I'm sitting at church. It's break time between worship and teaching. If you are a church-goer, you know the drill. At our fellowship, we start with a kid song (freaks out visitors), follow it up with some interruptions or moment that feels a little forced during the worship time, and you can't start communion or teaching without some form of "I've been thinking about…" in the first sentence. We struggle with sound quality, no stage makes eye contact with worship leaders difficult, and the whole experience lacks polish and aesthetic appeal.
These things drive me nuts. I love the community and the practical aspects of the body of believers we are committed to. I love how needs are met and how the relationships are organic and real.
Most of what annoys me comes from three sources: younger generations that are not empowered to make change, the counter-cultural genesis of the fellowship, and my inability to just accept the things that annoy me and "deal with it."
You can't force elders to delegate. I can change my attitude but there is an issue that will prevent that solution from advancing more than halfway to resolution.
I've blogged many times about being different in how we do church. I've commented much on not being focused on church growth for its own sake and being insiders in our culture. We need nonconventional churches and outreach/evangelism.
We also need traditional Sunday morning church forms that combine excellence with Biblical community values.
My fellowship does the counter-cultural thing well. We do the community thing really well. We do not, however, give people an experience on Sunday mornings that is conducive to them experiencing this long term.
I'm beginning to feel that having all the right things in place to meet our collective needs as a body isn't enough if our style and aesthetic does not allow others the chance to come. We have lots of visitors. They rarely stay. We have tons of children. They grow up to populate other churches. We are the same size we were in 1997 despite having the spiritual foundation so many are craving. We need to eliminate hoakiness and focus on aesthetic excellence.
Focus on production and being an "attractional" and competitive church model is poison. What is critical is marrying Biblical community with aesthetics that make the visitation and transition to a community of believers as compelling and comfortable as possible. This aesthetic effort is imperative if we believe the lost and hurting deserve Christ-centered community and believe in the concept of meeting people where they are at.
Few fellowships have the balance figured out. Although we need to be comfortable with all forms of worship and outreach and be unconventional in our thinking, those of us who "do church" on Sundays need to work doubly hard to balance being different with culturally relevant aesthetics. Eliminate hoakiness, distractions, and give visitors an experience that keeps them coming until they experience true community. This takes time. Spend a little time polishing the presentation. Seem superficial? Maybe. We lose most during the transitional time that involves them seeing little more than whether we care about excellence and doing things well. If we can't get music and style right, how can they trust us to have what matters figured out? I've been praying we figure this out and I hope your fellowship does too.
To be "insiders" in our culture requires Sunday morning services that are desirable and spiritually mature. It is a tough calling but easy was never in the job description of faithful living and loving our neighbors.