One of the real privileges of the work that I get to do is that I hang out regularly with different church communities around the world. I always learn something in these different communities, regardless of where I go, and always walk away with insights on things that the community in question does well, which are therefore elements worthy of imitation in other contexts. I write these all down on my phone when I notice them, and so I thought (probably incorrectly) that they may be interesting to one or two of you who are pursuing the never ending quest of patiently shaping and growing a community of sinners made saints.
To be fair, these insights are usually only based on Sunday gatherings and so they aren’t exhaustive in any way, but you can get a real feel for what a place values in the experience of its meetings together. I will limit the number of observations to three, and will limit the scope to positives. This doesn’t mean I would agree with everything in all of these churches, but it is important to cheer one another on in the Kingdom sometimes, isn’t it?
Here are three incredibly positive things I noticed at a recent gathering with my friends at The Crowded House, in Sheffield, England.
- They Sing and Pray as a Congregation
I have never heard a congregation sing as loudly as the congregation at The Crowded House. It is very moving, and I think very biblical. The band really does operate as a backing band to the congregation and so they actually get drowned out by the sound of the voices in the room. The liturgy is well thought out and so there is a redemptive flow throughout the service that invites the congregation into repentance, response, celebration as well as communal prayer and scripture reading. It leaves me thinking and wondering about how I have often structured services that result in stage based entertainment rather than congregational participation.
2. They Live Life Together in Community
If you have read Total Church, then you will know what the leaders at Crowded House think about community. But, I have found that there is often an alarming gap between principle and practice when you get to meet authors and spend time in their context. No such gap exists with this community. They do life together, share possessions, hang out a lot, share good coffee, greet one another warmly and welcome strangers into their midst. The English have a bit of a reputation for being a slightly chilly bunch when it comes to relational warmth, and churches like this one can fight that cultural norm and point to the gospel while doing it.
3. They Think Global
I have visited Crowded House more than half a dozen times and every time they have taken time in their gatherings to celebrate the work of God around the world in a variety of contexts. It takes people’s eyes off of the smallness of their own worlds and warms people’s affections to hear of the ways that the gospel is advancing around the world.
I love every opportunity I get to visit this church community, and God-willing, will see them again in March 2018. I hope and pray that maybe some of their strengths spurs you on as church leaders to learn and grow in your own community.