the weblog of Alan Knox

Why keep the worship service?

Posted by on Jul 18, 2011 in gathering | 61 comments

Why keep the worship service?

Last week, we had a very good discussion on my post “Looking for the ‘Worship Service’.”

In this short post, I want to ask a different question: Why continue holding the “worship service”?

What do I mean? Well, most church understand that their “worship service” does not provide what is necessary for spiritual growth. Therefore, they add other programs such as small groups / Sunday school / Bible studies. They add activities for men, women, children, teenagers, and the elderly. They have special projects for singles or married couples.

Churches have learned that spiritual growth happens best in smaller groups where people can interact with one another, get to know one another, and grow toward Christ together. These kinds of things cannot happen in a larger group.

So, if people grow spiritually through these other activities and times of gathering together, why continuing holding the “worship service”?

What is gained from the worship service that cannot be gained through times of meeting together with smaller groups of believers?


61 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 7-18-2011

    You’re dangerous :)

  2. 7-18-2011

    I don’t know….

    but I personally do sometimes miss worshipping through music with many others. The experience of the big group praise is missing… lots of sisters/brothers all unified in praising together.

    Of course it’s done in smaller group settings!…. but it’s just different… it’s like the different between listening to one violinist at a wedding.. vs.. an orchestra performance….

    but I love music…. and all I’ve mentioned in this is ME… so I don’t know what to think about that…

  3. 7-18-2011

    As far as the traditional weekly worship/sermon service, I don’t see any need to keep it going. I believe the smaller group setting and daily shared life should be the focus. I do believe that larger gatherings are important, but shouldn’t be the focus and shouldn’t necessarily happen as often as they typically do now or even with the same structure.

    It’s too easy to get lost and forgotten in huge groups, especially when everyone is focused on one person or one small team of people doing all the ministry.

  4. 7-18-2011

    In Neil Cole’s book “Church 3.0″ he provides a fascinating section on the purpose and function of grouping of different sizes. He discusses groups ranging from 2-3 all the way to “the multitudes” and everywhere in between. It’s a great read, and crucial for the church, I think.

    It’s not that we need to eliminate the worship service; we just need to expect out of it only what it can, and should, accomplish.

  5. 7-18-2011

    Art,

    … and I hang around dangerous people… like you. :)

    Randi,

    My wife likes the music also.

    Quincy,

    Do you think it may be important to keep the worship service to help people transition from being a spectator to being a participant?

    Tim,

    I haven’t read that book yet. Do you remember Cole’s reasoning for believers meeting in large groups? Did he offer a format for those meetings? What should we expect from the worship service that we can’t get when meeting in smaller groups?

    -Alan

  6. 7-18-2011

    Growing up Roman Catholic, I still have a fondness for large cathedrals with soaring ceilings. I “feel” holy sitting in one of these with the smells of incense and holy water hanging in the air, and echoes and whispers wafting through the niche’s and statues. I feel peaceful and close to God. But does my emotional training make that a biblical place or a Christian experience that should be replicated and perpetuated? Does it warrant building and maintaining these massive structures so I and others can continue to experience cathedral-sanctum?

    And, how shall we assess our typical worship services? Based on our emotional attachment? Warm. Nice. Feel good. Peaceful, “close to God.” I remember these too with fondness.

    Biblically, there is a place for an “everyone together” gathering. I Cor 14:23 starts out “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place…” and this indicates that some times, not necessarily every week, everyone got together at one time and place. (It also indicates there were smaller meetings and other times believers gathered.)

    But can we describe this all-together-in-one-place gathering time as a time where we must necessarily limit function to professional musicians and rhetoricians? Does scripture warrant this becoming a sing-along concert by musician experts where we have tears streaming down our cheeks as we sway and sing choruses and where we have gathered to hear a powerful sermon by a single preacher? Just because we grew up this way, and like it, and remember it longingly, doesn’t mean we should continue to do so.

    In verse 26 we have, “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. **Let all things be done unto edifying.**” Even in the context of a large gathering, scripture anticipates a participatory openness by “every one of you” who gather at this time.

  7. 7-18-2011

    I agree with Tim, as long as we understand its limits and its purpose it can be an enjoyable experience, and a place of transition for new believers.

    One of the major drawbacks to the big meeting is cost. How much money do we dump in big cathedreals and auditoriums that could be used to serve the least of the brothers.

