Friday, December 23, 2005

Like a Mockingbird, Part I: Introduction

This is the first of a three-part series I hope to publish over the next week or so. Originally, it was one huge post which has subsequently been broken apart, reassembled, and is slowly being built back up again.

Since I quote at length from multiple authors during this series (always linking to the original post or article), I have titled it "Like a Mockingbird," since I am really only elaborating or refining my thoughts on what others have already said. This comes from the chorus of the title track from Derek Webb's new album, which I have been enjoying over the past week or so (thanks to an early shipment available at AP's Nashville Behold the Lamb of God show):

'Cause I can't afford to pay
For most of what I say
So its a lucky thing
That the truth's public domain...

And I am like a Mockingbird,
I've got no new song to sing.
I am like an amplifier,
I just tell you what I've heard.
I'm like a Mockingbird.

Part I
The news that some churches will not be holding services on Christmas Day has gotten plenty of action around the blogosphere, so I won't add to the discussion with more of the same. Instead, I'd like to focus on some thoughts that have arisen on "how we do church" from the comments of an insightful post concerning the aforementioned issue.

John Muether cemented several thoughts that have beem simmering in my brain over the last several weeks:

...I believe that American Protestants have not given sufficient attention to the question of the appropriate scale for "doing church." If church means ambitious age-segregated programing, worship bands, drama teams, food courts after services, etc., then of course the bigger the better. But if church is the ministry of the Word and Sacrament, and pastoral oversight where ministers really get to know their flock, then it is hard to imagine doing that well when membership exceeds 250.

I envision these posts less a discussion about quantity (megachurch vs. church-around-the-corner, etc.) as much as it is about quality. Although, as Muether mentioned above, he imagines it difficult to do church well in a large congregation, I would think it might be possible to have pastoral oversight in a large church if there was a strong, accountable, communicative group of elders. However, I agree that scale, as he says, does matter, so the suggestions I propose might be easier to implement in a smaller church, though not impossible in a larger congregation.

The spark: A few weeks ago, I first came across a post from Real Live Preacher called "If We Could Do Church." He muses on a hypothetical "ideal church situation." Though I disagree with several things mentioned in that article, I do find two of his ideas very striking, and in light of Muether's point above, I will consider these issues over the next two posts: community and image.

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