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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Day in Detroit Lakes

I spent last weekend with some great leaders from northern Minnesota. Tucked up amidst some beautiful lakes and woods, the area held great promise for a day of conversation and planning for congregational vitalization.

Upon arrival I learned this group of leaders was struggling...not from a lack of effort or even from a crisis of faith--struggling because the changes that were taking place in their congregations they were not prepared to deal with, much less manage. These folks were not worried about their souls, or even the souls of their friends and fellow passengers of life, they were worried about what it means to be "church" these days.

They knew what "church" used to mean, but they are not so sure about it anymore...one gentleman, on hearing that I am part of Prairie Table Ministries, wondered if we use all that "Boom-Boom" music in our worship? He didn't like it he said, but he does realize a lot of people do. When I told him we didn't use (or rarely use) music in our worship, he was nonplussed. Bach chorales or Michael W. Smith are not the keys to the gates of heaven...you don't need music to worship God. This was something he could not process...How is it worship without music, he asked? Well, I said, we talk a lot. A lot.

The LateNite worship at Prairie Table is not a Taize-style endeavor, nor do we sing new songs or old songs or any songs much any more...We talk instead. We offer thoughts and opinions on God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and all through words rather than lyrics. One of my colleagues at seminary once asked how do we "control" that? Well, control isn't a big thing for us. But we figure if a song like "How Great Thou Art" can convey somewhat interesting theological ideas, someone who perused the internet and found something meaningful there isn't too far off track...

But "church" these days has to get out of finding new ways to do old things...we have to jettison the old things and find new things...maybe done in old ways...but why do music in worship if no one wants to sing? Why do a sermon if no one wants to listen or no one wants to preach? Since when has singing and preaching been the best ways to worship God? In my tradition we have defined "church" around a phrase "Word and Sacrament." But that phrase is code for "some professional we deem trustworthy." I'm sure the professionals appreciate the honor, but I am not sure God requires it. And if the people in Detroit Lakes, MN are representative, such an idea might just be the death of "church." They know the professionals are few and far between out there, but there must still be a way to worship God, right? Right? Right?

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if I totally understand what your blog is saying concerning "Church". Perhaps it is meant to make us think or re-think our definitions of "church", or be aware of how things have changed through the years.

However, I will try to explain my version of what it means to me.
"Church" used to be defined as a certain habit or ritual of attending an organized service of religious readings, songs, teachings, inspirational messages... called worship, usually held once a week.

I believe 'church' is the embodiment of Believers, no matter where they are located. Believers seek to learn more about Jesus, by reading & studying scripture, worshiping God together with other Believers, sharing love, conversation with God, with other Believers, and even unbelievers... sharing food, ideas, encouraging and helping others, & praying for one another. It's what we do in our daily lives, our interactions with one another.

I do think that Worship includes music along with sharing and hearing God's Word, (for me at least). Conversation is sharing what we have learned, feel, experienced or know & how it affects our daily lives, or sometimes conversation is used to question these things. There is a certain level of spirituality in music that raises one's awareness of God. In my opinion, worship would be less fulfilling without music.

letitbe said...

Right!

Chris M

Scott Frederickson said...

Dear Friends,
These thoughts I write are usually only meant to raise awareness around an issue, as I try to keep them succinct. "Church" had had many, and will probably get even more, definitions throughout the years...that being said, many people struggle with being the "embodiment" of Christ...and how that goes about (i.e., worship)is always a matter of taste. I love music in worship, but I don't have to have music to have worship...and around here worship without music is tough to find, so we offer that option.