Bishop's Letter: In the Lord’s service(s)?
Thus spake Bill Hybels at a recent coaching seminar. Immediately, I found myself asking, “why would he say that?” After all, you can argue that our churches are much more than simply what we get up to on Sundays for an hour and a bit. And you would be right.
So why would Bill say this?
I think there maybe a number of reasons. Firstly, the way we worship communicates what we really value. Of course we are there primarily to express something to God. The Anglo-Saxon word from which our word, ‘worship’ derives is the word ‘weorthscipe,’ which means to ascribe honour and value. Worship is how we express together what we want express in relation to our belief in God.
But I wonder if you have ever wondered what someone who might be entering your church for the first time might conclude about what you truly value?
A sing song?
The person leading the worship?
Being part of a well established club which is friendly for its members?
A physical lack of warmth and comfort?
The list of course could go on. Please note that none of these things are intrinsically wrong - though being cold and uncomfortable can be a big ask – but I don’t think any of us feels that any of these things are the most important components of our Sunday worship.
I wonder if it would be true to say that what we do on Sundays, in part at least, is the ‘shop window’ of who we are. If that has any truth then what we do and the way we do it is really important.
How well I recall when I was a child thinking that Sunday was the most boring day of the week. My family didn’t go to church, the shops were shut, everything seemed closed. We were so sad that the big treat on Sunday afternoons was to go out for a ride in my Dad’s car…
How different today. Sunday, sadly is like any other day. Shopping Malls are open and packed and if the Government has its way will be open for longer. If you have children who are into sport then most of it takes place on a Sunday morning. Theme parks and National Trust properties are open. There is much to compete for our time and attention. Here’s my point. There is so much you can do on Sundays that unless Church has something authentic to offer, people will just not come. Increasingly that seems true.
Oh I know we don’t want to talk about ‘bums on seats’, but I have never met a clergyperson or other church leader who really didn’t want to see more people in church on a Sunday. That’s why Christmas attendances give us some hope. I don’t think we can avoid talking about numbers of worshippers – it never bothered St. Luke when he wrote Acts of the Apostles!
I can see the problem, but coming up with a cure is really tough and I suspect many of you find the same. However, I think I want to venture one suggestion as Easter comes around yet again with the amazing message, HE IS RISEN!
I think if all of us in our churches at some stage over the next few months sat down in our Church Councils and had some sort of discussion around the theme of, “how might we better express the risen life of Christ in our worship?” it might just mean that together, we could think again.
Many of my clergy colleagues tell me that many members express hostility to the idea of “changing what we have.” I have often joked as someone who goes around churches that if people are celebrating the fact that Jesus is alive, their body language is extremely deceptive!
Worship really matters. It is a primary, if not the primary call of the Church. I think we should set the bar of at least seeking to inspire people so that they might be better motivated and equipped to go into the world and live the new life that Jesus secured for those who trust him because of the Easter message.
HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! Let’s show the world that this is not a vague hope but a reality we want to live and to celebrate. And let our services reflect His new life.