I love this so much, Mark! And I recently attended a Lutheran church who seemed to be heading in that direction. The "sermon" only lasted about 8 mins. The rest of the time together was spent in worship, some liturgy, some special music ( a beautiful flute solo accomp by piano), prayer time, and communion. At one point the pastor gave space for people to just walk around and visit for a few minutes with each other. I was so confused that I thought the service was over - and when I bumped into him during that mingling time, I said, "Thank you for the service. It was so nice!" and he laughed and said, "oh, it's not over yet!" HA! I had already put on my coat to leave! #embarassed -- Anyway, I just appreciated the different approach of the service -- and also that the church has a pot-luck luncheon with each other after every Sunday service for more community time. It's not a large church - maybe 100 people. But I sensed a community there that I haven't felt in a long time at other churches. It is also an affirming church, which I loved. Keep on dreaming, friend. The church needs to hear voices like yours!!

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Feb 22Liked by Mark Smeby

Dear people of God be encouraged through one another. There are so many churches… we choose where we attend and who we build community with. Praying and asking the Holy Spirit to guide us to a place that is Alive in Jesus, where anointed worship (which is critical) moves your heart and spirit, where the Pastor teaches the word, renewing your mind and spirit weekly. Community is necessary and encouraged. The breath of God, and the fruit of the spirit is alive. These churches do exist. Seek… and I pray you find.

Sometimes I just want to stay.

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Feb 24Liked by Mark Smeby

Interesting article, Mark. And there is a lot to unpack there. Here are a few of my thoughts and observations:

On what do we base the primary Worship Service? We know there was some order of service according to scripture that involved: Prayer (1 Timothy 2:8), Singing (Hebrews 2:12), the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), Preaching (Acts 5:42), and Giving (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). These are also confirmed in the Διδαχὴ, or Didache - an early extra-biblical church training manual, which dates to the first century!

So, if one believes that Scripture is our guide for faith and practice, then preaching is a "regulative principle," i.e., requirement. Yeah, I'm not just a web and graphic designer, but a former teaching pastor and Bush League Theologian as well.

That said, not all preaching is equal - as we have all experienced.

Some pastors don't preach the gospel, but choose forms of self-help, prosperity, politics, pop culture, etc. Shame on us. Preaching and Study should never be boring or irrelevant. How can one not be changed by the studying, preaching, and hearing the Gospel?

Some parishioners just aren't interested or engaged. Shame on us. Being a disciple means something. There is a commitment required of us. Ones based on Scripture, not current trends.

It shouldn't be an all or nothing situation. Sermons (Preaching and Teaching) are a must. But, they should also be biblical and also applied to our lives in our time and situation. There is also no reason why we shouldn't also have the types of workshops and practical hand-dirtying opportunities you mentioned.

A friend of mine equates this to putting cookies on a shelf. Preachers and Teachers should place cookies on the bottom, middle, and top shelves. Easy to access, but also encouraging us to stretch and reach and grow. No one should be stagnant.

Now, finding a church that does this things IS hard to find these days. On that, we are most certainly agreed. It is hard. Thanks for expressing that and allowing for us to share the hard stuff together.

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