Thinking about Sunday on Tuesday

One of the greatest challenges as a minister of the Gospel in today's culture is to make worship relevant for all those who attend on a Sunday.Doing it without being gimmicky or trendy is essential because very quickly people see through shallow presentation and begin to search for substance. Equally people need to be stimulated by the whole experience of going to church. What they see with their eyes, what they hear with their ears, and what they encounter from the body language of the congregation will without doubt influence them. I think it was Eddie Gibbs that said people make their mind up with in the first ten minutes of a service whether they're going to like it or not. Gibb's research seems to show that initially people return not because of the preacher but because of the initial ethos and welcome they receive in church. Let me tell you it is not an easy task getting the balance right each Sunday. What seems to be meaningful and helpful to one person may well have the exact opposite affect on another. Bridging the gap between opposites calls for a unique kind of construction. Some try to construct worship to suit a homogenous group of people. Parish churches by definition are about serving the whole community, sometimes I envy those churches that have set themselves up to appeal to a particular kind of person. Some have gone down the route of market research. Checking out what will appeal to a specific age group or interest group. three-ice-creams.jpg Its facinating reading the books written by so called successful pastors of independant churches as they seek to roll out their formula for success. The truth is that it is almost impossible to copy someone else's ministry blue print. Anyway the challenge that faces those of us called to serve a parish is to be faithful but i also think fruitful. This means that we must always be exploring how we engage all of the people of God and not just one group. Today I've been struggling with the content and feel of our multi-media service for Sunday evening. We've been running these monthly services for the past ten years. Yeah, I think we must have been one of the first congregations in the Church of Scotland to buy a video projector and start showing clips from movies as part of a worship experience. You know something, sometimes the less you have the more you can do. The more you have the less you do, because you know the variety of options open to you. Anyway I've had to make a choice about Sunday evening worship this week. The theme " back on the Street" is part of an eight part series entitled "On the Street" We've created this idea from scratch. What we're doing is piloting this series with the option of sharing it with a much wider group of churches. So I've got to write something that can be used in a variety of churches. After a long discussion this afternoon with a few members of the church staff I've decided to go for the "less means more service". Instead of pre-recording a labyrinth to put on to a number of MP3 players I've decided to go for a more reflective service using the idea that the street is a parable for life. The reality is that you meet all kinds on the street. "Back on the Street" will be about people on the street who have no options - these are the people who find themselves living on the streets. They could be policemen,homeless people,street traders. the fact is they are all on the street to earn a living and each one has a perspective about life and its meaning. The interesting thing is that we have Parishes Churches on almost every street corner in Scotland yet most of them are closed. i think i might trough out the challenge to the churches. Think about it - what does your closed doors say to a generation that is looking to go through open doors. Maybe its time we all got back on the streets again. telling the good news simply and honestly without gimmicks.
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