Michelle and others, please do not take anything in my post as negative or personal, understand I want your input, and it helps me sort out and put into words what I am trying to say. I am formulating this as I go, as I don’t have this written out somewhere else. I have discussed it in other contexts, and places but I am trying to get input as well as generate discussion. So this is directed to whoever is listening. I have been blessed lately having come in contact with others having home church and small group movements, including more and more radio talk about dissatisfaction in church teaching approaches as well as teachers who see interaction as the key to a great Church.
You asked what my church service was like, it is like most: Aside from the 45-90 minute sermon time most all services I’ve attended have the following things that can all be done more intimately around tables: preliminary announcements, music time, tithing, prayer, all these things can happen in a small group, and all these are beneficial in developing bonds between believers more effectively if done in small groups (announcements and prayer for instance).
Also, I really do love Easter, and Christmas. What I meant by no fun celebrating alone, is that I could stay home and celebrate, and yet going to church means I usually have to sit or stand in an isle facing a stage, usually among strangers, where as I would prefer to have had a chance to get to know the people standing together in this room, and then we could celebrate with friends and acquaintances at church rather than remain strangers. It is sad to think Christians need to be taught how to have Church without a pulpit and a stage in front of them (I do appreciate large worship immensely, but still these weekly events should not substitute the overwhelming necessity for relationships, community and love.
I am sentimental and mystical on Holy days, in fact I have never experienced anything as emotional and moving as the Passover/Passion plays I’ve witnessed. I could write paragraphs on my love and memories for the Holy days, the Holy night, nativity scenes, Christmas lights, and despite the pagan affiliations, I do love hiding the Easter eggs, and such. Please don’t think I grow tired of the passion that saved me, consider that I’ve spent thousands of hours over the details of the passion of Christ and the implications (Soteriology and other Theologies), devoted my life and soul to studying and wanting to know the Passion and resurrection intimately, consider that I do this because I love the passion and incarnation.
I have not come to this point from an emotional void, or a personal need, I came to this point because in the course of teaching and studying the biblical concepts of: The Temple / The Priesthood / The Church / Ecclesiology / The Body of Christ / The Holy Spirit / Authority / Preaching / Teaching, etc. And additionally from studying the rise of the Catholic church, its twisting and its destruction of what Church was and meant, and because some of these continued traditions are practiced unwittingly in the protestant churches.
I have also come to this point from participating in bible studies and fellowships for years. Since I love bible study, I made it a point to attend and participate in as many small groups as I had time. I also began to study the ‘dynamics’ of bible studies and teaching practices. I also love Church, and whenever I go to church I like to observe the dynamic of what happens there (sometimes I make my notes while the preacher is going over something he has already said 3 times in the past ten minutes). I have also come to this point from studying the general manipulation techniques used by cults, isms, political and social movements (i.e. Mormonism, Jim Jones, Manson, Hitler, Communism, Planned parenthood, Hypnotism, prosperity cults, multi-level marketing and sales techniques, etc., and yes, you can find most of these traits in many common churches). I am also motivated to do something about the lack of interaction between churches that occupy the same town and neighborhood, the aversion to associate with other church bodies, or denominations, generally because pastors fear members might stray, or miss putting their tithe in the pot one Sunday (i.e. Rom.16:17).
Do I have to mention moral relativism, adultery in the church, falling pastors, false teaching, lack of teaching, a secular post-Christian western world, and all the empty churches across Europe?
All I’m suggesting is the need to bond together on Sunday morning. We can’t waste another Sunday sitting next to people we don’t know, when we could be growing our relationships. We don't have forever, the church has wasted enough time, someone needs you and someone needs the Jesus in you. The Spirit was given to every one who believes, this gift of the Spirit was meant to give us life and bond us together as one Body. I have shared that your relationship with God is not only vertical, God is also horizontal, God is with us, He indwells the believer. Jesus is in other believers, Jesus wants us to know Jesus in other believers. He wants us to talk to Him as we talk with one another. Jesus is manifest in the body when we speak to one another. Jesus lifts us up when we lift one another up, God can tell you He loves you when a friend tells you they love you. And you can honestly tell someone Jesus loves them when we have learned that we can love another the way God does, if we're allowed the time to find out.
It would be easy to say: just let the bible study/fellowship format replace the Sermon as the Sunday morning ritual, but if the study ‘leader’ does the same thing a preacher does and dominates the believers time to associate and share, then nothing has been accomplished. I noted before that my role as a teacher is to get the believer to think and talk for himself. As soon as the group is going in a Godly communication around study, then my work is done and I can relax, as Paul wrote in Romans 15 “so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company”. When leaders dominate all the time a small group had to interact, they have wasted that groups chance to grow together (and now a video is commonly substituted). Bible study material is hugely available and almost any believer can pick up a study guide and help lead a group, most all the booklets have teacher guides and directions printed inside. I do not find any difference in the content between what a believer can read from these guides for themselves and what a preacher says from a pulpit. The effect is that the believer learns they can teach and learn for and among themselves, is this not the goal and purpose of teaching and making disciples?
Still, If someone doesn’t want to learn to share and discuss the scriptures with others, and someone prefers that believers not practice this behavior on Sundays, then they are free to go back to their pews and pulpits on Sunday morning. But as for me and my house, I will declare the right to assemble with one another, and I will sing, pray, and break bread with my brothers and sisters, and encourage them to do the same with others house to house... “Teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always” (Matt. 28)