Monday, January 7, 2013

Worshipping in Alternative Spaces

I'm working hard on an article about the effects on worship of moving church into alternative spaces, such as coffee shops, pubs, homes, libraries, etc. There are quite a few communities looking for ways to better connect with the people who would never set foot inside of a traditional church. This is sometimes the domain of the Missional church, but there is a long history of evangelicals moving into different architectures in order to better reach the lost. But when we change our locations we also need to change the content and form of our community worship.

My central argument in the piece is that in these alternative venues we, as evangelicals, are trying to negotiate a middle road between two concerns. On the one hand we want to make sure that our worship is not so alienating that we are asked to leave. This is especially true of churches that bring their services into cafes and pubs, public spaces. On the other hand we also want to make sure that we do not lose the core of what we are doing as a worshiping community. Most of the people who take the whole service into traditionally secular spaces do so with an understanding that worship in some way is just as missional as the rest of what we do, I'm not convinced that we should have different expressions in different locations, but the point is that we need to reflect more on what we do where and why. This is what I mean by the negotiation - it is never a clear path, one size fits all thing. In fact I am convinced that God never intended it to be a one size fits all kind  of thing.

As I write this paper I'm reading lots of stories of churches and people doing just these kind of evangelical experiments. I'd love to hear your stories. How has doing church in non-traditional spaces changed the way you approach worship? How do you find space for intimate worship when you meet in an alternative venue? Do you feel more like you have lost something or gained something?

In our own context where we do a lot of intentional community building we found it important to protect a special place for corporate worship (in homes). We didn't think of it as not being part of the evangelistic edge of our community, but rather as a compliment to what we are doing and a place where people interested in what it means to worship with us will be like. I must admit it is pretty tame compared to some of the communities I've worked with in the past - but the worship is deep and meaningful, intimate and precious to us.

Frank - Freedom Vineyard

ps. the picture is one of our guys playing at an open mic in the local coffee shop. This is us being part of the community at large.

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