If one were commissioned to produce an alt.worship service for a bunch of creative young people in his church one could run into the problem of context. In Big Church, we tend to create services out of our own context; let me give you an example:

  • I arrange access to the projector, buy candles and invite a monk to play a foreign instrument during worship and a Hindi Indian woman to sing praise songs off-the-cuff. I tell everyone we’re meeting in the basement of an abandoned art gallery downtown and to bring an item of significance in their lives to submit to God through creative worship. I light the candles, loop the group’s VJ’s meditation video and the foreigners start playing. People show up and we serve beer and light incense. It is an evironmental post-modern nu-Christian masterpiece of an atmosphere. We begin to worship.

But the people don’t respond. They sit there with their hands in their pockets, enjoying the entertainment quote easily because to them, that’s what it is– entertainment. Why don’t they worship? They are Spirit-filled Christians who love God, have a passionate friendship and devotion to Him, but they don’t engage. I propose that this is a problem of context.

There’s nothing wrong with the people who attend– they’re normal Christians struggling with deep questions, but that just makes them normal. The problem is that the service has been created without them. They just have to show up, and though they are pleased with the scene, it is not theirs, it is mine. It belongs to those who have organised it. Take our VJ for instance– he probably has some crazy-amazing way of worship at his studio… maybe he throws together incredible worshipful clips and recites a mantra about the grace of God. Or maybe he just sings Matt Redman songs, but either way, that’s not what he’s doing here at this service. He has come into a foreign land.

What can be done about this? I think there are a few key things we can learn from an experience like this:

  1. people have their very own relationships with God, and those must be acknowledged and supported
  2. people create their own methods of worship based upon The Spirit’s leading, and they should be encouraged and free to utilise those methods in collective worship – we must not prescribe methods of worship
  3. when people feel free to utilise their own methods, they will

The Big Church is not evil because of its numbers, quite the opposite, actually. It is strong because of its numbers, and those numbers bring great benefits to The Kingdom and the Body. But they must not eclipse the individual and that individual’s methods. To do so would be to not acknowledge their individual identity. Perhaps this is one of the causes of a general lack-of-ownership in Big Church today. People feel invisible and invalid.

Thoughts?