Worshiped at Bethany First Church of the Nazarene this morning. Incredible worship and sermon by Rick Harvey on the parable of the talents (Matt 25) and our preoccupation with “stuff,” and an investment of resources for the kingdom. Rick apologized to the congregation since he feels like he is “yelling” at times, but not to me. What I “heard” is as passion and an enthusiasm for what God is doing and and can do through this community’s stewardship. Rick provided a great connection between everyday financial wisdom and whole life stewardship. Great job Rick.
Yet what caught my attention was the gathering for worship. We arrived early to second service, preferred by college students. While sitting in the sanctuary 10 minutes before worship the church sanctuary seemed almost empty. Five minutes later people were just arriving and talking in the sanctuary but still a modest crowd considering the size of the sanctuary. Meanwhile while I was musing on Facebook with my cell phone (yes, boys with their toys) about our proclivity to sit in the same place in a sanctuary regardless of church. (Yes, on Facebook)
The sanctuary seemed to be filling suddenly (at least to me), almost like bees swarming to the nest. By the time the worship began the sanctuary was filled and participating in high energy worship. By the end of that first song everyone seemed to be in place who was present for the service. Coming from a church where it takes going 15 minutes into worship to reach the general occupancy for the service, this in-filling of people was just amazing. I felt like I had joined a flash mob in the time it took to finish the countdown.
At first glance the countdown might seem odd but, based on my understanding of congregational studies, it makes sense in this context and culture. I don’t know the facility that well, but with smaller foyers and large sanctuary people connect in the sanctuary rather than linger outside. College student’s tend to be “just in time” to classes, chapel, lunch, papers, and life. Younger adults and professionals seem to be the same thing, trying to “squeeze” every moment they experience into life.
In this setting the countdown serves as a “focusing” event, drawing people into the moment more than wooing them into the sanctuary. Of course not every church works this way. To be frank I wonder if sometimes we need “shepherds,” armed with shepherd staffs or perhaps cattle prods, in the foyer to “compel” (prod?) people into the sanctuary. Still, does the countdown serve as a call to worship? I don’t think so, the opening song carries the energy and people probably know when they “miss it.” This does remind me of Marvin Jones at Trevecca Community COtN where music not only lead but also “launched” worship.
Still the countdown serves a unique function of alerting people to a shift in life to the “just in time…and eternity” of worship. In this setting the screens are no less odd than smoke and censures or “call and response” greetings in other places. Ultimately the question may be “what forms the people to focus on worship in their just in time’ lives?” At BFC, in this setting, at this time, a countdown seems to serve the goal.