Liquid Church

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.

Real “Pastoral” Ministry

One of the things I really enjoy about ministry is seeing people who’ve had very little experience with the Church become a part of the life of the faith community. In the congregations I serve, this happens most often with little kids.

Before my first service at 9:30 this morning, I came in to find 14 little boys and girls waiting for worship to start. At least five of these kids were first time visitors, brought by their friends and neighbors. It’s interesting how these little kids start coming, even without their parents, and start extending invitations to anyone who will listen.

Some of the more senior members of our community have insisted on the kids calling me Pastor or at the very least, Pastor Matt.  As I entered, one of the little girls met me with a big smile and a hug before introducing me to her new friends, none of them more than five or six years old. I smiled and asked the new friend’s name. After doing this, I went off to talk to some of the adults who had gathered before worship for coffee. As I was leaving, I overheard the littlest one giggle and the older girl say, “See…I told you ‘Pasture’ is really nice.”

No wonder Jesus wanted his followers to let the little children come to him!