So tell me... what does church look like for you?

Friday, May 09, 2008
This morning I had breakfast in the regular place I eat Friday breakfasts with a friend. And as we sat there I saw all the regulars come in to get their morning started. Some prostitutes, some alcoholics and a few addicts, along with a couple of others with their addictions better disguised. Ah, life in Prince Albert, I thought. Then I thought this might be a place Jesus would do breakfast in, right up his alley kind of thing.

And then I got to thinking about church and all that it means these days.

There are so many different looks for churches, from India to Indiana, from new to old, formal to informal, High and Low, in and out, and on and on.

And I thought, what does church look like for you?

Not what do you love or hate about church, but more along the lines of if you were to sit down and create "CHURCH" whatever that means for you, what would it look like?

Would you meet together?

Where would you meet?

Would you wear matching T-shirts?

Would you be eating or drinking? And what?

Would there be a dance floor?

Would there be organization of any kind?

How would people know you were a church?

Who would be a part of it?

Are you sitting or standing, what are you wearing, what are you smelling or looking at?

Are those even the right questions?

I'm just thinking out loud here. We need many more churches than there are, and we need different kinds of churches than the ones there already are.

So tell me, what does a church you would like to attend, look like?

Also, then maybe include your age. You may answer Anonymously if you like.




  1. These are very good questions, . . . but I am currently on my fourth Christian denomination (hoping this one will stick), so I am clearly struggling myself to find the answers.

    I happen to have a preference for liturgical worship and sacramental theology, but that's just a personality thing, not a definition of church. I guess what is most important to me is that church helps people mature--helps them discover the gifts that God gave them and find ways to use them that further God's work in the world in all its amazing variety. And helps people mature so that they are responsible for making their own decisions and choices. I do not want a laundry list of rules or a bulwark of legalism or, God forbid, an 800-page catechism. I do not want a church that tries to become my vicarious institutional conscience. I want a church that preaches growth, healing, transformation, and process.

    I guess I didn't address any of your questions about T-shirts, food, dancing, or meeting times. Sorry if I missed your point, . . . but I guess I'll still submit the comment.

  2. Great question! I'd like to do away with the pews and replace them with couches and coffee tables, or tables and chairs for those who prefer a surface to write on. I would like to have a much more interactive service. Perhaps linked with a website or blog that people chat on through the week. I'd like it to be less predictable, more comfortable. Keep some sort of singing (hymns, choruses, who cares- just as long as it sounds good). Keep some sort of teaching/preaching time... but perhaps not always in the same 20 minute sermon form. Provide notebooks or paper for people to write on. Add some crayons for fun. Have some seriously amazing kids stuff going on and remind people that kids are important, not a nuisance to be shushed.
    I think having food and beverages available (either for free or for money) is a good idea.
    Cater church to ALL the different types of learners in this world, not just those who learn best by sitting and listening. Have creative outlets and hands on stuff and visual stuff.
    Bring on the social justice part of Jesus' teaching. Make it a HUGE part of the church experience. Part of the worship service even- spend church making food to take to the hungry or whatever.

    What we are doing now just isn't working like it should be. I say mix things up A LOT. No one likes change but if we keep going the way we are we will just continue to become more ineffective and eventually useless.

    And please lets get rid of greeters. No one wants to be greeted by someone with a fake smile plastered on their face. If there is someone who genuinely feels called to greet new people then they will be doing so naturally, rather than looking like guards at the door handing out bulletins. It feels so awkward to those of us who didn't grow up in churches.

    And the unnatural forced sharing. For example "turn to those next to you and pray together for such and such" or "give the person next to you a hug"... from what I can tell people who grew up in church are fine with these things for the most part. But for anyone who is an introvert (like half the population), not yet a believer (hopefully we have a few of those in our churches), or just not the huggy type these parts of the service can be excrutiating.

    I really could go on forever, but I'll stop now.

    Oh, and if we have a matching uniform I would really like it to be some sort of comfy lounge wear please :) And definitely dancing. Lots of dancing. And not on sunday morning. I hate sunday morning.

