Every now and then I like to share really helpful posts and thoughts that I come across, and today is one of those days. Scot McKnight is one of my favorite biblical scholars. He is very sharp without being inaccessible, and he is a clear communicator. In my line of work, these are the kind of teachers I seek out constantly.
He has an excellent series on his blog right now asking thought provoking questions about the Kingdom of God. Check it out here:
He also writes with pastors in mind, as in his series recommending his favorite New Testament commentaries:
Finally, I’ve been really interested in reading the shifts that have taken place in some of the more obviously successful new church endeavors. Craig Groeschel from Life Church, right here in Oklahoma, has been making some interesting comments lately on his blog that have given me much food for thought.
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.