Questioning the church status quo

January 11, 2003

I read an ooze article about visiting a church that had all the cool postmodern trappings on the outside, but really wasn’t on the inside. There are many churches that try to adopt “it” (whatever it happens to be at the time) in order to attract “them.” But the Incarnation shows us God’s plan: to reach them, you must enter their world and become of them. And goodness, if there’s one trait of postmoderns, it’s that they see through phoniness.

In some ways, City Vineyard is the opposite: we’re somewhat “un-cool” on the outside, but have an attitude that this postmodern at least finds refreshing, welcoming and genuine. Still, I think it would be nice to see changes in the externals — and we’re starting to. Now that we have our own place, we’ve got art on the walls, and Dave has started to experiment with video (though if we’re going to show movie clips, we really need to get a church video license).

But what about exploring other expressions of worship altogether?

The “what is church?” folks (a Vineyard in Florida) are taking bold steps to break out of the mold, “beginning a period of discovering what worship looks like in our community.” If you really want to blow your mind, check out the alternative worship site.

So on the one hand, I want to toss all practices to the wind and see where the wind blows us. I think that one of the gifts I have to offer the church is to question the status quo. (Unfortunately, this is a gift that is usually not appreciated by those who run the status quo.) But the ooze article offers the warning that you can change everything you “do” and still have it all wrong—especially if you simply copy what someone else is doing because it’s “cool.” The “what is church?” blog puts it this way:

Worship in community is not a cookie-cutter, microwaved endeavor. It is a process, unique to the gifts and creativity expressed in an actual group of Christians following the Holy Spirit. Copying what ‘works’ somewhere else is a ridiculous notion. This must be discovered, almost stumbled upon, imperfectly, slowly, patiently.

Form follows function. We have a form, but does it serve the intended function? What is the intended function?

  • What is church?
  • What is worship?
  • What does the form of our gathering (as opposed to the planned content) instill in people?
  • What do we want to instill in people?
  • Questions, questions, blah, blah…

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.