Last week, I went with a friend to the local United Methodist Church. It was a fairly traditional church without a lot of bells or whistles. I was a little confused by the children’s sermon on fair-trade coffee, but I won’t go there. So today, four of us hopped on a train to Morristown to visit Liquid Church, a really creative congregation that has their worship service in the Morristown Hyatt. We got there a little early and had a chance to spend a few minutes talking with Pastor Tim Lucas. It was nice to meet him and have him spend a few minutes in conversation.
The service had about 15 minutes of music by their really amazing band, 10 minutes of an infant dedication portion (which had remarkably similar language to our liturgy), a 30 minute sermon (interestingly, a sermon of Craig Groeschel’s piped in for this week), and about 5 to 10 minutes of announcements and offering (done simultaneously).
More than anything, I felt the stark contrast between the two churches. Liquid creatively uses public space and the blend between those in worship and the active hotel lobby was very cool. Imagine about 250 worshippers hanging in the lobby of a Hyatt Regency. There was a sense of expectancy in the worship experience, and people seemed to intently pay attention to the message (at Liquid, that is). I tried to imagine myself entering as a non or nominal Christian. From that perspective, I would have certainly visited Liquid again.
I find myself torn in many ways between the two ways of doing ministry. I value the sacramental side of our tradition and the very real means of grace that we experience, yet I also sometimes wish we had more experiential worship and messages like I heard today. If we could somehow blend the two, we’d be far better off. It seems to me that we (not all of us, but some of us) aren’t nearly as intentional as Liquid about expecting visitors who have a spiritual hunger and thirst. I know I’m just seeing the worship setting, but isn’t that what most folks encounter on their first visit to our congregations?
All in all, I want more. I expect more out of us as a denomination. Can we be brave enough to start a church that meets in a hotel? Can we create creative and cutting-edge ministries that also carry the richness of our spiritual and sacramental tradition? I really want to know.