  8. 7-18-2011

    Love it Alan! Doing what is best for the Kingdom must come first. I gave up the worship service about 7 years ago and I do miss aspects of it. I got a break from parenting, I liked the music and the opportunity to hear someone speak who prepared something special.

    What the Kingdom has gained since I gave that up has been worth it. Disciples who make disciples. A Kingdom DNA that can be passed on without money or professional education. Oh there is so much.

    While I know God can use anything my perspective now is that more harm to the Kingdom is unintentionally done through the worship service then good.

  9. 7-18-2011

    What is gained from the worship service… everything since the entire thing is geared for me personally.

    The Sunday morning service is produced to meet all of my needs and desires. I am the one paying for this place, so give me what I want to hear. If not, I will find another place to meet my needs.

    Swanny

  10. 7-18-2011

    Great questions Alan!

    I think one could add questions like:

    Does the “worship service” need to be weekly? Could it not be monthly or quarterly?

    If it is not weekly, could it be that renting a facility once a month or once a quarter would make more sense than owning the facility?

    Maybe you asked it in a previous post, but why is it called “service” anyway? Who is getting served?

    Keep the conversation going!

    Blessings – Stan

  11. 7-18-2011

    Alan,

    I know I was being sarcastic (sorta). My real reply to this post is a tad long so I posted it over on my blog if you are interested in reading it.

    Swanny

  12. 7-18-2011

    Alan said: “Do you remember Cole’s reasoning for believers meeting in large groups? Did he offer a format for those meetings? What should we expect from the worship service that we can’t get when meeting in smaller groups?”

    Reduced to the simplest concepts, it’s like this:
    2-3: discipling
    4-7: leadership team
    12-15: family unit
    25-75: training
    100-150: relational network
    200-500: occasional public gathering
    over 500: very rare gathering of smaller groups that aren’t really connected to each other in any critical way.

    Basically, the smaller the group, the more its purpose is about transformation. The larger the group, the more it is about passing along information.

    Cole doesn’t offer a format for when each size group meets, only their purpose. I doubt he would advocate calling it a “worship service,” no matter the size. The reason I brought it up is that most churches’ worship service is based anywhere in the 25-over 500 group range. The problem is that there are 4 different group sizes included in that range, each with a different function. Yet, each church basically expects the same thing out of its service. And most don’t do anything smaller for intentional transformation and discipleship.

  13. 7-18-2011

    Art,

    I think you make a good point with 1 Corinthians 14:26. Even if Scripture does allow for a large group of believers gathering together, the purpose remains the same as the smaller group: the people working together to build up one another. This is NOT the same as one or two people working to build up all the rest.

    Terry,

    I agree that money should be a concern. So, what do you think should be the limits and purpose of the “worship service”?

    Darrell,

    I think a kingdom focus is a good way of looking at the issue. Of course, many would say that the worship service IS kingdom focused… I mean, the focus of the worship service is the king, right?

    Swanny,

    Thanks. I’ll definitely read your post. Here is a link if anyone else wants to read it: “Silent… but Deadly Thinking.”

    Stan,

    Yes, those are good questions. How do you think a meeting for a large group of believers would work best? What would be the purpose for such a meeting?

    Tim,

    I would love to hear more about the meetings of 100+. What did Cole mean by “passing along information”? Is that kind of communication still best done in large groups, or could e-communication would better?

    -Alan

  14. 7-18-2011

    Alan,

    If we understand that worship is 24/7, in whatever situation we find ourselves in, our attitude towards our Heavenly Father, ought to be worship.

    We have somehow got the idea in our head that there are some places we may be at of necessity, where our attitude cannot be that of worship.

    Worship is not relegated to a place, it is a state of heart, towards our triune God.

  15. 7-18-2011

    Cole writes of the 200-500 person group:

    “There is a time and a place for huge groups… We can usually cast vision, raise awareness, and collect resources. The group itself remains passive at this size; members are receptors of information but have little or no way to participate except by casting a vote at a business meeting, donating money, or receiving the activity of the leaders.”

  16. 7-18-2011

    Actually, our church spent time researching the issue of “where do we grow as individuals” and developed sort of a corporate philosophy about it. (I think they adopted/adapted something they had seen elsewhere, but it works….).

