If I Could…I Would
Have you ever wished you could live more than one life? I’m not referring to some kind of twisted, deceptive double existence. Rather, I am referring to the idea of having more opportunities to explore the horizons of God’s abundance, pursue various career paths, and serve more noble causes. I think about this often. Life is so short and the options are so plentiful.
Serving Churches and a Church
These days I wish I could live two lives. In one I would do exactly what I am doing now. I love “igniting the heart of the church” by serving pastors, catalyzing renewal, equipping leaders for greater impact in prayer in their local churches—all for the sake of the Gospel of Christ. I love writing books that help people live for Christ’s glory. I am so blessed to serve many churches and see a fresh, palpable work of the Spirit as they seek God’s face in prayer.
In the other life, I would start a church that would eventually plant many other churches across our nation for the sake of an authentic experience of New Testament Christianity and a supernatural spread of the Gospel. This church (and these churches) would be like nothing I have actually ever seen in my North American Christian journey.
To simplify my ideas for the sake of the limited space in this writing, here are three key concepts of my “other life.”
People, Not Platforms
Platform-oriented Christianity has tended to turn our worship experiences into a show to be observed rather than a community to be experienced. Most of our interaction is with the back of the heads of the people sitting in front of us and with a one-way monologue from a very small handful of “super-gifted” people up front. The platform folks tend to be elevated as spiritual superstars while the regular members of the body feel like very average “Joes”. This is not always the intent, but the results are a rather unhealthy and unbiblical experience of the body of Christ.
I envision church experienced in concentric circles, where the people are facing inward with an emphasis on one another rather than a few paid professionals. A worship team would be on floor level, probably somewhere within the circles. The center of this multi-layered circular arrangement would be used for teaching but also available for times of targeted prayer for people coming with specific needs.
Participation, Not Personalities
Of course, the gathering would emphasize a more interactive worship as voices are raised to Christ, while everyone faces inward, rather than forward. The service would include some solid exposition of God’s word by a pastor. A regular feature would be some time to hear the word of God from the people as they would stand and read those portions of Scripture that had most recently spoken to their hearts. As prompted by the Spirit, various moments of directed prayer would flow from the worship focus, the Scripture readings, or even throughout the teaching time. The gathering would truly honor Jesus’ desire that His church be a house of prayer. Spontaneous songs might also arise from the themes of the word of God. It would be very free-flowing and participatory, yet with clear guidelines to ensure everything is done for edification.
Passion, Not Programs
Rather than the leaders serving as program initiators and managers, they would instead give themselves continually to “prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). This would ensure the leadership and power of the Spirit in all that is done. The core team would then spend the remainder of their time equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry. They would not start any programs but rather create an environment of guiding the people to serve according to their gifts and passions. People would be equipped in various areas of leadership, service, outreach, and missions expansion. All ministries would be initiated by the people, utilizing their gifts to build up the body of Christ and accomplish a passionate Gospel mission.
Of course, the gatherings would need sound amplification that would allow for worship, teaching, and the participation of the people through Scripture reading and prayer. Visual support for the songs would be arranged with multiple screens around the periphery of the circles. In all likelihood, each gathering would grow to around 300 (because of the participatory nature of the gatherings it would be difficult to get much bigger than that and still hear one another). At this point, additional services could be added. Eventually, new churches would start, grow to approximately 300 per service, and the multiplication process would continue, reaching into many other communities.
Obviously, each church would support a modest staff team based on the numbers. For this paradigm to flourish the people would have to take ministry very seriously. The churches might just lease facilities long term. Some might buy a building in time. There would be other questions to answer along the way in this new paradigm of “church.”
Christ in Our Midst!
Over recent decades much debate has arisen about a “seeker” oriented model of church gatherings, designing every component to be relevant and palatable for the non-Christians in attendance. Rather than debate the nuances of this approach, I simply want to note that, in the New Testament, there is only one description of non-believers coming into a Christian worship service. The impact of that experience is summarized in these words: “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” (1 Corinthians 14:24-26).
I close with two observations about this text (although much debate exists about the context). First, the element that powerfully impresses and even converts this non-believer is not the clever presentations of the gathering but rather the profound sense of the presence of Christ. Second, a definite element of participation by the members of the body is a key factor.
Could it be that we should be dreaming a new kind of dream about our gatherings, the nature of our services, the roles of our leaders, and the responsibilities of the saints? While I can’t live two lives, I can continue to do that which God puts before me for His mission and I can keep dreaming of a new day for the impact of the Gospel in our nation and world. So can you. Who knows what the Lord might do?
Copyright © 2014 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.