  3. Oh, and I totally stole this idea and asked your questions on my blog. And I forgot to tell you I am 32 and a pastor's wife who longs for change!

  4. My church sometimes seems big...sometimes I feel I get lost in it, and get frustrated, like no one notices.
    And yet today, as I struggle with my job, it is my pastor, who comes along side and cheers me on, and figures out how our church can carry me a bit. I sat in his office today, and he is over worked and tired, and yet, he commits to me.

    Yeah, a slurpee machine would be nice, oh wait, we already have that........I like the communion bread at a church I recently spoke at better.....but in the end, its not about the bread.....or the slurpees, its about those who are making sure I have bread and wine and hope.

  5. Good questions. I've been in church since I was born, which I think actually makes it harder for me to think about what I'd really like the church to look like. Because I know what church looks like -- it's where I've been all my life. :)

    But .... to get out of my midwestern small church box and think about what I really think the church should look like:
    There should definitely be eating and drinking -- and in places besides a church building.
    Mix things up a little from time to time during the Sunday morning gathering, but also keep some elements common so people have an idea what to expect.
    Find ways to help people feel comfortable -- especially new people. Tara made some good points about different personality types and learning styles.
    I think, most important, the church needs to look like Jesus. When we figure out how to do that, we've got the church at its best.

  6. Been thinking about this. Some thoughts -
    It needs to be a place where we can practice our familiar liturgies that ground us with the faith that has been passed down through the centuries and incorporates our children into the faith in those ways.

    We need a community in which we can practice the sacraments and practice communal worship.

    It needs to be a place where we learn to become disciples of Christ. We also need to have a place we come back to after practicing our faith for support and sharing of what God is doing around us. And
    we need to have a place to discuss and learn and hear the Word of God.

    Those are to me the essential elements of what church should be. What the form of our meeting together looks like is less important but I think meals together, sitting around having coffee and talking in comfortable surroundings is good. Enjoying good music is good. I like the idea of tables where we could take notes and discuss and where the children in our midst could color and move around without the rest of us getting upset at their activity. Quiet spaces with "icons" of our faith (beautiful things, candles, real icons and art maybe) that direct our thoughts to God would be wonderful for me but maybe are not part of our communal worship that we tend to label as church.

    Well, that's a start on my thoughts of late.

  7. Random thoughts on a Saturday morning:

    Wow, I like where you all are going.

    I think I like you Tara. You were the most specific with your description and I would love to worship in the church you describe. (You must be reading my notes!)

    But the rest of you paint descriptions with colours that are deep and beautiful. Wow.

    Why is it then that "Church" is so hard to pull off?
    ... and don't say that it's full of people so it will struggle, because you all are people and you have a good grasp on some of what it means to be church.

    I once was invited to teach a class in a College setting having to do with how we were planting a church in a nearby city. I met with the kids and did a short presentation which included many of the pictures you described here. And the kids started talking, growing more and more excited. I remember that their energy at the possibilities of being a part of such a church was huge. They never thought such churches could exist and they pulled me aside to ask where our church met.

    I had to tell them that we were not completely there yet, that we were doing some things right, but that we were on a journey that hopefully would take us closer and closer to such a place.

    But I will never forget how enthused they were at the prospect of being a part of a church that was different.

    We need more of these churches in our cities.

  8. The above questions really don't an answer, do they? Although, maybe some do. I am attending a church .that the Holy Spirit has sent me to. It is a Full Gospel Church filled with born-again, spirit-filled Christians. I will say that not all are saved YET - but, is'nt that what church is all about? Bringing in the lost to be saved? I am so happy in my church that I can't beginto say what a church should look like, as you asked, Randy. I just know, that I, personally, believe in the Full Gospel, therefore, I should be attending a Full Gospel Church. Make any sense? Randy, you have a pretty good idea what age bracket I am in. So, I must say, as a person grows grows spiritually, they change over time into maturityregarding their walk with Christ. Sure, some of us backslide sometimes, but as you know, The old devil is working to bring the saved ones to his side. Therefore, we must always be alert and try to live as Christ would have us live. So, we had better learn to love in an Agape way every body, because, if we are fortunate, we will meet these people in Heaven. Siomething to think about, eh?

