The church we visited today had a rather casual mood. We believe its M.O. is typically informal, but perhaps today’s casual quotient was especially high since electronic technologies were not available, and there was a kind of “fly by the seat of your pants” thing going on.
To distinguish for a moment: while I view informal as almost always good in the church context, casual is not quite the same. Informal allows for a certain amount of personality and spontaneity and does not ask for fancy clothes or pews or pulpits—and doesn’t need pastor-types, either. Let it also be observed that one doesn’t have to throw intentionality and thoughtfulness overboard in order to be informal. Casual, on the other hand, can be fine in terms of overall assembly ethos, but we ought to establish some limits. Specifically, a casual approach to worship and God would be bad. (If we could check with a few famous personalities from the Hebrew Bible whose lives were divinely de-lengthened, this assessment would surely be confirmed.)
Today, with this very small church, I was a bit disappointed, but not overly surprised, at the casual approach. Personalities were in evidence (good) and some planning had clearly occurred (better), but there wasn’t a lot of meat to sink one’s teeth into, and it was clear that the expectations for depth are low on an ongoing basis. To be fair, this church is “in transition” (read has no paid staff at the moment), so the flux capacitor is probably running at half a gigawatt. It was good that, in lieu of standard musical praise, today’s leader asked for spontaneous expressions of praise for God’s perceived activity. My main disappointment came in seeing yet another church—one that has the potential to move in simpler, more organic directions—trapped in such institutional practices as full-length sermons, collection plates, and printed bulletins.
There’s really no need to apologize when church gatherings don’t look like traditional “church,” i.e., the church stuff we might’ve experienced in our lifetime, in our culture. I tend to be partial to primitivist approaches that attempt to recover the first-century dynamic and teaching, but these approaches can admittedly wander off course. On the other hand, responsibly and intentionally getting “back to the Bible”—really doing that, not just saying you’re doing it—can also illuminate the core, freeing would-be followers of Jesus from peripheral matters that distract.
We don’t need all the trappings. It can be simple.
Please check out this valuable blog from Roger Thoman, in which he says
Perhaps if we get Jesus right, and our imitation of Him in keeping with who He is, we will naturally get church right.
Here is another good quote to close on:
If you make disciples, you always get the Church. But if you make a church, you rarely get disciples. (@Mike_Breen)
For more of my posts that relate to simple/organic church, use this link.