My two cents...

Many of you know that I have a fairly high view (understatement?) of the church and its importance not only in my life personally, but as an integral part of our society as it strives to be faithful in its participation with God’s kingdom. However, this view is not without its practical challenges, particularly in our N.A. context where church more often than not mirrors our consumeristic culture in place of a faithful community of disciples. That said, my own church and the congregation I am a participant in is by no means immune from these challenges, perhaps even succumbing whole heartily to them at times. Thankfully I am not the only one left questioning as there has been a recent surge in critical discussion regarding the future of our so called “contemporary” service. Ranging from specific frustrations with programs to questioning the level of willingness to authentically encounter Jesus, the discussion has been lively. Recently, the discussion has been brought into the realm of cyberspace through the medium of (like it or hate!) Facebook. Here’s my own contribution to the forum (Let me know if you think I am crazy, overly-idealistic, or perhaps on the right track):

I have appreciated the dialogue in this forum regarding our contemporary service. There is something positive about moving the discussion outside of the backroom where church critique so often remains. My hope is that the openness will extend beyond cyberspace, leading to an environment of honest dialogue in all of our congregational gatherings.

As I consider my own opinion I don’t by any means claim to have all the answers. I am merely entering the discussion. At times I find the present situation in our contemporary service just as frustrating and “stuck” as the rest of you. Describing our congregation I have heard the analogy that our wheels are spinning, but we are not moving anywhere. My fear is that our wheels will stop spinning altogether. So regarding the present unrest from many different circles within the congregation I’m am actually encouraged if not for the simple fact that at least people still care. I’ll take honest frustration over apathy any day.
That said, I still wonder if much of the discussion or “venting” if you will, is not missing the key issue to some degree. The distinction I think we need to make in this discussion is between strategies (music, preaching, Sunday school, etc…) and core values. It seems to me that much of the dialogue to this point (not all!) has been directed towards strategies. While strategies are an important aspect of church life towards accomplishing the goals that we feel called as a church to fulfill, apart from a clear understanding of our core values as a congregation, we are left to wade through the countless personal opinions that people will continue to contribute to the discussion, and which the present survey will no doubt produce.

I guess what I am trying to say is that in order for the Bakerview church contemporary service to grasp how we want to progress in our “doing” of church, we need to take seriously the question of what it means for us to “be” the church. I appreciated Jacqueline’s recognition that first and foremost it’s not a question of personal preference, but God’s will for our church. However cliché it sounds, we can’t let “Jesus is Lord” fall to the wayside.

How does this process of finding our identity as a contemporary service look? Well, I’m really not sure… I think some steps are being taken in the right direction (emphasis on prayer, council discussion regarding surveys), but I also think more needs to be done. I’d be interested to hear from others as to what they think the core values of the contemporary service are. Perhaps Darren is right to assert the need for an open meeting to lay our feelings out on the table. I know I am not ready to give up! I hope everyone else feels the same way!

Here’s a prayer I’ve been praying recently for myself and for Bakerview:

“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me (us), a sinner. Grant me (us) the grace to participate with your kingdom in this world however that may look day to day.”

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