    Our church’s philosophy is that people will grow the most and experience the best “life in Christ” if they are actively participating in four areas:

    * Large corporate body worship. The big Sunday morning service where we worship together, the pastor shares vision & message for the body, etc. Our church calls this the “Living Room” environment.

    * Small group meetings. The mid-week Bible studies, small accountability groups, etc. Having a small group to meet with and develop more in-depth relationships, pray together, etc. The “Family Room” environment.

    * Personal Bible reading and prayer. We “feed” ourselves by studying the Word, spending time in prayer, hopefully on a daily basis. Our church calls this the “Kitchen” environment.

    * Sharing/helping/impacting the community. We take the gospel outside the walls of the church through service, missions, other ministries… including talking to your “neighborhood” of friends and family. We call it the “Neighborhood” environment.

    Using the “environments” of the Living Room, Family Room, Kitchen and Neighborhood is obviously just a nmemonic device to give folks a point of reference, but it does give us something to identify with. If a person is active in the four “environments” by attending church regularly, participating in a small group, reading/praying on their own and doing something to reach out to others, odds are that they have a pretty healthy walk with the Lord.

    It’s not meant to be a legalistic thing, just something that helps us see if we’re being balanced in our walk or not. And yes, the large church meeting has value, but if that’s all someone has, they are not going to experience growth as best they could.

  17. 7-18-2011

    Alan,

    How do you think a meeting for a large group of believers would work best? What would be the purpose for such a meeting?

    Perhaps the answer to the second question would aid in answering the first. Depending on the purpose of meeting together in a large group there could be a number of ways in which the meeting could work. The size of the large group and the culture in view also are considerations for answering it. So, I’m not able to answer those questions directly.

    What we have done when several house churches of 5-15 meet together as a larger group of say 70 is very different from what occurs with each group individually. However, with 70 we maintained the same basic elements from the smaller groups.

    Fellowship time. Intentionally make sure that the groups interacted with each other and not just each group interacting with itself and leaving out the others.

    Sharing a meal. We pretty much did it pot luck style, but with everyone pitching in for the meat to “cook out” as the culture does here. Then everyone eating together.

    Worship. This was pretty much determined by the limited number of musicians. We had several playing instruments together and allowing folks to request which songs to sing. Most of the house churches sing the same or similar songs. If one was requested that the musicians didn’t know then someone else would pick up a guitar and play it. Somewhat spontaneous, but very joyful.

    Teaching. With 70 people you just can’t have a conversational style of teaching. So, we had more of a lecture format teaching for this event (and some subjects are handled better in that format). However, we had 4-5 people teach shorter lessons. So, rather than one person talking for an hour, we had each person talk for 10-15 minutes.

    This took place in a rented location – a large gazebo at a large pond. It was an all day event – about 6 hours for fellowship together. The groups meet weekly in their homes. The celebration time together is every 3-4 months.

    I think we could probably do this with even 100-120 people. Many more than that and it would probably be logistically too complicated with food preparation and everyone choosing songs.

    I think one of the difficulties the modern church must overcome is realizing that what they do on Sunday morning is not what the 3,500 did in Jerusalem in the Temple Courts. A great exercise is to look at that description in Acts 2 of the early believers and try to sort out which activities listed took place in the Temple Courts and which took place from house to house.

  18. 7-18-2011

    the ‘environments’ was taken from andy stanley’s “starting point” if i remember correctly.

  19. 7-18-2011

    Alan I would be interested in hearing more of your opinion (especially if you have some scripture) on the topic. I often get bogged down by the corporate nature of “Sunday Service”

    Darrell

    My question for you is does going to a 90 minute service really keep you from making Disciples?

  20. 7-18-2011

    Aussie John,

    Obviously, if we hold a “worship service” we are both “worshiping” and “serving”… right? ;)

    Tim,

    It’s the “passive” part that I have an issue with. In Scripture, the benefit that we have of meeting together is in our mutual interaction with one another. Any type of meeting where the majority of people are “passive” automatically removes the mutual aspect.

    Dan,

    Have you found anything in Scripture that suggests that the “large corporate body worship” is beneficial to the church?

    Stan,

    Besides using the label “worship” for music and singing, I don’t think I disagree with anything that you describe. I think when Paul said, “Whenever you meet together, do everything for the purpose of edification,” he really meant whenever you meet together. I see that in your description.