  9. Sorry, I left out the word,"deserve". Also, I hope the readers don't think that I am saying this is how you all should think. This is my view on what I think a church should be.

  10. So I've been thinking and thinking about this since you've first posted this...

    It's hard to articulate an answer b/c, at least for me, I think in the context of how I could "change the way church is" instead of starting from scratch. And I wouldn't even know where to begin for both.

    But what keeps coming back to my mind is the notion that church needs to be where we are REAL. Where we face our humanity (and all of the good and bad that comes with that) and we face other people's humanity. And from THAT we connect with and worship God. I really am starting to think that you cannot worship God and recognize what he has done and is doing until you "know" yourself and are willing to be vulnerable. And yet the two go hand in hand, don't they?

    So what does this mean for what church is or what it means for me?

    Well... I think church is the LAST place where we should have it all together. I think there is probably nothing more ironic in the world than "shiny and coifed Christians going to church". And I don't even know why we do it anymore or did it in the first place. I mean, we go there with a smile on our faces and our hair done, and yet, how often do we feel like who we really are is people with bed-head and broccoli on our teeth?!

    Church should be the FIRST place where we DON'T have to be put together. It should be a place where people are comfortable and free to admit their own failings and struggles and weaknesses, admit where they need help, that they can't cope, and so on. And it's from that place where we can turn to God and say "help!" and "thank you" and learn to be disciples of Jesus. Because we are missing the true, transformative power of Christ if we do not allow ourselves to feel the pain of humanness.

    Okay. Still trying to answer your question. You know, I have no problem with the structure of a Sunday morning service, b/c I think it's really important to corporately worship God and that is an hour of my life that I, personally, really enjoy. BUT, the church needs to be about more than that. Because sometimes I look around at all of us gathering there and think, "So what are we doing here anyway? What was the point of us doing that service and singing some nice music?!" And I wonder if that whole Sunday service is completely intimidating to non-church people.

    Really, I'd like us to be able to go and hear each other's stories. And I don't know the best way to go about getting people to open up, but I want to know people. Set things up like a coffee house? Have themed-seminars? (Okay, that's how it'd be done in "Dixie's church" :) ) Meet A.A. style? I don't know. But we need to do more talking, and passing knowledge, faith, and hope from generation to generation.

    And then we need to be set up to DO things for people. Be networked so that when we hear of a need we know the people we can call and who are equipped for that, and people are actually willing to take time to do it. I'd like to go to a place where you know you're going to be looked after, not overlooked, no matter what you may need. A place people in the community know they can call or email to say "somebody needs prayer or a meal or help with their house" and it'll get done.

    And then the church should be a place where people can have fun together, laugh, sing, play games, be free to express themselves in all sorts of ways.

    Maybe that's the word that sums it all up: "freedom". Not a free-for-all. But free to face ourselves. Free to be transformed. Free to express the things God has given each of us uniquely. Maybe that's what we're missing. I know I've been missing that most of my life.

    So there you go. And I think I just won "The Longest Comment Award". Do I get a free pizza for that or something? :) What do you think of my rantings?

  11. I've been mulling this one over for a while, too, and I'm not sure of my answers.

    At root, I think, Church is worshiping God in community with other believers and ideally would be a weekly reminder of Jesus' life, death and resurrection. What form does this take? I don't know.

    I like what LT had to say today:

    "Changing the flow our strategy will not be enough. The next reformation of the church needs a sweeping change in heart and values. I’ve probably been spending a little bit too much time reading 1cor 13 and John but more and more I believe sacrificial love should be the life blood of Christian ministry."

    That's what really has been running through my mind lately. Changing the form won't mean much unless somehow our hearts and values are changed. It won't matter if the church is in a cathedral with hard pews and organ-only or in a coffee-shop setting if we are not transformed.

    Perhaps a question we could ask along with "how would/should church look" is "how do we die to self?" If we were all became selfless and sacrificially loving, we could transform the world, no matter what our weekly worship setting.

