The clergy group that I am in met this week to continue our discussion of Bishop Robert Schnase’s Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. In this post I will continue my reflection on the discussion we had from last week. (Last week’s post discussed the practice of “Radical hospitality.”)
My first comment is that I love that Bishop Schnase mentions in one of the side bars Meri Whitaker’s ministry at Canterbury Chapel in the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference. Meri Whitake happens to be one of the people are church intentionally supports as part of our efforts to be connected.
Second, I really reacted to this quote:
It’s amazing how good Christian folk vociferously and antagonistically resist launching a service they don’t plan to attend anyway! It’s not intended for them, and to sabotage the desire for worship of those who have different tastes is like unreasonable diners demanding that their favorite restaurant refuse to serve chicken to anyone, anytime, forever, because they prefer beef! (45)
I personally have not had to deal with that situation. But I have heard of far too many people who have. I have a good friend from seminary who was asked to preach at a new contemporary service that a church wanted to start. Even after a full year of that church bearing fruit through folks attending the service, the church still refused to support the service at all. They even refused to allow the money raised during the offering during the worship service to be used to support the basic needs of that service. My friend, who had been serving as a volunteer, was finally forced to realize that the church was not really interested in this service (even though it was being strongly attended!) and he had to step aside because he could no longer support it with his own resources.
Stories like that are probably easy for any of us to see as pretty ridiculous. But it is startling to realize that the people in that church did not see that they were doing anything wrong. I hope and pray I am not doing anything to quench the Spirit’s work in our worship service.
The final thought I had from this chapter was a sort of canary in the coal mine. “When a congregation loses touch with the purpose of worship, people come and go without receiving God” (37).
I think this is very difficult to measure as the pastor, at least on a week by week basis. But, I think far too many people come to worship today out of habit or out of a sense of obligation. I yearn for more and more congregations that have not just leadership that expects and desires passionate worship, but that have churches filled with people who have come expecting to encounter God’s holy and life-giving presence.
I would be blessed if you would share experiences or ways in which you have seen congregations move towards passionate worship. And of course, please share any other thoughts you have.
You can also read more at the “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations blog.”