    Randi,

    What if we determined (however we might discover it) that singing in a large group was not beneficial toward our spiritual growth, even though we liked it alot. Would that be important?

    Kevin,

    My concern is primarily to see the church meeting for mutual edification. There are several passages of Scripture (beginning with 1 Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 4:7-16, and Hebrews 10:19-25) that show us that the church grows in maturity when the whole church works together, not when only a few among the church work while the rest receive.

    -Alan

  21. 7-18-2011

    Hi Kevin. Glad you are thinking about this. It is so important. The answer to your question is attending good churches for the first 40 years of my life did keep me from making disciples. I did a lot of great things those 40 years. I taught Sunday school, I put on and spoke at men’s retreats, I was in 100%.

    Since I left that about 5 years ago God has blessed me with seeing many come to faith and become disciple makers. I have even observed that if God allows me to bring someone to saving faith in Christ and they begin to “attend church” they do not become disciple makers. Rather they become church goers.

    Before I focused on teaching people to obey everything Jesus commanded I was just telling people what Jesus said. It was not until I began to actually be about making disciples who actually obey Jesus and teach others to do the same I never understood anything like the topic of this blog. In my experience it is not until someone is actually daily focused on this kind of disciple making that they don’t get it.

  22. 7-18-2011

    Alan,

    I agree. That’s why we have to make sure each group size is designed for its specific function. That’s why I brought this all up in the first place. In the larger gatherings, we can really only cast vision and raise awareness. This is the easiest setting in which to do this, and by its very nature, most people have to be passive in that setting. However, in the smaller settings is where each person becomes actively involved in the vision that was cast. We need both/all in my opinion. The problem is that most churches expect discipleship and transformation to happen in these larger gatherings, and it’s just not going to happen.

  23. 7-18-2011

    Darrell,

    I would not say that the typical “worship service” completely stops the ability to make disciples. Instead, I think they hinder and limit discipleship.

    Tim,

    Who “casts the vision” and who “raises awareness”? If we place these responsibilities in the hands of a few, then I think we’re back where we started. I’ve yet to meet a leader who knew what vision God had given each of the other believers. The best thing we can do is help one another live according to the vision, gifting, and opportunities that God has given each one… then work together to build his kingdom, embracing our different visions, giftings, and opportunities.

    -Alan

  24. 7-18-2011

    Alan asked: “Who “casts the vision” and who “raises awareness”?”

    Leaders. And yes, I think there should be leaders in the church. And yes, I think leadership in the church is Biblical. And yes, having leaders does appear to be putting some responsibilities into “the hands of a few.” Not everyone is a leader. I think that’s a good thing. I think God designed His church that way.

  25. 7-18-2011

    Tim,

    I definitely agree that there are leaders among the church. When I read Jesus’ words, however, I see him saying that leaders are those who serve, not those who exercise authority over others or those who make decisions for others. In fact, I think when Jesus said, “It shall not be so among you,” he was showing that leading among the church is exactly the opposite of what we typically see demonstrated as leadership (among the church) today.

    -Alan

  26. 7-19-2011

    Yep Alan I agree! Limit and hinder! I have not experienced that but I agree it does!

  27. 7-19-2011

    Darrell
    So agree with typical church on the way things typically go at churches, big programs “us four and no more” instead of boy scouts churchs create boys brigade, awanas etc.. and how that distracts from being about the real business.

    Here is what I can’t get away from, the Church is Biblical, elders, deacons, equipping the saints, communion, baptism….so I know the Church model is broken do I(you, people) stay and persevere, fight for change or bounce? I am not asking for specific advice just discussing the topic.

  28. 7-19-2011

    Great questions Kevin! Bottom line is you must follow the King. You will answer to Him and Him alone. Make sure that when you stand before Him He will say well done good and faithful servant.

    I would say that I am doing the very best by living out as best I know what the scripture shows is church. I have done more this way then I ever did trying to change the old wineskin. I can already see profound changes for generations to come from the path God has lead me on.

    If you have not read the book “Church Planting Movements” by David Garrison I would recommend it. God used it in a profound way in my life.

    We have one life. We are on the clock. It is not “THEIR” fault that things are the way they are…ITS OUR fault things are not better. Whatever you do, don’t keep doing what you’ve been doing unless it is making disciples that obey Jesus and teach others to do the same.

