Space invaders in the Church!
Not little green men but imported false expectations.
Expectations that small beautiful churches fail to meet.
Expectations that frustrate our mission and our focus.
A cultural contextualization that becomes a syncretism.
The false idea that a disciple is a person who watches others present the Gospel and Worship. Attendance = Discipleship.
We feel like failures. For many small beautiful church pastors Sunday is heartbreaking. We come to the building each week and feel like we have failed. We have no idea how to meet these culture driven entertainment expectations with the resources of a small church. The music person did not show up. The sound system did not work. Our sermon seems flat to the few people in front of us. We feel like failures because we are trying to live up to the wrong expectations. I hope to relieve you of some guilt and help you find a good focus. You are not a failure to Christ!
Church = Entertainment
The entertainment expectation is one of the greatest FALSE challenges we face in small churches. Producing quality entertainment is challenging for every size church and is nearly impossible to sustain in the small beautiful church. Entertainment is hard. It takes skill, equipment, long long practice, and a setting that is difficult to ensure in a small church. It needs several people highly skilled in lighting, sound, music, video, and power point. Sermons need to be excellent orations. Power points just right.
Today, Covid 19, we need to learn to do all this online! We have to learn all the skills of photography and videography and meet the expectations that the essence of the Gospel can be condensed into a video format. Something people will watch but don’t take action on in their lives. We are being forced into an online medium and most of us struggle with that, especially the small beautiful church. The pastor is being challenged to become an expert in all these areas because in the small beautiful church the ministry of most believers is in their full time work. They don’t have extra energy and the time to become skilled in these technical areas. If they are skilled they don’t have the time to apply that skill for the local church.
I want to be clear here. Using media skills is fine. Even small beautiful churches can have a significant online presence if a pastor is skilled enough or has enough time to develop it. The question is how to turn online presence into true discipleship leading to obedience?
The main problem is not that entertainment is difficult but that the entertainment FOCUS is alien to the purpose of the Body of Christ. Entertainment aims to move our emotions. It hopes to change our attitudes and perhaps actions by appealing to our emotions. Entertainment is always temporary. Emotions might feel good or bad but a focus on emotion leaves out thought and action.
An entertainment focus is clearly taking over a church when the congregation hardly participates in worship. That wrong focus can be seen in constant praise for the presentation. Many churches are setting up as concert halls. We also see a major financial investment at times. None of this is wrong of itself, but when it becomes a substitute for obedience it becomes a subtle form of cultural syncretism that blends the Christian message with the drive to make everything entertaining, everything about an emotional response to “worship,” we feel good because we have been to Church.
We see a wrong focus when we worry more about the quality of the coffee and the type of instruments than we do about the quality of the saints. An obedient church asks questions about obedience in their leadership meetings. An entertainment church asks questions about equipment and presentation in their leadership meetings.
Jesus said where two or three are gathered in my name I am there in the midst. This means that Jesus’ expectation for what we do when we gather as Christians is possible with two or three people. Does our small beautiful church meet Jesus’ expectations?
Obedience is the Goal
Jesus expectation is for us to encourage each other to obedience. That is the actual command in Matthew 28:20 “teaching them to observe all things I have commanded.” The idea behind “observe” is to “keep the commandments” Matthew 19:17; “guidelines to follow” Matthew 23:3; “keep a close eye one to keep a prisoner from escaping,” Matthew 27:36 & 54, 28:4. “Observe” in Matthew 28:20 clearly means to teach a person to obey everything Jesus has commanded.
Keep in Step with the Spirit
How do we meet Jesus’ expectations? Keep in step with the Holy Spirit.
Step out of the entertainment trap.
Step into an atmosphere of obedience.
Obedience brings deep joy – and real emotion as we heal from our sins.
Change your own mind first.
Study the real purpose of the Body of Christ – to make saints into the image of Christ.
Examine the methods Christ used as he started ministry. How did he help the first disciples to obey?
Examine the methods Paul used as he started new churches. How did Paul and his team set the example of obedience for their new churches?
What level of technical expertise is really needed to meet the expectations of Christ for this small beautiful church?
If I use social media how do I do more than present an idea? How do I encourage accountability?
This is a beautiful small church! If you change the perspective of one other Godly receptive person, you have moved a large percentage of the congregation.
Teach what you learned in step one to the most Godly and open person you know.
Pray with them about how to refocus the congregation.
Now you are two!
After a few weeks start again with another very receptive person and have the first Godly believer also personally teach a second Godly prayerful person.
Now you are 4!
Then the second believer can teach another as well.
Now you are 8!
This is multiplication. Each believer is responsible for the mission of Christ.
Aim for 30%
Aim to reach about 30% of your worship attendance with the message of the purpose of the congregation. The whole congregation’s attitude will change when we change the perspective of about 30% of the most receptive in the congregation. With 20 in worship this means just 6 people, with 50 the means just 15 people. These few people thinking and acting differently will change the whole atmosphere.
Move toward a focus on Corporate worship more than presentation.
Allow those with strong skill to use and express it with great joy! Corporate worship is one of the key parts of the Body. We are commanded to gather together. We are commanded to not forsake that gathering. Gathering as believers gives us an opportunity to exercise our spiritual gifts together with other believers. All Christians have a spiritual gift. This gift is not the same as a skill. It is a special ability to help others walk with Christ in some way. Some can sing, some can testify, some can read scripture, others can tell us how we are out of line with what Christ wants. Some can pray for physical healing and God heals us. Others have words of wisdom that help us see how God is at work in the world. Exercising our spiritual gifts gives us deep joy. The joy of a spiritual gift is far better than any excitement from entertainment. The greatest joy comes from sharing Christ with others.
Celebrate obedience rather than skill.
When we celebrate the obedience of those exercising their spiritual gifts, the congregation learns that all can participate in worship together. We should emphasize to those with skill that they are to lead the whole body to participate as a whole body. Their skill should encourage others to join in. Teach people to say “Amen” to an act of obedience. Publicly praise obedience to the body of believers. Often we praise music, but we do not praise scripture reading, or a clear testimony of costly obedience to Christ while at work. We should equally praise (or not) all aspects of worship. Just two people could do a dramatic Scripture reading.
Use a wide range of Worship activities
Use a wide range of elements for corporate worship and involve as many people as possible, balancing the time between the elements.
Prayer, (all kinds)
Selected testimonies that emphasize current spiritual growth and obedience.
Small group responses to the sermon
Encourage Creativity in each of these so that people express Joy!
Make sure that obedience is the focus of all aspects of worship. What is the obedient response we are looking for from each element of worship? The more the Pastor can identify obedience in worship the more the congregation will be able to identify obedience.
Have a wonderful Resurrection Sunday!