    These thoughts aren't all that coherent---they flow out of my mind higgledy-piggledy after a moment of emotion.

    (And neither am I rejecting the other thoughts here)

  12. Why IS it so hard to make a church we could all LOVE when we all have such fabulous ideas?

  13. I have actually thought about this question often. Especially because I do not attend church very often (actually rarely). I tend to have a problem with most churches. I guess I feel that they don't really follow their own teachings. I often wonder "what would Jesus do?", and I tend to think that He might not agree with a lot of churches. For me, CHURCH would involve all people, regardless of their class, sexual orientation, income, etc.. A place where all people could come together, feel safe to be themselves, where they would not be judged. It would be a place where everyone cared for one another, simply because they recognize that everyone needs that.
    To answer some of your questions: it would definately be a place where people would meet together, share with one another, and support one another. (People would be able to come wearing whatever they wanted, even if that meant matching t-shirts.) Food and drink would be encouraged, as eating and drinking together makes people feel more connected.
    As I reread this, I am realising that more than being a church, this is how I wish the world was. I meet so many amazing people who have had such hard lives. They talk about how other people don't even look at them, don't even treat them like people. And to me, they are amazing, inspiring people who have come through so much.
    So, I guess I haven't really answered your question. Just added to the ramblings I guess!

  14. "the church" is people. It is not a meeting Sunday morning. It is not a building. It is not a formal group of people. It is just those people who have professed faith in Christ.

    But it has become such a big business with millions and billions in the balance that people will do mad, strange and sometimes evil things in the name of propagating the industry. Notice i didn't say propagating the faith.

    And the formalized structures we now have set up, forces people to work hard to try to prop up the industry. Buildings and learning institutions, staff and educational costs all force people into awkward situations. Just ask a person who has completed years of seminary and now has a debt to repay and so needs a job. The only place they are qualified to work is in a church. What are their motivations?


    It's like we have become so dependent on The Church System that it doesn't allow us to think bigger, or smaller, or differently. And then The System is our boss and ruler. She can be a controlling and harsh taskmaster.

    and that is why it's not easy to meet in places other than a church, on a Sunday morning, with a hired staff. Because you rock the boat of The System and people either push you out or they go elsewhere where they can influence The Church System.

    I love the church, but maybe here we are fighting things and powers that really are not from God anyway. It's tough to think about but it needs consideration I think.

  15. I want church to be a place where people care enough about me and my family to ask us how our walk with Jesus is going, where we are supported and encouraged and even challenged by our fellow travellers to become more like Christ.

    The church culture stuff is secondary.

  16. It dawns on me this morning that all these different answers indicate that there are so many different perspectives and expectations for and of the church.

    I think you're responses each touch on some part of the church or another that is significant for people, depending on where they are in their lives. Which is why its a tough gig these days.

    Being church, getting along, looking out for one another, not getting sucked into a big system, eating together, caring, not caring what you wear, liturgical, not Sunday morning... yeah, tricky.

    Like I tell people when they are looking for a church to belong to and commit to, go and try out some places till you find a local place to worship where your spirit can rest and you can come away with a sense in your spirit that you have met with God.

    It might be a bit over simplistic, but in this day of complex church cultures maybe it's a good idea just to keep it simple.

  17. y'all should go to a small bible school. its like church all the time. you get the closeness of community, and because of that everyone knows your not perfect and you can come together and worship and eat together and serve together. you can get intimate and work through things with each other. it sucks sometimes, and sometimes your forced to do things you don't want to do, but overall its great and you learn alot, and you accomplish alot, and you become a community, a church for real. and its good.

  18. I'm finding 'church' less and less at 'Church' and more with the community I naturally find myself in... For example, I meet once in a while with a few friends over a couple of pints - I jokingly refer to it as our 'church', but more and more I am coming to see those meetings are very much so... And it consists of an atheist, a conservative christian, a liberal christian, and myself. No agenda. No awkward prayer. Just community - an opportunity to laugh, lament, praise, be thankful, be angry.


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