Guy Muse, one of my favorite bloggers, is a missionary to Ecuador who is currently on home assignment in the U.S. He recently shared some thoughts he has since being reimmersed in traditional North American churches after a long time away. I thought he had some interesting ideas that someone just might be crazy enough to try. Here is some of what he said:
After now sitting through three months of worship services and Sunday School classes in half a dozen different churches, what follows are a few observations coming from someone who has long been out of practice of “going to church” as is commonly practiced here in America.
Sunday Morning Sermon. Instead of preaching 30-45 minutes and then everyone going home and promptly forgetting all/most of what has been so conscientiously prepared, why not share a reduced 15-20 minute message and spend the balance of time allowing interaction by the congregation? This personal interaction with the message would bear far more fruit than simply listening to a good man preach. Depending upon the size of the church and seating layout, this could be done in several different ways:
1) The pastor could end with a few key questions that get at the heart of what he was trying to share. As people begin to respond back to the pastor a dialog could ensue amongst all those present. The pastor could facilitate the discussion as several share their wisdom and understanding from their rich experience.
2) People could be encouraged to break up into small groups and share with one another what they sense God is saying to them through what has been shared through the Word.
3) Ask people to share how they intend on applying what they have learned from the Word. What specific actions is the Spirit of God impressing upon them in response to the message? Wouldn’t 10-15 minutes praying for one another and applying the message with their individual situations have a more meaningful impact than simply one person doing all the talking?
It is strange that week after week so much effort has gone in to preparing good Biblical messages, only to be concluded with an invitation which usually has nothing to do with what has been preached. Sometimes 2-3 people will go forward during the invitation, but rarely does it have anything to do with the preceding 30-45 minutes. Why is the bulk of time given to one brother speaking week after week while the remaining 99% just sit and listen? Is church primarily about the message preached by the pastor? What happened to the exhortation by the writer of Hebrews, And let us consider one another, to incitement of love and of good works, not forsaking the assembling together of ourselves, as is the custom of some, but exhorting, and by so much more as you see the Day drawing near?
Read on to hear his reflections on the offering, Sunday School, singing and praise, and prayer.