Thinking Out Loud

December 11, 2018

Spontaneous Sharing in the Weekend Worship Service

I usually don’t re-post or co-post material from Christianity 201 here unless it’s one of my original pieces. In today’s case, the second half of the article is from another writer, but the subject matter is so central to my story and my values, I was surprised to see that I hadn’t covered it here more in the past 10½ years. I’m running the article as it appeared there a few days ago.

1 Corinthians 14:26 (NET) What should you do then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each one has a song, has a lesson, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all these things be done for the strengthening of the church.

1 Corinthains 12:4 (The Voice) Now there are many kinds of grace gifts, but they are all from the same Spirit. 5 There are many different ways to serve, but they’re all directed by the same Lord. 6 There are many amazing working gifts in the church, but it is the same God who energizes them all in all who have the gifts. 7a Each believer has received a gift that manifests the Spirit’s power and presence

This first verse above (from chapter 14) has resulted in many different expressions of spontaneous interjections to any given worship service. I’ve seen it expressed in the Brethren style of worship where there are often long silences before the next person will stand up and share something which blessed them through the week. I’ve seen it happen in the Pentecostal style of worship where people will suddenly start speaking in tongues and as soon as they are seated, someone else will suddenly offer the interpretation.

My favorite was an interdenominational meeting* which wasn’t entirely different from the apparent spontaneity of the Pentecostal service but seemed to also imply the preparation which might have gone into the Brethren service. The thing that made it different is that before speaking, people would first define the gift they were about to bring.

The people would simply jump to their feet — not unlike the figures in the arcade game Whack-a-Mole — and announce:

“I have a word of prophecy!”

“I have a Psalm!”

“I have a teaching!”

or whatever; followed by the short message itself. If my description sounds irreverent, you need to know this also a group that could be brought to complete silence for minutes at a time in what I later referred to as “a holy hush.”

I wrote about this experience briefly in 2008. At the time I noted that with each participant clearly defining what it is they were going to say, nobody could jump up and say, “I have a cute story about my dog.” It was also not the time for prayer requests. It was a time for using spiritual gifts to build up the body.

Their motto was: “Everyone Gives, Everyone Receives.”

That should be the motto of every church…

…I realize writing this that lay participation in the service is perhaps quite uncommon where you worship. It certainly doesn’t fly in a megachurch environment, or where a church has bought into the idea that the people in the seats are an audience or spectators. I got thinking about this after reading an article by Ned Berube at the blog Lionshead Café. The article was titled, Thoughts on Evangelical Corporate Worship.

He first describes the worship pattern for a church where two friends attend:

Because they are quite clear that every believer is inhabited by the Holy Spirit and consequently hearing the word of the Lord hopefully on a very regular basis, they make room explicitly for individual members to share what the Lord may have put on their heart. Two or three may share for 5-10 minutes before an elder speaks for 30-40 minutes on a prepared text. The others might be more spontaneous or thought through earlier in the week. The value of this is apparent-the whole congregation is “on call” for sharing the word of God and they are quite clear that they are part of a gifted body of believers that are to bring forth God’s word to God’s people. They are central to the Liturgy (Greek liturgia– the work of the people). And it derives very clearly from Paul’s exhortations to the Corinthians in chapter 14 of the first letter: “When you come together, you all have a lesson, a revelation, a tongue etc”). They were led to believe that every time they came together they could expect the presence of the Spirit who would use the whole body of gifted believers to minister to the whole body.

Next he describes another church which he started himself:

A good 15-20 minutes was separated for “Sharing” from the congregation. We tried to have a 90 minute service but more often it was closer to 2 hours. Sometimes a bit beyond. And I’m sure that the length eliminated a few folks. Maybe a lot! But our thinking was built on what we perceived as a dearth of spiritual impartation by the body to each other. And many complained and thought that could be better met by a system of small groups. In fact, one couple that visited thought our service was more like a big small group, which they meant largely as a critique, but we felt that the trade-offs were worth it.

There’s one more paragraph I want to get to from Ned’s article — I realize I took most of the space myself today — but before doing so, I don’t want you to miss his description of Simon:

I would consider Simon the most skilled worship leader I have met in the world. The first time I watched and heard him lead worship was an amazing personal event. Simon is very small of stature and he took his guitar and turned his back to the congregation/audience and proceeded to lead us in music that was rich toward the Person of God and circumvented most of the “how I am feeling about God” lyrics that have dominated so much of modern evangelical worship.

Talk about avoiding a personality-driven church!

The timing on this is interesting because just this week, I remember reading someone saying that in a really well-run small-group, it’s not apparent who is in charge of the meeting. My personal longing would be to experience this in our weekend worship as well, on a more regular basis. (‘Who’s in charge? God’s in charge.’)

I’ll let Ned have the last word:

If we do not provide a venue for the general sharing of the body in a worship service or small group, we run the risk of creating an elite that alone can speak the word of the Lord. And that is not to dismiss gifted preachers who should indeed be handling the bulk of preaching and teaching, but there must be a place for the larger body to bring their unique perspective into the mix of a worship service. And as I share these sentiments, I am also personally aware of pastors and friends who would consider these thoughts anathema. And there are decent reasons for so thinking. There are a lot of ways for this to go off the rails. But if there is sufficient teaching and healthy leadership during the worship service that can be minimized. We did this for 18 years at Christ Community Church with far more blessing than weird off-key expressions.

…read the full article at this link.


*The meeting I referred to took place in Toronto under the name Reach Out. “Everyone Gives, Everyone Receives.”

 

September 11, 2009

Starting a Town Laiterial

Like most North American jurisdictions, we have a ministerial association where the various rectors, priests, ministers, pastors (and rabbis if we had any), etc. meet monthly to “talk shop.”   These groups often include chaplains from local seniors’ homes, hospitals or jails, as well as full-time youth workers with parachurch organizations.

The local shoe stores may be in competition, but by virtue of this monthly meeting, the churches can honestly say they are working together on various community initiatives.    The various clergy may not agree on every matter of faith and doctrine, but these religious professionals have, at the very least, a context in which to dialog with other men and women who have chosen the same vocation.

But they are, at the end of the day, restricted to the professionals, and there are a great deal of initiatives that never get brought forward for discussion, and a whole host of other ideas that never get presented because, despite the stereotypical idea that these people only work on Sunday, they are actually quite pressed for time.

Which is why I think our ministerial should be complemented by a laiterial.   That’s right, a laiterial.    Didn’t expect my spell-checker to be too happy with that one.   Why not something where one member of the laity in each congregation meets with representatives from other assemblies and places of worship for the purpose of seeing if more can be accomplished by working together?

This means not just a loose collection of people meeting in an “inter-faith” context, but actual selected delegates, representing each faith group with a purpose and agenda.  People who know what it means to get something accomplished. People who recognize that their various pastors and ministers have an entirely different set of priorities when they meet each month, and want to produce something in conjunction with them that may take great amounts of time and effort.

People from different places of worship can work together in ways that clergy simply cannot.    It’s the potential of cooperation on a much more grassroots level.   It’s about interacting with people who attend the church across town.   It’s about being in conversation with people whose believes are often extremely divergent.   For the Christian, it’s a context yielding to a different definition of what it means to be salt and light.

The type of thing these meetings can produce is going to be  of a very general nature in terms of inherent spirituality.   But it can show that religion — any religion — is more than just doctrine.   It’s doctrine plus ethics.   Orthodoxy plus orthopraxy.   Talk plus action.

Laiterial.   It’s not in the dictionary.  Not yet.

Coming monthly to a restaurant meeting room or church basement near you.

The word “laiterial” is the exclusive intellectual property of Paul Wilkinson and Thinking Out Loud unless of course, you actually make public use of the term, in which case I’d be too flattered to object.

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