  29. 7-19-2011

    Darrell

    So taking it off the individual and speaking more general/corporate what is the answer?

    Change current churches (with Elders, deacons, communion, baptism etc) to be less internal (program driven) focused (teaching classes on how to instead of the model Jesus gave which is teaching/training as he went, on the job training?

    or scrap corporate church, meet solely in homes like small group style?

    No gathering at all..

    Alan what do you see is the alternative. Is the current system is broken what is the correct system?

  30. 7-19-2011

    Darrell and Kevin,

    Good discussion, please keep it up.

    Let’s remember that even small groups of believers are “corporate.” There does not have to be a large number for it to be corporate.

    Also, one of the reasons that I hesitate to suggest that anyone leave “their church” or to stop attending “worship services” is because their brothers and sisters are there. If you understand the shortcomings of the traditional church and worship services, you may be able to help others understand their need for mutual edification, not attending a service. If you separate from them, I’m betting they won’t listen to you.

    Finally, ceasing to have a “worship service” does not mean that the church does not need elders or deacons, or that the church should not eat meals as the Lord’s Supper together, or that the church should not baptize. These are all possible and important even if you meet in some way other than having a “worship service.”

    -Alan

  31. 7-19-2011

    Great questions Kevin. You asked what I thought so here is some of my thoughts. My opinion is that those who are able to change and GO to the lost need to GO. There are so few workers in America who will go to America. Everyone whats to stay in their churches and try and change them. I guess that is better then staying and not trying to change them, but in the meantime the world around us is getting more and more lost…at least where I live. I have friends who are trying influence their church to change. Honestly I have seen very little benefit. My opinion is that the everyone is way more concerned about changing the institutional church and not concerned enough about the world around them growing darker. The bottom line for me is that if someone is part of a church that looks very institutional but it uses the money for the Kingdom first, it has multiplying disciples who are in love with Jesus, if it really is a group of people who are part of each others lives where leaders are the servants then I say ROCK ON!

    If you are a GOER then the old way of Church will not work. If you want the Kingdom to spread all the bottlenecks must be removed. I recommend reading the book Church Planting Movements to get an idea of what I am talking about.

  32. 7-19-2011

    Here is the thing. We who are reading here don’t get to decide to whether the church ditches the worship service or not. The vast majority of our brothers and sisters continue to meet in this way despite what we think.

    So what do we do about that? Shake the dust from our sandals?

  33. 7-19-2011

    I agree Alan. Good discussion. I am finding that trying to change the fabric of the worship service is a “dog that wont hunt”, especially if you are not official leadership. The main reason I see, is that if you take each segment of the worship service and evaluate it, for the most part, there is nothing wrong with it.

    For example, expository preaching, singing songs, praying, testifying…these are all good things in the proper context. Most people who engage and defend the worship service have not seen the need for mutual edification and the need for all the saints to participate(or have the opportunity) when we gather.

    Alan, from my perspective I am not sure anything is gained in the worship service alone that cannot be better inculcated in mutual edifying gatherings. It’s the system that is broken not the church. However, it seems most believers subscribe to a broken system,and you can’t change something if you don’t know it’s broken.

    The worship service is comfortable, non-threatening, and can be fun. It does not, for the most part, engage people nor challenge them. It’s easy to get lost in the typical service, and go home and never have been touched by the gospel. There is very little accountability.

    However, in saying all of that, any time the name of Jesus is spoken or lifted up, people will be blessed and can be changed. It’s just that once your appetite has been whetted by the mutually edifying gatherings it is hard to do anything else.

    My kids don’t understand the difference between Texas beaches and the Caribbean. They have never been to the Caribbean. But once you have been to the Caribbean, Texas beaches no longer have much appeal. But if you ask them if they like going to the beach here in Texas they will want to go back. So I think it is important to show people and serve people into mutually edifying scenarios…..

  34. 7-19-2011

    Alan,

    Whilst I was reading the comments, 1 Cor.1:18-19, came to mind. Why? I don’t know, but felt compelled to add it to the conversation.

  35. 7-19-2011

    Alan asked: “Have you found anything in Scripture that suggests that the “large corporate body worship” is beneficial to the church?”

    I look at certain NT events — Jesus teaching large groups (feeding 5K), Peter preaching at pentecost, Paul teaching in city center… even the disciples assigning deacons so apostles can focus on teaching — seem to point towards model of having larger gathering, even though most growth occurs in smaller setting.

    If only value was found in small group setting, I think Jesus would’ve only kept to task of teaching small groups of disciples, but he didn’t. Primary area for growth came in small group setting with Jesus, but he didn’t abandon large group altogether. Having a large group setting gives opportunity for visitors to check things out in a “comfortable” setting and “get their feet wet” before making commitment.

  36. 7-19-2011

    Arthur,

    I think that is an extremely important point and question.

    Jack,

    You said, “So I think it is important to show people and serve people into mutually edifying scenarios…” Yes. That is very important.

    Aussie John,

    The way of God is often seen as foolishness.

    Dan,

    Do you think it’s important that your examples show someone speaking in a context other than a gathering of believers? In fact, most of them (perhaps all) would be more similar to evangelistic meetings than church meetings.

    -Alan

  37. 7-19-2011

    Why keep the worship service? I have been asking myself this for at least 6 years. I have no answers that are biblical but wanted to say how excited I was to find someone else asking the same question.

  38. 7-20-2011

    Darrell i hear ya and for the most part (if not all of it) agree with you. However I just cant shake my self of being part of a local church, i might be as jaded as they come when it comes to Church but just feel no matter how screwed up it has gotten that its ordained by God.

    Dan. My problem with using the worship service as a “front door” is when did Jesus allow people to get comfortable and get their feet wet before committing? He said let the dead bury themselves, told them to drop their nets and follow Him. To me the worship service should be the Body celebrating what God has been doing through their obedience praising God and worshipping Him together encouraging each other as they “hit the streets” again the next day or even later that day.
    But who knows maybe im smoking crack.

  39. 7-20-2011

    En un culto ¿donde está la posibilidad del sacerdocio del creyente? ¿Como se puede ejercitar y desarrollar?
    Estoy a favor de otro tipo de encuentros masivos

    In a worship where there is the possibility of the priesthood of the believer? Since it is possible to exercise and develop?
    I am in favour of other types of massive meetings

  40. 7-20-2011

    Israel was also often faced with the question, “is it broken, or not?” For those who thought it was broken, they were faced with what to do about it. Wed have many good examples to follow (I think especially for today, those responding to Israel’s captivity: Daniel, Ezra, Haggai, and Zechariah), and many wrong paths to avoid (choosing to have a human King “like all the other nations”), in her history of failures, restorations and their halting pursuit of God.

    Stephen laid out the case in Acts 7 that Israel was historically and presently broken. It was broken because the people were, “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.”

    We in the church have proven no different. We have the structures and practices we have because they largely suit us, leaving us with a form of godliness that does not interfere with our passions to pursue the things of the world we most value. Whatever excuses and defenses we make today will vaporize in His presence in that day.

    So, what shall we in our time do about the catastrophic state of the church? It cannot be to do nothing.

    If we were able to restore more biblical ways of being together, ways more faithful to His design and functions, would that change our hearts and open our ears to Him? Is that what’s broken, or is that the symptom?

    Each of us will have different answers, but they need to be honest, courageous answers, for the times call for lives of true worship of Him who held back nothing and gave up everything.

  41. 7-20-2011

    Art

    I agree that doing nothing is not an option. The question becomes one of working within the system to see change or leaving and inviting others to do the same. I am not sure it is quite that cut and dried but I am concerned that we are in danger of becoming a subset of the church that takes our ball and goes home. That is great for purposes of purity in practice. In terms of unity in the church? Not so sure. This is the question that is plaguing me lately.

  42. 7-20-2011

    Arthur

    Having tried my hand at both many times over the past 35 years, the question of unity is always present. The way I’ve come to understand the church, is that the local church is based on locality, not on legal incorporations or denominations, etc. It is quite reasonable for the local church to meet in smaller groupings–congregations–but it isn’t OK to think of ourselves as separate or different or unassociated with all the other saints/congregations in our locality. That is the underlying unity I strive towards.

    For me, this means I prefer gathering with the saints I gather with regularly on other than Sunday morning. That leaves us free to also join in with/visit other local congregations when they meet on Sunday. I see my Christian coworkers in the workplace/classes as fellow local church folk, and treat them with that respect and mutual concern.

