then why not just leave the singing to the pros, and attend a musically excellent, theologically rich concert every weekend? Or, for that matter, why not just buy musically excellent, theologically rich music on iTunes and listen to it day in and day out? Why must we gather and actually sing together?
I’ve long been fascinated by the prayer Jesus prays in John chapter 17. He prays specifically for the oneness of those who will come to believe in Him. He prays that we, His people, may be united together; that we might be one just as He and the Father are one.
In the book of Acts, we find the early church living and worshipping together day in and day out. They share what they have. They break bread together. They seek God together.”
…”How many acts of worship are communal in nature? Congregational singing lends itself perfectly to the togetherness & vulnerability that the Gospel demands, deserves and seeks of those living in community. We, together, are the people of God. We, together, are the bride of Christ. Therefore, it’s right and good that we, together, with one voice, should express our affections for our great bridegroom, Jesus.
When we step outside the familiar walls of liturgical tradition and peek back in through the window at all the people standing and singing and raising their hands together, it may look a bit foreign or silly. But, brothers & sisters, as I said, it is absolutely vital to the life of the Church and to the lives of the individual believers therein.
When we gather together, let us lay aside any concern about the quality of our singing voices. Let us lay aside any reservations about whether or not we “feel worshipful” in a given moment. Let us sing. Let us sing as an act of discipline, training our hearts to believe more completely the Gospel of our salvation. Let us sing as an act of community, knowing that the people around us are our brothers and sisters and that they need the truth of the Gospel on our lips to ring in their ears.”
From “What’s the Point of Singing,” by Luke Brawner
I’m reminded of something Paul writes in Ephesians and Colossians:
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves,
and making music to the Lord in your hearts. …
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
I have had more than one person tell me that they don’t care about the quality of music or musicianship; they just want to feel God’s presence.
That sounds good, but it’s not biblical.
God designed us to worship, individually and together. He calls us to join in unity (Psalm 133) He tells us to sing to each other…
I think this is especially important in a day when people are so isolated. The last thing we need is to go to Sunday Morning Gathering for more of the same.
There is also a synergy that happens when the worship is made up of live voices. It has a vibrance to it that simply cannot be communicated in recorded or streamed music. Joining our voices says, “I’m with you. I know and love you, here and now.” We desperately need that.
By the way, Scripture also admonishes us to dance, raise our hands, shout and declare.
The people who came to our feast today;
The ones who helped and gave.
The lovely flowers brought to us;
The treats we were pleased to have.
Expressions of warmth and gratitude;
People who showed they care;
Hope, excitement, joy and pleasure;
All we were privileged to share.
Sometimes, I have to dig and search,
Other times, blessings just come.
Either way, I give thanks for them:
God, friends, family, home.
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.
They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.
And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
For a number of years, it has been my observation that the church has “going to the temple” down pretty well in that we have Sunday morning and midweek gatherings.
We have pretty much lost the practice of breaking bread from house to house, though, which really has to do with community. Perhaps the biggest reason that no one had needs was that he or she couldn’t hide out in the same kind of isolation that people do nowadays. Families and individuals were known and wrapped in relationship.
This is a call to connection. Even if each believer made it a point to befriend one other, we would gain ground…
and if neighbors started to break bread and really get to know each other?
It would be a revolution!
In general, the American family has become defused. We still have traditional neuclear families; then we have single parent households, blended families and same-sex parents. There are also some extended and clan families.
One form the “clan” has taken in the US is neighborhoods. While I don’t know that I would call this a norm, it is worth recognizing that there are groups in cities and rrural areas alike, who are built around ethnicity, faith or proximity. These groups function as clans in that they share common values, build relationships and help each other. Some are a little more fluid, in that people come and go. Newcomers can join and will be welcomed. Others are more closed: People are there for life and newcomers are not accepted.
Our need for a clan is great. I am absolutely intrigued by the fact that the neuclear family was not really established until the 1940’s. By the end of the 1960’s, just twenty years later, the divorce rate was at 50%. it has not decreased; in fact, it has increased a bit. One statistic I have heard is that the divorce rate among evangelical christians is 66%. In all fairness, this could simply be because the sample group is smaller, so the numbers will look a bit different. Having said that, it is notable that being in the Church has made little or no difference in the divorce rate.
My interpretation of this is that the neuclear family system is too fragile to withstand the pressures of life, work, children and everyday demands. Couples who have the help of parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends fare much better.
The Church needs this. In her book on sacraments, Monica Helwig described church as a community set apart, able to withstand the chaos of the world. Sunday Morning only won’t accomplish this. We must be involved with each other on a much more relational basis.
Even if we start by doing small things, such as calling people or greeting neighbors when we see them, isolation begins to lose its hold on us Fear melts away and we begin to build caring, loving communities. We learn that being known by others is delightful and not shameful; we find that we have time to get everything done because we have encouragement and help.
What is your clan like? What can you do to build and strengthen it?
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,…” (Acts 2:46)
Since the late 1990’s, my observation has been that the Church “goes to temple” in the form of Sunday Morning gatherings, and possibly a midweek service of some kind.
We have lost the practice of breaking bread from house to house, however, and we need it back.
One big reason for knowing the needs of others was that these people were spending real time together and building close relationships.
This fit their culture well: The family structure at that time was the clan family, which included people who were related biologically or through marriage, friends, servants and strangers who attached themselves to a particular clan. That is why Mary and Joseph could be in caravan for three days before they realized Jesus was not with
them. As far as they knew, he was with Uncle Caleb or cousin Nathan and their friends. (see Luke 2:43-46)
The church is described in a few different ways now:
Family, community, fellowship…
One challenge with calling the Church “family” is that it does not fit our cultural norm, which makes this description a little hard to embrace.
Church as community might feel more comfortable, but it fails to call us to the deeper levels of relationship we need.
Fellowship is only one aspect of Church, making it a bit incomplete.
So, how do we become more relational? How do we move from being “Temple only” to believers who really engage with each other?
I will add comments to explore these and other questions. Meanwhile, I would love to hear from you.
What is “Church” to you?
Do you have ideas about how we can begin to “break bread each day?”
I have a couple of suggestions:
*One is to begin with relationships that make more sense to us. For me, that might be my neighborhood. For someone else, that might be a group of friends.
*Small groups might try being less structured, even if that is once a month.
*If only a couple of believers begin to meet and share; they might be able to invite others.