These opinions come from an 18-year-old letter, written to a now-dear friend, describing some of my “church values” at the time. The bulk pertains to what I called “Assembly as a Small Group,” followed by some material about large-group celebrations, i.e., periodic gatherings of multiple cells or small groups, assembled as one large group.
On the activities of the gathered (small) group
One home assembly might be filled with my thoughts, my music, music I shared from my collection of other artists’ work, and reactions and reflections on all that from the whole group. The next assembly might begin with a bunch of songs in sing-along fashion, moving right into an extended time of prayer. And the next might be a group reading of Revelation, stopping from time to time for comments about the awesomeness of God. I don’t believe that there is a God-originated list of five acts of worship, I hope you know, and resultantly, I would not feel the need to incorporate all of the traditional five, or all the eleven or twelve we might come up with, for that matter, into each assembly. There might be no reading or instruction in one session, only praying in the next, and only music in the next.
The formula for spending of time would evolve over the life of the small group. To some degree, the wants of the group would be translated into how it spent its time. Generally, at least half the time spent should be unplanned, I think. Large slices of time would be devoted to praise and worship music and to spoken praying.
I would personally share [contemporary] music as I felt it appropriate. Not always “on task” but sometimes just to share something God produced through me. I would be careful to qualify these sharings as just some of the things that worship leaders can do. Others in the group would regularly be invited — both on-the-spot and with preparation and planning — to share their worship thoughts. Poems, songs written by others. Visually artistic creations. Readings (both scripture and non). Just thoughts from the heart in no particular artistic form. Anything that is meaningful to a soul in his/her walk is fair game.
I’d like to experiment with [dramatic sketches]. I realize as I write that I’ve seen very little casually produced drama that was really impactful in my view, so I’m not sure how much drama done by us in the group could be used in the regular gatherings. Personally, I really like to act, and I’d like to develop in that area. I think an occasional prepared skit would be a terrific addition to the small group assemblies. And “reader’s theater” types of drama could perhaps be done more regularly as a means of getting everyone into the act (pun intended) on the spot.
Praying might well be the most important component of worship. It is the time when the heart pours itself out to God. It can be individual, even when a group is gathered together. And perhaps it should primarily be individual (there are only a couple of N.C. examples of “public prayer”). But the out-loud group praying is something I have a few well-defined thoughts on.
I don’t prefer the “chain prayer” method. I think that contributes to a ritualistic mentality. Not everyone should be constrained to pray aloud all the time. Rather, the atmosphere should be one of conversation. Conversation with the Lord, in this respect, should be just like conversation with a human: words are alternately exchanged by the parties to the conversation, as thoughts come to mind. We stop to listen when we sense that the other person has something to say, and we talk when we believe we can contribute something of value and meaning to the conversation.
VCR/Snatches from movies. I like that idea and had not considered it much before the last few months. Popular movies (those in good taste!) can be tools that communicate a strong relevance and up-to-date-ness, I think. Without opportunity to show a cut from it, I once used “Pretty Woman,” which on one level is in questionable taste, to highlight God’s grace. I saw Edward, the millionaire, as God, who instilled a new identity into Julia Roberts (she was a hooker). He made her what she was, regardless of her past, regardless of her lack of understanding, and though she was totally undeserving. Of course, that particular analogy breaks down when the temporary nature of the arrangement is considered (Edward left after a week), but during the relationship, Julia Roberts really had become “pretty,” and you could see it all over her face. The grace received had changed her inside out. Just an example . . . .
To be continued . . .