My friend would not feel comfortable sitting in on a church gathering that I’ve attended from time to time.
It can come across as formulaic, the programme and structure appears to demand a certain formality. The way people dress doesn’t look too relaxed and being talked at for half an hour to 45 minutes is not his idea of a good way to use even a couple of hours of his life when he’s not at work.
Some in my circle at the gathering would think that we need to design gatherings that are comfortable for people like my friend. Others in my circle are perfectly content to keep things as they are and believe if people have a problem with it, that’s just too bad because accommodating them too much would take away something of importance for what the gathering means to the faithful and committed.
The thing about life is that there’s more to life as church than a gathering at a time in a place. My friend and I were able to talk about these things as coffee was consumed in a local library. (I hasten to add I did not consume any of the coffee, I will not be a part of the conspiracy.) We were relaxed sharing about this and other aspects of life.
The night before, I had enjoyed a wonderful meal in the company of some brilliant people. After we ate we were able to tuck into some important life issues and learn more about each other and the God we serve. It was a relaxed environment, people felt comfortable without any qualms. Sure there were tense moments as one or two raw things were mentioned, but that only contributed to the authenticity of the gathering. Everyone contributed in their own way, and it was all good in the hood when they left to return home after a wonderful time together.
So what am I suggesting that gatherings of church need to change to be comfortable for others? Am I suggesting that we can gather as church like this in a library or around a meal? Is that what I’m writing this about?
Well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it. What I will say is that reading about the struggles of the early church gives me hope about how we can work through our challenges today if we depend on the same Saviour they were encouraged to depend on. The same Spirit that inspired godly counsel to the various gatherings is available to inspire us today as we look to pursue intentional investments for intimacy.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden