what does church look like?

August 25, 2004

I’ve been in the process for several months of thinking through what it would like it to look like if I were participate in a church plant. I like some of the thinking that is happening among those align with the emergent church, and yet I’m not quite as eager, as some seem to be, to completely abandon everything that happens in most evangelical churches. (Thanks to Jordon Cooper and Maggi Dawn for some of their recent thoughts on this.) This is a some of my thinking as I try to figure it out…

I recently received an email some friends who have been looking for a church. In their email, they ask these questions:

Why do I feel like church should be small and intimate?
Why do I feel drawn to less structure within church?

These questions were likely rhetorical, so I figured I’d just answer them for myself — and anyone else who may be reading this, of course. Though those questions seem to go together, I’m not sure they need to. Small and intimate and structure are not necssarily mutually exclusive. Let’s look at the questions one at a time:

Why do I feel like church should be small and intimate?
John Eldredge in Waking the Dead speaks to this far better than I can:

Going to church with hundreds of other people to sit and hear a sermon doesn’t ask much of you. It certainly will never expose you. That’s why most folks prefer it. Because community will. It will reveal where you have yet to become holy, right at the very moment you are so keenly aware of how they have yet to become holy. It will bring you close and you will be seen and you will be known, and therein lies the power, and therein lies the danger.

I think there is a hunger in all of us for what he describes. There is a safety in the pews, but it there is also a dissatisfaction as well. There is a sensed need for something beyond that. I know my friends have a sense of community like this with a few others. Perhaps that is why they are so dissatisfied as they drop in to church services where they know no one and interact on only the most superficial of levels. They know those services can’t better bring something to them that they have already found.

If that is true, do my friends even need to be a part of a ‘church service’? Obviously, many have said no, at least to the common worship service as most Christians know it. Is there a need for someone to experience the body of Christ beyond these small intimate communties. This brings us to their next question, but I already know that will be a longer entry, so I will tackle it in a future entry…

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