April 10, 2017 | by Bob Whitesel, published by Church Central.
It has been said that “10:30 on Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week.” I don’t have a problem with that if 11:30 is the most integrated time during the week. Here is what I mean.
The purpose of worship is to draw near to God as if to kiss his feet. This means the goal of our “worship services” should not attempt to create unity but to create a connection with God. I asked a girl in one Millennial church why they had such a large foyer with a coffee shop. She said it was because the large foyer was designed as a place for people from the early service and the late service to fellowship and discuss what they are learning. I replied that in my observations, most of the time in Boomer churches this fellowship takes place in the sanctuary. She replied, “That’s a poor place to have fellowship. The seats are facing the wrong direction.”
Worship has become too many things; it is one thing.That got me thinking about 15 years ago, about how we have turned worship services into pep rallies. We often celebrate the church and our volunteers or our different musical styles, when really “worship service” in its very terminology is about connecting people to God. Maybe that is why people sometimes feel less connected with God, because we have the wrong emphasis in large segments of the worship service.
I’m not saying worship doesn’t take place in our worship services. It does. I’m saying, however, that it often feels sandwiched in between so many other things. Worship is too important to be sandwiched.
Where is fellowship, dialogue and reconciliation fostered: the Fellowship Foyer, Hall, etc. I believe fellowship is better fostered when we can talk about what we are learning at length. That takes place best in small, intimate groups where we can dialogue on a regular basis about our differences. But, it is especially hard to do when you’re entering or vacating a sanctuary so the next service can be held.
A good first step, however, would be for churches to provide a fellowship foyer (fellowship hall?) adjacent to the worship area where people could hang around after worship services to discuss what they are learning. I believe we must again create robust areas for fellowship, like the fellowship halls of old. These were the places of old where congregants hung around after church and deepened their relationships.
Even today many large churches with trendy facilities foyers too small for congregants leaving one service to fellowship with congregants attending the other. One pastor said, “We have a foyer, but they don’t hang around.” Well, if we are intent on creating unity and making 11:30 (or 10) a.m. a reconciliation time, then we may have to spend more time and thought on how to create fellowship. Just don’t do it during the worship time and detract from that.
And, worship services should be multiplied according to the artistic genres with which people are most culturally comfortable. It has been my observation that people worship best when they are singing songs with which they are familiar, to music with which they are comfortable.
I don’t think the worship service is, by its very name, purposed to create unity. I believe this is the wrong use of the worship time because the designation “worship” means a time to draw people close to God as if to kiss his feet.
I’m not against unity, I’m for it … just not at the expense of worship.I want to see more unity in our churches. But, we detract from the important ministry of worship and the Word by trying to cram into our worship services a unifying experience as well. In fact, I’ve written a whole chapter in the book The Healthy Church (2013) on how to create unity services.
Reconciliation begins with dialogue. Reconciliation is not going to take place in the limited conversations of a fellowship foyer, fellowship hall, etc. But it needs to start somewhere, and it can be fostered there. What if people who enjoyed different musical genres could attend the same church, hear the same sermon (perhaps by different culturally relevant preachers) and then exit into a “fellowship hall/foyer” to might with people of other cultures and learn how the sermon impacts each culture similarly and differently. This can begin a dialogue that can then branch out from Sunday morning to the rest of the week.
Here I think is the reason the quote that “10:30 is the most segregated time of the week” was utilized by Martin Luther King Jr. That is because our churches are segregated on Sunday mornings. This may be because most churches offer only one musical genre style of worship and therefore those who come to worship are primarily people attracted to one musical genre. I recently wrote a book with a colleague titled: re:MIX: Transitioning Your Church to Living Color(Abingdon Press).
I pray fervently for churches to develop a ministry of reconciliation to God and one another (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).
So, what if we offered multiple genres as well as united opportunities to talk about what we’re learning over a cup coffee in our foyers? Reconciliation might not end there, but it certainly should start.
Most people who attend church do so on Sunday mornings. And they attend a segregated church because the music we select and the facilities we build promote one dominant culture. That is not good. So, if we are going to start breaking down cultural biases and walls, we must start church makeovers with facilities and options that promote multicultural options with uniting environments.