Welcome and thanks for participating in day 3 of the ARISE fast and devotional blog. If you haven’t read the previous days, please go back and read them before reading
There exists in every church something that sooner or later works against the very purpose for which it came into existence. So we must strive very hard, by the grace of God to keep the church focused on the mission that Christ originally gave to it. – C.S. Lewis
How many churches have you been in?
I have been in hundreds of churches, in dozens of countries, on 5 of the 7 continents…. large churches and small churches… churches that meet in barns and churches that meet in homes. I even once preached at a church in Brussel’s Belgium that meets in the world’s largest Subway restaurant… honestly, it’s still not that big.
Have you ever noticed how virtually all church sanctuaries are organized in the same way? While cultures, dress, and worship styles may be radically different, almost all churches share the same sanctuary organization… the theater.
There is a front area, usually accommodating a stage or platform. Then there is a place to sit usually occupied by pews or chairs… although I’ve preached in many churches where people sit on the floor… If I preach long in those churches I’m scared their butt will go numb! Yikes!
Here’s the thing: In ALL of the churches I have ever attended, everyone faces forward. We take it for granted. It’s assumed. How else would we sit? Backwards? Sideways? Silly devotion blog!
But slow down and think about it for a second – What unspoken message are we sending? What are we saying through our face-forward seating arrangement that looks almost identical to a concert hall, an opera, a cinema, and a classroom?
No matter the venue, the seating says “everyone face forward, be quiet and watch!”
You find this seating style everywhere… well… everywhere except in most of the meetings that birthed the movement we now call Christianity. They did things a little differently. Their primary meeting and teaching place was not a theater shape. They were, instead, formed around the dinner table. The early church met, often daily, to eat and encourage one another around food. The theater style lecture hall would not be the primary gathering style until after the church had reached the previously mentioned 20 million in the 4th century.
I’m not attempting to cause a revolt against our theater style sanctuaries. I only desire to point out the psychological shift that happens as a result of this style change.
In a theater, there is one person who teaches, informs, entertains or in some way imparts to the crowd. This person becomes seen as the “expert.” After all, we’re all watching him/her for a reason. He/she does something we can’t or don’t think we can, so we look up to them and respect them for it.
I can’t dance ballet, so I watch the ballerina. I don’t understand science, so I learn from the PHD. They sing better than me, so I simply listen and enjoy.
This is a passive audience. The “expert” is on the stage, while the rest of us receive from what they impart from their elevated position.
Now… contrast that with the dinner table. At the dinner table all are at the same level. Instead of monologues, we have dialogues. Instead of only listening, there is discussion. While one person may be more knowledgeable, everyone has the opportunity to enter into the dialogue. Similar to King Arthur’s “Knights of the Round Table”, everyone is treated as equals.
Part of what made the Christian movement possible was the fact that everyone was considered a minister. While one person, usually the father of the house, might be the leader, everyone was considered an instrument that God could and would use. Everyone had something to say and something to offer.
When you contrast that with our current theater seating, it’s no wonder we exalt the role of the clergy and diminish the role of the congregation. The minister is the one who ministers, while the saints watch… and sometimes scrutinize. Church became a place we go to rather than a people we are.
The circular sanctuaries of the early church movement remind us that we are all ministers ordained by God to do good works. We all have access to God’s power and presence as we offer up prayers. YOU are just as called, anointed and commissioned as any “full time” vocational minister. You have something to say, and people need to hear it. You have something to do, and people need to experience it.
As we embrace the movement of Christianity once again, we must re-affirm and reacquire the ministry of ALL the saints. All believers are called into full time ministry… Some inside the church, some outside the church, some in cubicles, some on stages, some online, some offline – but all are called.
The church is a roundtable movement.
JOIN THE MOVEMENT by recognizing and living out the ministry call God has placed on YOUR life.
Esse Quam Videri,
Meditate and reflect on this verse and questions:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light 1 Peter 2:9
1. What “platforms” has God given you to minister through?
2. What gifts, large or small, physical or spiritual, has God given you that can be leveraged to perform His ministry?
3. Ministry can be an intimidating word. How would you define “ministry”?
– If you have been at ARISE any length of time, you have probably heard us mention our keystone habit: Pain or Problems equal Prayer. It’s simple. When you hear pain or problems just ask the person if you can pray with them… right then, right there. Let God do the rest. Personally praying for someone may be the best ministry you could ever perform, and you don’t need to have a Bible degree to pray. Anyone can pray, and even if your prayer is not perfect and you stumble over your words, it can still be incredibly effective.
So pray right now that God gives you opportunities and courage to minister to every person this week that you hear of with pain or a problem. Then share your experience in a comment so we can all celebrate together.