Thursday, October 28, 2010

Coffee hour as the comments section.

Allie at Hyperbole and a Half is the greatest.  She blogs & draws about terrifying or embarrassing events in her life, and has this community of readers who all shout "OMG-D ME TOOO!"  It's a big cathartic affirmation-fest.  I love it.  (Bloggess Jenny also does this.)

I am convinced that if the church could learn to do what Allie and Jenny do, but in worship, we would see attendance go through the roof.  People are hungry for a space to be themselves - their embarrassing, awkward, weird, funny selves.  People are hungry for a place to admit their shortcomings and their fears.

The church has not made a place for this.  Yes, we have Bible studies and small groups, and you might get this in those - but on any given Sunday, we gather in a big group and even though we say We are bound by sin and cannot free ourselves and Christ have mercy and Forgive us our sins, our faces seem to say that everything is hunky-dory.  We pretend like we've just won the award for having it all together:

This is baloney.  We are all hurting.  And we need space to hurt.  And I'm starting to wonder if segregating that honest, hurting time into small groups (which not all members attend) is gypping everyone.  Small groups hinder us by:

-  Allowing us to choose our own small groups.  If we make our small groups fluid (for the sake of accessibility), it becomes too easy for me to say "I'll go to the Friday evening group because Julia's going" or "I'm leaving the Wednesday afternoon coffee group because I'm sick of David's ranting."  Worship says:  tough cookies.  David is just as much worth your interest as Julia is.

-  Asking for more time commitments.  We're running out of space we can call "church time."  When I was in elementary school, there was nothing going on after school on Wednesdays because it was church time.  This was a given.  Homework was lighter on Wednesday nights, because teachers had been told that a majority of their students had other commitments.  Now I have kids who don't show up at 9:15 on a Sunday morning because they have a soccer game at 10.

I'm not saying that the secular (a.k.a non-church) culture needs to make time for us, or that we should give up other occupations to devote more time to worship.  These two things may be true, but the facts are that secular culture isn't going to give worship more time, and we aren't either.  What I'd rather argue is that if the culture isn't making space for us, and if we can't make oodles of space for ourselves, we should focus on making the space that we do have worthwhile.  That hour on a Sunday morning should be life-changing.  We should not require everyone else to plug-in to small groups, Sunday School, adult forums, Bible studies, etc. in order to get the fullness of the church - not because those groups aren't worthwhile but because not all members of the church can commit to them.

So:  What if worship - not small groups, not Bible studies, not weekend retreats - what if worship was intimate, and moving, and gave us a safe space to look into the darkness?  What if our Sunday morning experience of Jesus was one who faced that darkness with us, who said, "Hold on.  I'm here.  It sucks now but we're going to get through it."?  What if the coffee hour on Sunday morning looked like the comments on Allie's and Jenny's blogs - where people felt free to share their barrenness and need, and others responded in love by sharing their own?

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