As theStory transitions away from having anyone at the reigns it allows us to practice and experiment with different ways of allowing the church to take on a life of its own. I’ve only ever really known church in a few limited fashions, mostly being operated and led by specific leaders (usually a very specific kind of personality) and then everyone else coming around and supporting those ideas of those people. As my understanding of leadership, hierarchy and servanthood begins to develop I have begun to recognize how much the church is dependent on structures that tend to create a lot of complacency and paralyze people in their discipleship. Even worse, these structures create leaders that have false views of themselves and their role within the kingdom. There is no gift of leadership in the kingdom of God. I’m not even sure that the gifts of the Spirit should have nearly as much to do with how we gather on a Sunday morning.
There is different elements at play when I think about how the church should be shaped. One that I’ve flirted with quite a bit lately has been liturgical formation. Growing up as an evangelical the word ‘liturgy’ was not really part of our vocabulary and anything that looked of it was void of the Spirit. As I grow to understand the history of the church and the theology of our tradition I have seen that following liturgy is much more than a lazy man’s way out of doing the hard work of a church service. Rather it is allowing the richness of the church to run the service and refuse to allow it to be hijacked by modern attempts at being relevant. I don’t have to prepare for twenty hours before showing up on a Sunday to share what I have discovered and put together the week before, rather we as a community learn to embrace collective church wisdom across centuries. Why should that be put on one individual? How is that beneficial for the individual or the community? So at theStory we’ve been including more and more liturgical pieces and less and less ‘our ideas.’ Prayers of the People, Eucharist weekly, Confession, Potluck, Music etc. My personal aim is to have the sermon take less and less of a role in our gatherings.
As the role of a sermon begins to shrink (full disclosure: we are still far from having the sermon move away from a central role in our services, and I’m speaking purely on behalf of my own hope), and our desire for having any kind of type A leader at the head and we being to understand what it means to be a community in downtown Sarnia I am starting to hope that eventually theStory will just be able to take care of itself. That was a long run on sentence that might not make much sense. Regardless, because of my experience as a church planter I am starting to see that churches need to learn to exist without anyone at the head. By that I mean this.
Imagine church gatherings on Sunday were nothing more than the community gathering and whoever is present is able to run the service. Instead of needing a ‘leader’ that shows up two hours early, has spent 10 hours preparing a sermon, organizes the teaching series, makes sure the worship team shows up and the list of other things that people running churches seem to spend their time doing, what if the service was run by whoever shows up. I can see the leaders reading this cringing at even the thought. Imagine church planting classes were about forming a community who could learn to worship without needing to be led rather than teaching them the gifts to lead and gather a community!
But why can’t church gatherings just look like that? Why is the only role of a ‘church leader’ in today’s world to organize and administrate the execution of an event on a Sunday morning? How are communities formed so that together they can run a simple service. Why is that a paid position? Are we not capable?
I think churches need to move away from the paid professional and into the natural worship of the community who is present. I’m not sure how the logistics will work for us or for everyone but I think it makes sense on multiple levels. The church doesn’t need to use their funds to pay someone to do it, the church community can learn differentl roles and it doesn’t allow anything to be build around a personality. Imagine whoever shows up to worship runs the worship service, the first one there opens up the door, the musicians grab the instruments, everyone brings food, the prayers of the people happen, silence, confession, readings and then it ends with us partaking in the elements. Why does there even need to be a sermon? Why does there need to be anybody running the service at all? (Oh I can hear the skeptics yelling at my idealistic self)
So I think this is where I hope that we go as a community. I think it would be the healthiest direction for everyone and will help us become much more sustainable and seems very kingdom like.