Thinking Out Loud

January 17, 2009

A New Use For That Empty Choir Loft

rejesusI’m just a few page into Re Jesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch.   In the first chapter a story is related from Charles Sheldon’s classic, In His Steps, concerning a homeless man who sits outside the church listening to people singing as to how they are giving their lives to Jesus, and can’t reconcile this with why they are doing nothing for the poor.

“It seems to me that there’s an awful lot of trouble in the world that somehow wouldn’t exist if all the people who sing such songs went and lived them out.”

Hirsch and Frost take this in a different direction; but what struck me was the idea that this guy in Sheldon’s story was listening in on the service and thereby holding the people accountable for what they were singing.

The thought then occurred to me that perhaps we ought to allow more ‘eavesdropping’ to go on by the community at large.   What if we invited a handful of people from the broader culture to sit in on our meetings; not just the marginalized, but also business and civic leaders and working class folk who don’t believe.   We’d tell them that the purpose is not to convert them, but we want them, by their very presence, to hold us accountable.

pulpit03In fact rather than have them sit on the sidelines or sit at the back, why not put them on the platform, facing the congregation, where they would best be able to observe us at worship.

Then the idea struck me, why not get 20 or 30 such people on a weekly basis, and put them in the choir loft. I’m thinking of those  evangelical churches in particular, constructed post WWII up to the turn of the century, where the choir faces directly at the audience, the very place where worship teams have rendered the choir loft redundant.* Your neighbors, co-workers, unchurched relatives, fellow students, etc.   They could just sit there while we sang, prayed and read our Bibles.   It’s Jim and Caspar Go To Church on steriods.

Would that give our worship and witness more authenticity?  How would we worship differently with the world not only looking in, but looking right at us; locking their eyes with our own; inside our too-often members-only club?

Jus’ thinkin’ out loud.


*But I’ll settle for that large collection of chairs in the picture, also common to churches of that era; but rendered equally redundant by the move towards participants sitting with the audience until it’s time for their part. Finding the picture I actually wanted proved difficult, since most churches post pictures of their building exterior, not the inner chambers.

Personal postscript to above:  The church I attended in my teens in Toronto had such a large platform party that one of the pastors would come on to the stage about 15 minutes before the service started and count them, to make sure they had exactly the right number.    We decided his titles should be, “Minister of Chairs.”   But alas, I digress.   This is about accountability.

The book, Re Jesus is published in paperback by Hendrickson.


1 Comment »

  1. Seems interesting. Would that practically work during a service? Let me know how it works out if you do happen to do it.

    Comment by unexpectedthankyou — January 17, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

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