Although it varies from city to city, country to country, culture to culture, the ratio of churched, exchurched and unchurched, does influence how we do our gatherings. I know, we do not want to be overly attractional in our mindset, however we would all agree that the weekend gatherings are still a pivotal part of our window to the world.
If the ratio in our city is something like 10% churched, 10% exchurched and 80% unchurched, where is our focus? Most churches focus passionately seeking to recruit the churched, as well as the exchurched. The gathering anchor points, seek to answer the questions that these folks may ask: Are we 'reformed' or are we 'charismatic'? Are we 'traditional' or are we 'hipster'? Are we 'missional' or 'attractional'? All these little categories tend to influence us hugely.
But what if we focus on the 80%, how would we do our gatherings differently? Let me propose this line of thinking passionately. [My cadre in the kingdom - Todd Proctor has been very helpful in this regard]:
- The Welcoming Team [from parking lot to the door, from ushers to coffee servers] are to be stirred to see their role in bringing people to faith in Jesus - they are the gate keepers of the kingdom, the line of first contact - with authenticity and true affection, they are to love guests to the gathering,
- The Worship needs to be far more unchurched sensitive. The believer worships every day. They are found in His presence whether in the car or in the bedroom. To now be sensitive to others are acts of missionary sensitivity not compromise. The unchurched do not worship. To be sensitive to them is to honor them and acknowledge their presence informally. An hour of endless 'worship', one song after the other, may bless the believer but lose the unchurched even before the word is preached.
- The Songs selection is always of important consideration. There are those that are current and prophetic to the communities journey. There are those that are strong in theology and substance. All of this is good. But by considering the unchurched may I propose that we front load the gathering with a short set, especially of hymns, ancient and modern. The postmodern mind delights in feeling connected to the ancient. The unchurched understand there will be hymns - even if they have only seen it in Mr Bean or Will and Kate's wedding. The rear book end of the gathering, can be far more spacious and exploratory. It is a response to the word preached. It can have elements of reflection and mediation - with breaking of bread being very empowering. This way we can get in both the ancient and the Spirit led spontaneous without losing the guest. Dear elder, stand at the back of you gatherings and I suspect you will be surprised at how different it is back there.
- The Announcements are community times - each person who speaks, let them introduce themselves, so the unchurched may know who they are and why they are doing what they are doing. Let the announcers be good at their task both in cultural sensitivity as well as effective communication. A moment to celebrate the ordinary believer is a moment well spent.
There is obviously much more in this conversation. These are intro thoughts to help transform the lenses with which we as leaders go into our gatherings.