    I’m also coming to think the best way to help the local church change (read that as the bunch of presently separated churches in a single locality) is to see functional alternatives, sort of what the Thessalonian did for the churches of their day, that continue to network and connect/reconnect among varieties of saints. With changed lives and more intimate, encouraging, accepting ways of being together becoming more evident, and by staying in contact/communion/fellowship with others in other sorts of congregations/at work/classes/neighborhoods, we might have the best chance for substantive local church change.

    Then, of course, you have some that will have a concern to also reach beyond our own localities…

  43. 7-20-2011

    Art, I love that second paragraph!

  44. 7-20-2011

    Lydia,

    I like to ask questions, so stick around.

    Kevin,

    Being part of a local group of believers who meet together regularly (i.e. “local church”) does not necessitate having a “worship service.”

    Juanjo Gómez,

    You’re correct. In the traditional “worship service,” only a few are allowed to function, not the whole church.

    Art,

    I like the idea of showing functional alternatives, as long as we are also willing to fellowship with those who disagree.

    Arthur,

    That’s the same question that’s been plaguing me.

    -Alan

  45. 7-20-2011

    Alan, I am working some thoughts out on that very question.

  46. 7-20-2011

    Guys this is not about “leaving” its about GOING. Even if you worked out all the problems with your church there is still only a small percentage of people who will come to it. There MUST be those who TAKE THE KINGDOM TO those who don’t know the King. Those churches started will not look anything like yours because these people are very different. In order for the great commission to be fulfilled church must be different. It must be cheaper, simpler and it must multiply better and faster then the current version of church. All of what I said would be pie in the sky except that it is working all over the world. We need those who will GO and bring the Kingdom.

    Any takers?

  47. 7-20-2011

    Alan Asked: “What is gained from the worship service that cannot be gained through times of meeting together with smaller groups of believers?”

    Doug Replies: “job security for the clergy”

  48. 7-20-2011

    Arthur,

    Good! I can’t wait to read them.

    Darrell,

    Yes, we are all called to “Go!” What do we take with us when we go? Obviously we take Christ. But, those we go to will probably begin meeting in the same way that we meet. I’ve been to two third world cities which had vastly different culture from our culture and from each other. But, guess what their church meetings looked like…

    Doug,

    I was wondering if someone was going to suggest that…

    -Alan

  49. 7-20-2011

    Alan,

    Sadly, we taught too many countries how to do church our way.

  50. 7-20-2011

    Oh my Alan you really need to read Church Planting Movements. Your understanding and experience is not what I am talking about at all. Guy Muse can confirm what I am saying.

    There is a whole new breed of missionary and disciple who only brings Jesus to people and lets them figure out how they like to meet. It’s true. Millions have come to Christ this way and spreading the Kingdom this way.

  51. 7-20-2011

    Alan,
    So your wife too likes the music? How does she get her music fixes? With your church? Or does she go to concerts too?
    Randi :)

  52. 7-20-2011

    Art,

    Yes, we did. And, in some ways, we still are.

    Darrell,

    Yes, I know Guy. I’m excited about what he’s doing in Ecuador. I’ve also talked with him about some of the priorities of the churches from the United States who come to help him.

    Randi,

    Radio… sometimes she doesn’t get her fix.

    -Alan

  53. 7-20-2011

    Alan,
    and your other question/response (what if we found that singing in large groups wasn’t beneficial to our spiritual growth)…

    that’s what I don’t know. Am I doing it for me or for God? I go back and forth….

    I figure we are gonna do it in heaven — and many scripture talks of singing & praising Him through song… so we ought to and I’m sure God loves it… but that doesn’t mean what size… but I say we should be soo excited if there ARE many who want to praise His name through song.

