On this Monday after Sunday, I'm sitting here reading Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck and I'm literally laughing out loud. . . . all by myself. Kluck, the non-pastor lay guy, especially, cracks me up with his brutal honesty and touch of sarcasm. . .
Just had to share. . . . .
In his book, "Wide Open Spaces, author Jim Palmer explains that he has left the church in favor of a Wednesday night meeting with a friend at Starbucks. He talks of spiritual discussions on a boat with a best friend. He says of these meetings, "If one of us starts into those religious modes of thinking, or drones on in God-talk that has little correlation to our daily reality, we quickly rein things back in.
And later, "There's no person or set of persons you can point to as the ones in charge of or responsible for what happens. All of us believe that we have an equal 'calling' to know God and make him known amid ordinary life and people. Everyone is a leader and a follower, everyone is a teacher and student."
Palmer's construct of "neo-church" certainly sounds exciting, what with regular trips to Starbucks, Panera, and excursions out on his friend's boat. But being involved in these sorts of organic house churches--or for that matter even real church--for any period of time, will reveal that not everyone is a "leader" or "teacher."
Never am I more of a fan of the traditional pastor/flock relationship at our church than when the church has what they call an "unstructured service." The unstructured service is a holdover from the church's freewheeling 1970s days and involves, as you might expect, an open mic where congregants share a story, pray, or suggest a song. On paper this seems like a great idea. What kind of coldhearted meanie wouldn't be a fan of people sharing encouragement of prayer requests from their heart?
During unstructured services I usually sit and stare at my bulletin, which I've folded into a tiny pile about the size of a square inch. This is nervous energy. Nervous because of the reality that many people weren't gifted with the ability to stand in front of a group and say something that is God-centered, relevant, and brief. Out of the three, I would take brief. Maybe you've been to services like this. You often hear the sweet older lady who talks for no less than seventeen minutes about her kidney ailment. There is the well-meaning, attractive guy who shares about how all the girls in our church's college group want to get physical with him, and how difficult this is. And, if you're lucky, you might get a bad poem, because, lets' face it, almost all poems are bad. I'm left with the idea that if this is what revolutionary house church would look like on a week-to-week basis, then I'm definitely out.
To be fair, there are always good things that come out of the unstructured service, but I'm usually left feeling really thankful for our pastor and his forty-five minute expositional sermons. Though its much sexier to appear to have come up with something off the top of one's head, I'm glad he spends twenty hours each week reading, praying, and preparing linear sermons.
As a guy who prepares his own 45 minute linear sermons and feels his own nervous energy during unstructured services, this definitely struck my funny bone.
Read the book. Easy read. In the church library.