Everything in me wants church to be perfect.
Now, I don’t mean that I want church to perfectly reflect Jesus (although I don’t mean that I don’t mean that) – I mean I want a church service to run perfectly. For me its one of those things that has both good points and bad points.
I feel quite strongly that when we ‘do’ a church service – worship, prayer,sermon, communion… – we are creating something, if you will. We are acting and enacting the beauty of the gospel – a sort of drama ‘in the round’ into which we invite people to participate and go away changed. For that, then, it is important, essential even, that there is a certain ‘slick’ to what is done in order that people can enter into the story without being distracted by clumsy direction or drunken players (metaphorically speaking!).
The danger is that it all becomes something like this…
When I studied theatre at University (ha ha – that sounds great, doesn’t it? It was 2 modules out of 18!) I discovered the term ‘suspension of disbelief‘ which is a principle that the audience in the theatre will willingly overlook the limits of the medium in order to enjoy and follow the show. For example – the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet – Juliet’s balcony is at best made out of wood or fibreglass and is just one wall rather than a whole building; those realities would somewhat spoil the romance of the scene. Or the final scene in ‘Juno and the Paycock‘ where Johnny get shot – they are not likely to actually shoot the actor nor even have real guns on stage – but if someone were to point that out, the tragedy would be somewhat compromised. See?
But in church, we’re not suspending disbelief, we’re engaging belief, we’re enacting belief, we’re revelling in what we believe. Part of what we believe is that we are NOT perfect and that is why the gospel is good – because it is God who is working in us to will and to act according to his good purpose (Phil 2:13b). It is for this reason then, that church cannot and should not be “perfect” and in fact, if there is no room for us in our human imperfection, there is no room for the gospel and no room for God and therefore is not church at all, but rather just a play.
What do we do then? How do we console those who cringe at lengthy, garbled announcements? How do we heal those who go mad at out of tune music or non-responsive singing? How do we encourage those who would rather send their friends who are curious about church to the bigger, slicker ‘cooler’ church in the city?
Speaking of wanting to invite friends who are interested in church to our own church… What is our obsession with wanting ‘church’ to be cool? Let’s be honest, the music could be perfect, the sermon spot-on in terms of relevant, the people might even be the most welcoming people on earth but the essence of what church is is just weird! We can’t hide it! We’re completely counter-cultural – in a good way to us if we’re reflecting Jesus at all, but probably just plain weird to your average Joe on the street. How do we know that the very flaws in our church won’t be the very thing God uses to open our friends heart to Him?!
A question : How do we best honour God in re-enacting his story through church without pushing him out of it?