Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Asleep in the Pews

Is most of the church asleep in the pews? Most of us manage to physically stay awake, but we are far from being fully engaged and fully participating in most of the Sunday morning event. Should we then wonder why many seem to be spiritually asleep? Is there a connection with how we structure Sunday mornings and the health of the body? Are there some members of the body who are getting more than their share of spiritual exercise, while other parts of the body are barely alive from inactivity?

First I want to define what I mean by fully participating: Where each member of the body is using their spiritual gifts, allowing God to work through them to others in the body. Actively doing what they are called to do for 'one another'.

So although I appreciate those who serve by setting up chairs, ushering, making coffee, cleaning, tech support, etc - I'm not counting this as fully participating.

If God has something to say at a typical Sunday morning church gathering, how many people can he use to speak through?
  • the pastor/guest speaker
  • one or two other members selected to speak briefly
  • songwriters (usually not someone at the gathering, but selected by someone there)
  • Sunday school teachers (important role, yet limited to ministering to children)
The way Sunday mornings are structured does not give much time for most members to:
  • Instruct one another
  • Love one another
  • Honor one another
  • Agree with one another (we don't even know what most people are thinking)
  • Serve one another (we may serve the Sunday morning event, but is that all this means?)
  • Bear with one another
  • Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
  • Submit to one another
  • Teach one another
  • Admonish one another
  • Encourage one another
  • Pray for one another
The way it is structured allows the pastor and a few others do most of the above, but restricts the rest of the body from fully participating.

Why do we 'do church' this way?

The early church did not sit in pews (or rows of chairs) passively listening to the same person give a 20 - 50 minute monologue week after week. Yes Jesus and the early church leaders spoke and preached. However the preaching was often done to those outside the church. There would have been teaching done inside homes as well... and Paul did speak so long that someone was bored to death literally... But I believe when Jesus or the early church leaders spoke it was often more of a dialog with the audience. The audience would often throw in comments and questions. The system with pews and a pulpit that encourages a passive audience was introduced into Christianity much later.

The early church also did not have a choir or worship band 'lead' them in singing. I don't personally really understand what this would look like, but I believe they simply allowed the Holy Spirit to lead them in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

They likely didn't have an 'order of service' that shaped what the morning was going to look like in advance. Yes, someone would have planned what they would eat if there was a meal with the gathering. But I doubt they planned in advance who would speak, pray, greet, sing, etc... and I doubt they put time limits on them.

If God has something to do or say through someone to the rest of His body I think the Sunday morning gathering should be a place where this is allowed and encouraged to take place. Is this an unrealistic pie in the sky dream?

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Alan Knox said...


Yes, I believe most of the church is "asleep in the pews." Honestly, I don't blame the people, because they have been taught that there responsibility is to show up, sing, listen, and give. There will be a huge change in the church when all are required to serve one another and when all are given the opportunity to serve one another.

A few years ago, we followed the traditional pattern including the sermon. As we studied Scripture together, we realized that this type of meeting ("worship service") was not found in Scripture, nor was it beneficial to the church. So, we slowly began to make changes. I won't lie and say that everyone loved it. Some did not like the changes, but they could offer no scriptural reasons for their dislike. Unfortunately, many times, the likes and dislikes are formed through our traditions and not through Scripture.

We've learned that it is possible to allow many people to participate in our church meetings without being disorderly, and it is possible to stay centered on Scripture without having a sermon or pulpit.

Keep up the good work.


Jonathan said...

Thanks Alan for your feedback, and encouragement. Change is never easy. I'm not going to rush on any changes, for now I want to listen to God's leading, and take any steps possible towards building up Christ's body without causing harm to other members of Christ's body.

Thanks! God bless!

Al said...

Good thoughts, Jon.
I also agree, if we are going to follow Christ, it needs to involve our participation--and not just Sunday morning.
For me, my most meaningful involvement as part of this world-wide group of Christ-followers is a cup of coffee and great discussion with a friend or two, or my regular Friday night street ministry with a group of other like-minded people, or being part of the dish crew at a local soup kitchen.
The concept of sermons suits the propagation of a particular system of ideas, but certainly doesn't lend itself to either discussion or practical expression of ideas/truth.
For me, the regular Sunday morning-type gathering of churchites is the least valuable part of being the church.

Anonymous said...

Dude. It is totally possible....
You could suggest to your pastor that you would like to facilitate a I Cor. 14:24-26 meeting....

wieger kooistra said...
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