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I read yet another article today on “How You Can Make Worship More….Something.”  I forget exactly what the author said, but it amounted to doing better music, preaching better sermons, screening better videos, and so on.  Which is really not reinventing worship at all. 

Frankly, there’s not much difference in —

  • Using a piano versus a praise band;
  • Featuring a choir versus a trio;
  • Sitting around tables versus in pews;
  • Preaching with or without video.

Okay, so more contemporary worship appeals to a younger crowd.  But you still have a spectator vs. performer setup — lots of people watching a few people do stuff they call worship. 

I remember going to a temple in Taiwan (stay with me for just a minute here), and being amazed at the riot of activity taking place around me.  Of course, tourists were everywhere, wandering around while worshippers were saying prayers, burning josh sticks, and talking to monks.  I think this was a Buddhist temple, but I’m not sure.  Anyway, my point is that a lot of stuff was going on at the same time.

Of course, we’re not Buddhists, but that got me thinking that the Temple in Jerusalem had a similar atmosphere — lots of stuff happening all at once.  We know in the Jerusalem Temple (I’m thinking 1st century now) people came to make offerings, do sacrifices, give money, listen to teachers, and on high holy days, participate in communal ritual.  And where did the first followers of Jesus worship?  In the Temple. 

It wasn’t until much later in the history of worship that we started seating people in pews, all facing the same direction so they could listen to the choir sing, “God is in his holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before him.” 

Why couldn’t we go back to a more participatory, multiple experience worship?  Some emerging churches are staging labyrinths, video meditations, prayer stations, and table fellowship — all going on at once.  Small churches can do this in very limited space.  Actually, churches without buildings can do this in borrowed or rented space. 

I realize that this would take a big leap of imagination, but reinventing worship might be the small church ticket to reaching a new generation or a different demographic.  Of course, most of us in small traditional churches would keep our tradition worship service.  This would be a new thing designed to appeal to a new set of worshippers. 

For a visual of what this might look like, go to a really cool site, small ritual.  You have to scroll sideways to see the space design and read the explanation.  I think it has real promise for the future of the small church.  What do you think?