Over time, various traditions appear — and remain — in churches. I’ve chosen two relatively unimportant sub-cultural conventions as illustrations, before highlighting a more significant one.
One—the greeter. In many churches, either by decree or by choice, someone serves as a greeter. For as long as I can remember, I have found this convention slightly annoying. Whether the greeter was 1) a person in my own church that I didn’t particularly want to represent us all, or, in an unfamiliar church, was 2) a person that I merely wanted to bypass without the bother of the obligatory questions and handshake, I figure these greeters can make better use of their time. This is obviously merely an opinion; it comes partly from my personality type and partly from my observations of inefficiencies and ineffectivenesses in organizations.
Two–the “worship band.” These days, in any church that purports to be “happenin’,” it’s assumed that a praise band of some sort will be part and parcel of the assembly. The praise band has become a convention. In the last few years, I have tired of this method/model and have been ready to put it aside . . . but, back in February, the Sons of Thunder group in Searcy, AR convinced me that it still has a place, when used skillfully and rightly. I’ve seen and heard probably 150-200 different bands/teams in live settings, and the men who led in a building just off Race Street seemed to have both musical skill and insight into how to lead hearts. The praise team or worship band model, although not much more than a trendy, culture-bound convention, is not necessarily without merit.
Three–the centerpiece of the assembly. The question which event serves as the centerpiece of the Christian Assembly? is perhaps less subject to ephemeral trends than either of the above. By that, I mean there is less vacillation through the years, decades, and centuries. However, consider this foundational dichotomy:
In evangelicalism, there is generally a preacher- (sermon-) centered assembly.¹ Even if the pastor or preacher does not do several things, including announcements and some worship leading and praying, as well as delivering a sermon, most people in the pews get a clear sense that everything that is done leads toward, and then away from, his sermon. The sermon’s central nature is a convention. Think of your predominant experience in, say, a Baptist group, a Church of Christ group, a community church group, or an Assembly of God group, and you will likely find a sermon-centric approach.
In Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism, there is an even more longstanding convention: the eucharist-centered “service.”¹ (See footnote below.) This might be said of Lutheranism and other groups, too. The scripture-based emphasis on remembering Jesus Christ’s sacrifice was morphed into a mystical, highly charged set of practices. In these “liturgical” churches, the convention is a communion-based approach.
Perhaps oddly, and perhaps not, the Church of Christ and Christian Church find themselves situated among both the above groups, to some extent: the importance placed on the delivery of rather information-laden sermons, the one hand, and the ritual, weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, on the other, have long been hallmarks of this category of churches.
Consider 1) the sermon/message/homily and 2) the Lord’s Supper/communion.
Is one more important than the other?
If so, why?
What else — an idea or a practice — could be said to be important on the “centerpiece” level?
I hope to gain from your responses to the above questions. And/or, if you prefer, use the poll below to register your opinions more quickly.
¹ I intentionally used the word “service” when referring to liturgical churches here, although I rarely use that term when referring to what the church does when it gathers. For more on the distinction between worship and service, and some rationale for the assertion that the two should not be joined in the expression “worship service,” see these posts: