For whatever reason, we have a lot of people who visit our community on Sunday mornings. This is all fine and dandy. But, a thought occurred to me recently. I often want to tell those visitors that you can’t
judge draw final conclusions about The Well (or any church for that matter) based on one Sunday morning visit.
A few reasons:
- We have a team of people who preach. I preach maybe twice a month. Because of this team approach to preaching, you can’t come once and draw specific conclusions about the preaching style of our community. I am more emotional/big picture. Gary, our other pastor, is more of an intellectual and “rubber meets the road” kind of guy. David, a seminarian, preaches about once a quarter and is highly intellectual and academic. Shanna who has recently joined the rotation brings a unique but similar style as me. We often have people from within and outside of our church share as well. Each and every one of us brings such a valuable perspective to the leadership of our community and it would be possible to get all that in one visit.
- Much of our worship service is lay led. The different aspects of our liturgy are led by a team of non-seminary trained (gasp!) people. And we love it this way. This regular parts of our liturgy are: call to worship, prayer, scripture reading, benediction. Our weekly communion time is led by someone on our leadership team. But, since there are so many different people up front, you get a variety of perspectives week in and week out. So, while we have a similar order of service each week, it is very different. We love this approach for a few reasons. First, the word liturgy literally means, “the work of the people.” It’s cool to have our weekly worship time literally be “a work of the people.” Second, one of my critiques of the Western Church is that pastors spend way too much time planning and organizing the two hours on Sunday morning. With this approach, since the responsibilities are spread around to gifted people, the pastors don’t have to spend crazy amounts of hours planning the perfect worship gathering. We’ve left behind a lot of the video production and slick stuff much for this reason. Coming together as a community for worship each week should not take up most of our ministry time. The only weeks that I put a large amount of preparation into our worship gatherings are the weeks that I am preaching. Even then, I try to take the approach put forth in Chris Eardman’s fantastic book on preaching. Okay, that last part was a tangent. I’ll continue on…
- Lastly, and most importantly, so much of our community life and mission together happens in the unofficial moments of our life together. Sure, you’ll see and hear a lot of stuff we’re doing in the announcements, preaching and even the bulletin but if you really want to see what we’re all about then you’ve really got to stick around a bit and take part in the more organic and non-programmed parts of our life together. And, since most of our life together is non-programmed, this can’t all be seen by coming on one Sunday for two hours.
Now, all that said, we work really hard to make our sunday gatherings a good expression of our life together. We try to celebrate our shared faith in the risen Messiah and our shared call to be a community for the sake of others. If you come visit on a sunday, I hope you’ll get a glimpse of who we are and who and what we are for. But, just keep in mind, its only a glimpse. I’d venture to guess this is true of most every church but it is especially true of ours.
Update: Note, “judge” is a strong word and I am not trying to be defensive here. I don’t really have too much baggage here. Maybe a better title for this should be “don’t draw final conclusions about my church from one visit.” Please, do feel free to visit The Well. We love having extended family worship with us. Just keep in mind these thoughts. That’s all.