Thursday, July 4, 2013

An Apology, a Qualifier, and a Suggestion Walk Out of a Church and into a Bar

I’ve gotten a few upset comments from my past blog, so I’d like to apologize for part of my last post. The offending paragraph was this one:

Only five hours ago I stood in front of my church—shaking—and censured them for ignoring the young, single women of the congregation, for relegating them to the corner of the church reserved for gifts like childcare and the chat-happy welcoming committee away from corner with sermons, decisions, depth.

I am so sorry. I did not mean to insinuate that services such as day-care, worship team, or the welcoming committee are not important, God-honoring parts of a church. As a worship team member, someone who was once a child and someone who has chosen churches based on the welcome, I would have to be an imbecile not to recognize the importance of such positions.  My church in Korea, on the other hand, by virtue of amount of service time allotted to such gifts, personnel requirements for the positions, and comments from leaders in the church (taking care of children requires little skill; music ministry is unimportant), I would argue that our church “relegates” because they consider these positions less important than those of pastors (who are heavily vetted and paid).

Our churches—not just mine in Korea—value preaching above other ministries. Perhaps you agree. Preaching is important—growing Christians need a steady diet of informed, Biblical-based food. I would argue that in many churches, the best way to feed the modern-day congregation is not to talk at them, but to lead them in acts of worship.

Yes, listening to a sermon can be an act of worship. So can singing. So can playing an imaginary  game with children. So can cooking. So can drawing and clapping and eating and almost every –ing imaginable (including soccering). Why do we place so much emphasis on listening to one (usually male) person talk about what he has learned that week through solemn study?

I’m not advocating the abolition of sermons. I actually love sermons. I listen to sermon podcasts because I’m a dork and really, truly, honestly, enjoy sitting for about an hour taking notes and thinking, interacting mentally and digesting someone else’s thoughts. That’s my jam.

But I’m a weirdo. That’s odd. The problem is, most pastors are also the kind of people that get jazzed up about sitting around thought-sharing and as a result our churches have become these well-ordered shows in which you sing a song, read a verse, sit down and listen because that’s what the introverts like to do. And then once the service is over the extroverts take back over during cookie and coffee time.


People learn best through action. I can talk you through playing a C-scale on the violin all I want, but if I send you out of a violin lesson without having practiced it with you, you have almost no hope of coming back with it not sucking.

Large groups are not conducive to interaction with ideas, a text, or a speaker. In fact, usually the more people there are, the quieter everyone else gets. As a teacher, nothing is more frustrating than a silent class. Even a class shouting, “I get it” (the school equivalent of “preach it!”) is better than silence. Better, is

It’s harder to fall asleep if you’re actively doing something. Please, for the love of all those people who don’t learn anything passively and are sick of being lectured by people who don’t know them—let’s mix it up every once in a while.

Show how valuable children’s ministry is by doing it as a congregation. Take one sermon time and have every single member of the congregation worship God by loving on the kids somehow. Those people who are scared of kids (ME) will have their more experienced buddies as a buffer and maybe you can recruit more people—maybe even men to provide strong father figures for kiddos struggling?—for that ministry. You’re definitely affirming the kiddos.

Make the congregation produce and create music, not just mimic it. Split up into small groups and do a round! Learn a clapping routine and then perform if for the rest of the congregation! Be creative! Could you combine a sermon with baking bread or planting something or building something as a church? Use your biblical metaphors!

Of course these are types of worship that can happen outside of Sunday mornings, too. But why not during Sunday mornings? At least once in a while. In big churches, it encourages community and active learning and application of the Bible. In small churches it does that plus the added benefit of giving overworked preachers a rest. I know that sort of talking, interactive stuff is supposed to happen during Wednesday night Bible studies, arguably the people who most need an interactive sermon are traditionally not going to the Bible studies.

If we really believe the other ministries of the church are important the way preaching is important (or more? “as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds…”), and if we believe members of the congregation with gifts other than teaching are important—then, without the abandonment of Biblically-based teaching, our service and services will show it.

Shakespeare and wine in the park: worship.

Watching other people cook: possibly not worship. But I set the table! Or I would have if we had a table. I set the floor!


Ice cream time is quality time with siblings and God.

Soccer was made by God; go watch some. Or play it. Or learn what offsides is, Americans.

Wine Tasting Worship Time!

Church-wide Ping Pong tourney? Play round-robin during service?