I thought again about the church I'd like to lead and be part of, a place where the curious, the cautious, and the committed could explore the Bible together. Yeah, I've thought about it a lot over the past 10 years.
I keep hearing the same thing - from college students, church drop-outs, and those frustrated by being spectators or strangers in their congregations. They'd love to participate in learning about God. They - and I - are hungry to hear and speak and pray God's word together. Instead of having someone tell us to read scripture, we would read it. Instead of wondering about things, we'd take time for Q&A each week. "Church" would probably include at least some of these:
- A time of worship - sometimes a band, sometimes singing or listening to music, sometimes calling out the names and characteristics of God, sometimes sharing gratitude for who God is and what he does. Mixing up the ways we Truth-tell is important so we don't drift off. (Worship and praise is alignment with Truth - the most honest and pure way we can be, reflecting back to God all that he is and does.)
- Scripture read aloud from the OT and NT - at least a chapter from each, prepared in advance for clarity and inflection. This would be a great way for people to participate and prepare for coming together.
- A time of reflection - maybe a pause during 'worship,' maybe a spoken prayer, maybe a silent meditation on God's nature, his provision, his care for us, or a scripture verse. Maybe we'd read a Psalm aloud as our conversation with God.
- A 10 minute talk on themes from the Scripture readings.
- 10-20 minutes of participatory interaction about 3 questions = what the Scripture passage tells us about 1) God; 2) people; 3) our opportunities and responsibilities, in light of the week's passage. This part could be done in many ways - in groups of 2-50... or more. Kids, seniors, singles, marrieds, parents, new or experienced believers, and first-timers can share insights as we learn together.
- A 10 minute Q&A, with one of the church's many "experts." In any group, and in most churches, people are continually integrating faith and work. The church I attended today has teachers, professional theologians, people in justice (cops and lawyers), scientists, realtors, etc. (Who knows more about people in sales!?)
- Communion. There's nothing more intimate or definitive in a community of faith than sharing the symbols of Christ's sacrifice.
- Giving and generosity. Volunteering one's time, giving money, or sharing other resources.
- Serving. Giving ourselves away, however God has designed and gifted us.
- Closing. A prayer? The story of God's personal interaction from a community member (we used to call this a testimony)? An affirmation of God's goodness or our intentions for the week?
- Food and drink, before or after. If we meet in a public space, it would be cool to have a meal together - everyone could buy/bring their own food, but sit around to eat together. Part of giving could be bringing a few extra dollars, so the unprepared could buy a meal.
I love attending churches with great speakers, a fabulous band, and lots of options for interaction. But I think there's a place for simpler communities, without a lot of set-up and tear-down, without a big volunteer structure. A place where people come together to learn, laugh, and cry as they pray, study scripture, and worship together.
When I'm done with my dissertation, I want to find, participate in, or help create that community. It's part of my dream for the future, as I answer the question, "So what do you want to do, once you finish this degree?"
What does your ideal "ecclesia" or church look like?
*The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. Psalm 111:10
*Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28
*The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. Psalm 121:5-6
*Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority. Jude 24-25
Moravian Prayer: God, you watch over us like a father and guide us like a mother. Your eye is always on us, ready to help us instantly. We rest in your strong hands. We worship you today, for you are faithful. Amen.