Debate about format & structure

There has (for a long time) been a debate about the way in which our church services are structured, and about their content. From “High Church” to “Low Church”; liturgical or not; elevated lectern or not; musical instruments or acapella; “conformist” or “non-conformist”; and the list goes on.

Sometimes to the point where we forget the various purposes for which a local church meets.

Our local church meets in the middle of the week for “prayer and Bible study”. One person remonstrated with me; saying that we should drop the prayer, and concentrate on Bible study. I was a little grieved at the comment, since I have long felt that corporate prayer is an important aspect of the “body life” of the local church. However, it pushed my thoughts down a different road: What really is important about our gathering as a body?

Along that line I read a quote recently: “As long as you notice, and have to count the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we are almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.” … C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

If my mind is occupied with the format and structure, there is a danger that I will be missing what is important; drawing near to Him, and learning more of Him.

Of course, the structure and format are important; some tend to draw our minds to themselves, and we can become obsessive about the physical to the neglect of the important. Innovation and change are necessary and often shake us out of our lethargy; but they should never take centre stage. Of course neither should the old and familiar.