    I know HE is who made me love music… so if I’m gonna do it (go to concerts, partake in it, participate in it, enjoy it, love it).. I know He would love for me to participate in ones praising HIS name… So if a big group is available to do it – then that’s great…. I just haven’t found one I fit with… that doesn’t condemn me for only wanting to stay for music…..

    then all that being said…. I argue with myself and say a small group is just fine, Randi!! work with what you’ve got because when you sing, you are joining with the spiritual realm…. so there’s ALWAYS a LARGE singing when you are… even if YOU can’t see/hear them! :) not about what YOU can see/hear! :)

    and then I argue with myself and say…. yeah but it sure is encouraging and stirs my affection to Christ to see SO many praising His name! :)

  54. 7-20-2011

    good point about 3rd world countries having such a different culture and yet their ‘church services’ looking so similiar to ours… or those who ‘brought them Christ’

  55. 7-20-2011

    Darrell

    I don’t think anyone is discounting the “GO” but there is a huge community component of the church that we cannot just approach with a “let’s hope for the best” attitude. An immature, divided and dysfuncitonal church Body is a) not a positive witness to the world we are called to reach and b) not the sort of church that is going to “GO” anyway. The other issue is the millions of our brothers and sisters that are already Christians that we are called into a family relationship with, how do we see that reality?

  56. 7-20-2011

    Randi,

    I like the way you argue with yourself. :)

    Arthur,

    I’m in favor of any believer sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with unbelievers. But, I do agree with you that there is an added benefit when that believer also understands the importance of living in community with others.

    -Alan

  57. 7-20-2011

    I just wish I could win some arguments once in a while!! :)

  58. 11-14-2012

    I came across this post in doing a web search for the reason we call a church service a service. Does it mean we are serving God? Does it mean we are serving each other? It mostly appears to be a small group of people serving the larger group. The large group appears to be mainly spectators, consumers. Who are we serving?

    As far as small group versus large group, I think the Sunday morning service actually competes with the small group gathering in that people are so busy these days, many don’t have time for multiple church gatherings. So when “forced” to choose they will go with the large gathering because this is “real church” in their minds. This is regrettable because I think the growth really happens in a small group environment.

    Besides busyness, I think there is another dynamic that happens in the small group that keeps many people from coming – you can no longer be a spectator.

    I fear Christianity in many people’s minds has been reduced to a checklist – Praise music? Check. Lord’s Prayer? Check. Scripture reading? Check. Sermon? Check. Lord’s Supper? Check. Been baptized? Check. etc., etc. – I’ve done my duty, I’ve satisfied God, I’m a Christian in good standing. It’s form without substance. One kind of person Sunday morning, a different kind of person the rest of the week. All these elements are Biblical and valuable, but if they aren’t transforming, we are deceiving ourselves and wasting our time.

    That being said, I know there are many sincere, hard-working, devoted saints who don’t fall in the description I’ve painted above, and there are some on-fire churches that function well above this level, but if we are talking about overall effectiveness, I question the traditional Sunday morning service. It’s too spectator-oriented. It’s too anonymous.

  59. 11-17-2012

    Patrick,

    I started my journey toward determining how the church was described in Scripture when I decided to look into the “worship service” in Scripture.

    -Alan

  60. 6-24-2013

    “why continuing holding the “worship service”?”

    …because we don’t know how to do anything else. We wouldn’t know where to begin without the organization of an institution. Its in our embedded into our mental thinking to consider the worship service as the starting place of all things “Jesus”.
    In years of old, the church and its worship service was the center peice of the local community. Although religious evolution has moved us in to a different purpose, our roots in the traditional church “service” remain well established.

    I can think of other more cynical reasons why we wouldn’t the worship service but I see no point in expressing those.

    I have questioned the worship service many times myself and have asked others about it. The question of doing away with the worship service is normally met with a look of puzzlement. The idea of not having “church,” in the tradition sense, is just too far of a reach – its a foreign concept to be embraced only by the poor and/or persecuted. Besides, where would the clergy work?
    – (that was some of the cynicism i mentioned)

    To use a term I ripped-off from a guy who I will not name here but his initials are, “Alan Knox,” Connections is a hybrid of sorts. I do see, at times, where the structure of our gathering hinders some from functioning as they would in a smaller setting. But to our credit, I will say that most of the people understand that the principles of the New Testament do function relativily well although or proceedures mimic traditional church. That last term i used, (principles vs procedures), was plagiarized from a former Roman Catholic friend named Art M who lives in NC. But I don’t want to divulge his name either :)

  61. 6-24-2013

    Doug,

    Thank you for continuing this discussion on your blog. I’ll make sure that Mr. M knows that you’ve been talking about him. :)

    -Alan

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Why a “Worship Service” | Douglas Rea - [...]   Alan Knox has written a thought provoking post titled: “Why keep the worship service?” [...]