In recent years, events based mission has fallen out of fashion; relational mission is now en vogue. But events based worship is still generally preferred to a more relational approach. In most churches, the primary activity of the community is the delivery of a weekly event. The Sunday morning service is the main expression of the life of the community and where more services are provided, this is considered evidence of greater vibrancy. The result of the focus on the Sunday service, is that some people exhaust themselves in the preparation of teaching, music, children’s ministry and, in recent years, increasingly complex audio visual displays.
The rest of the congregation are generally passive recipients of the weekly event, unless of course they are encouraged to serve coffee, welcome people, or collect cash. Interestingly, those most active generally criticise the passive congregants as ‘consumers’ while ignoring the fact that the entire structure is shaped to make christian life a spectator sport for the majority.
But along came Covid.
During the Covid crisis, I have had a number of discussion with very committed people, normally at the centre of delivering the Sunday event, and they have loved the change. As one person put it, for the first time they have experienced Sabbath rest. Not only are Christians experiencing rest, but they are spending precious time with their families and children.
How are we going to return to what we used to call church?
I suspect some will race to return to ‘real’ church. I fear they will also want to make up for lost time, returning with urgency to ensure that normal services are resumed. But what about those who have tasted freedom and liked it? What if many, previously, at the centre of ‘worship’ production decide to rebel? Will they simply be dismissed as backsliders?
But is there a biblically consistent alternative; a future, where the Christian community drops the labour intensive production of communal worship. Is there a scripture honouring approach that would emphasise relationship over event in terms of Sunday gatherings? Participation in event based worship usually means ‘doing a reading’ or prayer. Is there a different approach that would encourage participation in terms of discipleship and deepening relationship over joining the Sunday production team? And has Covid lockdown revealed that we may have mis-stepped somewhere focussing the people of God on producing services instead of reproducing disciples and Kingdom growth?