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May 01, 2005

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Boy, can I relate!

I have always found that in any church that has multiple services that it is the last one that seems to be more alive.

More people awake?
Less pressure to conclude the service on time?
Closer to a meal time so that people can anticipate eating together afterwards?
More mature and vital Christians at that service?

I used to attend a church that has a Saturday night service that ended around 8 PM. Because there was no pressure for the service to end right on the dot, people were more open. The church encouraged the folks who were leaders to come to that service so they could do church work the next day for the four services that were offered on Sundays. After the service there was usually an extended prayer time and then folks went out to have a late Saturday dinner together at one of the many local restaurants near the church. It's a scientific truth that as it gets dark, people are more likely to divulge secrets and talk about personal issues in their own lives. This also changed the tenor of the Saturday night service.

When I attended one of the Sunday services, it was always:
1. Rushed
2. Missing more of my friends
3. More packed and busy
4. Less contemplative

That's my observation. Now I go to a church with one service and it's fairly long. They encourage hanging out at the little cafe inside where they serve drinks and cookies. That's always nice, too.

'Does the condition of people's hearts and minds become an influencial factor? Does some sort of corporate reality emerge as a blending of where each congregant is coming from? Is there a mystical sense in which each individual therefore affects somehow the corporate worship experience?'

i'd say yes to all of that.

it's out of the hands of the pastor, really. it's a group thing.

"it's out of the hands of the pastor, really. it's a group thing"

I'm pretty confident that you're completely right about this, Tammy. But how many of us are really in-touch with this reality? And how many of us really give a rip how "my own personal worship experience" is impacting others?

Yours are important questions to ponder. Upon reflection, I'd offer that the single greatest factor in the "spirit of a service" is the degree of reverence held by individual worshippers ... collectively. By reverence, I mean awe of God -- and respect for worship and human dignity. Christian worship ought to constitute a sacrifice -- a fellowship offering and/or grain offering to God (not to be confused with sin or guilt offerings!). Such a sacrifice can only be worthy of Him when approached reverently. Reverence has little to do with style and much to do with respect. The degree of individual reverence ... collectively isn't a cumulative measure. Instead, the notion is more that of comparing average scores of worshippers. In this way a worship service of only a dozen people (including the worship leaders) who each approach the service with a high degree of reverence will affect a better "spirit of service" than a service of many hundreds whose average reverence is less.
To your question: what can lesson can we learn or share with our churches?
It seems we ought to teach worshippers that a Holy God deserves/expects reverence in worship -- and that every person who meets to worship either contributes to, or detracts from, our collective offering to God. Perhaps if we can do so effectively, our worship will be a sweet-smelling sacifice to the Lord. Amen!

i definitely agree with you about the radical individualism and how it affects the way we view the corporate nature of both worship and church. i posted recently about the phenomenon of what people call "freedom" in worship in the modern praise movement. the me & jesus syndrome. http://www.myfourwalls.net/?p=111

i think we would rather not be responsible for other people's faith or worship experience, but scripture seems to indicate we do and are. don't be a stumbling block doesn't mean just stay out of the way.

"'don't be a stumbling block' doesn't mean just stay out of the way."

Right on, Lucas! And in your recent post, I think you've correctly pointed out that our understanding of freedom in worship has been warped by the radical individualism that plagues our culture. Hmmm. Imagine attending a worship conference where the focus is on how we affect the worship experience of others, of those around us. How many $$ would people be willing to pay to attend?

I think that the spirit of a service is a reality and it is akin to the angels addressed in Revelation 1-3. I say akin, not the same becasue I think in Rev.1-3 we're looking at the spiritual identity of the churches concerned not of their individual meetings. However what I think is akin is that when you have a group of human beings together with important binding factors, that group develops its own spiritual identity and dynamics, this is an emergent property so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I don't htink that this always happens with a service as not always are the factors necessary to bringing about the emergent entity present in the right kind of way. However, I do think that the emergent entity is spiritually significant and the feedback dimension for the congregants is powerfully affecting.
The important things to undersand looking at it this way are the kinds of dynamics that have been studied in complexity and emergence in science in the last couple of decades ..

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