Practical Suggestions for the Reorientation of the Sunday Service
ARC GUIDE LEVEL 3
Ideal for those well acquainted with our thought process at Ammi Ruhama Community.
We touched briefly on the topic of what we are supposed to be doing as the body of Christ in Acts of Love, where we concluded that of all of the good things the people of God have done in the past and could do for Christ in the present, it’s probably best to start with the things that He has asked us to do in the first place before we go about suggesting extra-biblical things to be done. So, at the end of the day, how do we plan our gathering time to edify and encourage one another for the work of the ministry of reconciliation while we outdo one another in honour and love?
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”Romans 12:10 English Standard Version
It should be said that, at present, we’re far more interested in edifying and encouraging one another to read the Bible and pray–both brilliant pursuits, but not ends in and of themselves. James 1 says that if we study the Bible with good intentions but then go away and forget what we looked like and make no change then we deceive ourselves into thinking we have good religion. At ARC we call this the ‘James 1 Lit Test’ and try to include action steps at the end of most of our teaching entitled as such. By all means, we should be teaching one another how to read the word. Traditionally this has been done by one professional standing up on Sunday morning to give a performative speech about the contents of the Word and their application, but this could just as easily be done via a designated App such as the one recently published by The Bible Project. This may be hard to read, but most preachers are not very adept at presenting the Word in a professional way anyway–a cursory search on YouTube indicates that the quality of the ‘content,’ being produced by most churches is seriously lacking. It should be noted, however, that teaching is a manifestation of the Spirit, meaning that it could be given to any member of the body of Christ, and if that member is not a part of the designated leadership team, we will not experience that gifting in any real way because of our chosen polity. If we are Christ Centred in our polity and confess that the last shall be first and the first shall be last then the recognition of that gifting will have taken place already and we will likely have recognised several men and women in the body who the Spirit regularly teaches through. So, already, we may be talking about decentralising key programmatic elements of the ‘worship service,’ in an effect to re-organise around the manifestations of the Spirit we have in the body. This does not mean, however, as I heard it said this week, that being unprepared is somehow a purer manifestation of the Spirit of God and that one can be overprepared in a way that means that our offering is inauthentic. If we are practiced in hearing from the Spirit of God on a daily basis then we need not fear the accusation of inauthenticity. There should, perhaps, be an element in our offering of extemporaneity; speaking/singing etc… out of the moment. An indication that what we offer on a Sunday morning is an outpouring of what has been in our hearts all week and so is no surprise to us or to God that it pours out of our hearts in community.
Time & Place
As we can imagine, depending on the number of the people of God, service may carry on for some time as the Spirit is given leigh way to speak through whom He will speak. It may be then that smaller groups of 15-30 people will have to be held to ensure that the Spirit is able to freely move through each one and speak in as timely a fashion as possible. This limits the availability of one person to speak to too many at one time and therefore to become an unintentionally idolatrous focal point. It may also benefit the body to continually rotate the people of God such that every week they are being introduced to new faces and manifestations of the Spirit. This should, of course, be done in as voluntary a fashion as possible; as the point is to instil in the body the ability to walk into any fellowship and feel the presence of the Spirit and know that if they speak from Him, the Spirit will be heard. Much the same could be done of the singing of hymns and songs and spiritual songs, communion, and giving to one another out of love and service.
The Role of the Mature
The spiritually mature would hover about these groups and offer wisdom when it is needed and direction for a particular passage being discussed. There is no need to have a “guide passage,” as the Spirit will likely bring out a passage out of the hearts of one of the people. Again, the aim is for the Spirit to have been speaking all week to each one and so these groups should develop a generally quick pace of sharing what the Spirit has been teaching them and the passages related to that lesson. Not everyone will have something to share and so 5-10 minutes per person should be enough, but allow time for the Spirit to speak when it is apparent He is speaking.
These are mere pontifications and suggestions for the reorientation of one part of the service. It is my hope that each fellowship will consider the nature and rights of the people of God and design a service that better treats one another with the love, honour and respect that the people of God have been born into in all areas of our communal worship. It should also be understood that this model will only work if we edify and equip the body for living their life according to the Spirit of God during the week. Perhaps we will deal with that tomorrow.