Before all that - I always enjoy meeting people at Welton and it is one of those churches I could easily feel comfortable being a member of. Yesterday, I had some great conversations afterwards with a range of people about how they're engaging during the week with other people, not-yet Christians. A couple leaving the church formally, but not informally (we had a commissioning) to engage more in their own village, a GP talking about his Practice as a place of engagement, a guy involved in the whole re-enactment of US Civil War battles & Western genre in general who's clearly bringing Jesus into their frame and others - no wonder dinner was ready when I returned home!
One of the questions I'm coming away with is what can I help multiply from what I hear and see Sunday by Sunday? It's not about the passing on of good ideas, but helping people to be inspired by one another because there's some great stuff going on.
So, what are we doing when we gather on a Sunday?
The phrase I hear more than any other, when I ask what people are looking for when they gather on a Sunday, I think, is 'to be fed'.
I guess as Baptists are the pre-dominant group I'm asking, I shouldn't be surprised , or shocked by this. After all, we hold the preaching of the word highly and we are founded upon a foundation which relies upon God speaking through his word - to anyone, which also implies to everyone.
However, I am increasingly disturbed by the answer.
Not because I want to diminish the place of preaching - to be honest I'm not at all a 'let's replace the sermon' person and firmly believe the answer to bad preaching is not no preaching, but good preaching.
Not because, either, I'm not wanting people to be fed, or don't believe anymore in the ability of God's word.
My disturbance, I think, is wrapped up with what this says about people's expectations - Sunday gathering is being regarded as an end in itself in a way I do not believe it was intended. Sunday is the day of resurrection which is why Christians gravitated to this day for worship together. Something of this has been lost and with it teh sense of God re-creating and making all things new.
Yesterday we talked about how different Sunday is when we come together to celebrate who God is and where he's been seen and found in the previous week - both through our living and the wider world. Couple onto this the expectation God will be at work in and through us all next and we're onto something. Regarding the couple commissioned yesterday - it was great, but it in many ways we should not be seeing them as anyone special, or anyone different. We've talked a lot, as Ministers, about the relevance of the workplace, about workplace Ministry, about relating the work of God to the work of people monday-saturday, etc. in recent years. Honestly, how many references do I hear, or see, week by week? How much helps me in my life apart from the organised gathering? What degree of relationship is there between what happens when we gather and what God is up to when we're apart? The answer to all these questions, sadly, is 'next to nothing'. Herein lies a deeply disturbing issue.