This post was originally sent to subscribers of Rohadi’s monthly newsletter, and reposted here with permission. To subscribe to Rohadi’s newsletter follow this link.
For the first time in nearly 3 years my current church plant, Cypher Church, held what I’ll call a “conventional” worship service. You know the one: 5 songs, 1 by Hillsong, announcements, and a 20-45 minute sermon. We don’t worship in this way so it was novel to do once.
How we gather and the ways we deconstruct our understanding of worship are important questions for the church in post-Christian Canada. Questions like: who is the gathering for, is it culturally relevant, are we spending too much resourcing on Sunday morning, is weekly gathering still necessary in Christian formation, and does the Sunday service add or detract from mission?
My first church plant lasted 6 years and met every other week. Today, official Cypher Church gatherings are only once a month. That means it’s been over 15 years since I last served weekly for Sunday service. During that time my life was a bit different. I never made plans Saturday night because I’d be up early Sunday to work. Maybe you can relate? Soundboard, worship band, leadership, preaching, and set up / take down.
For many, attending a weekly service is a base measure of faithfulness. The unwritten rule is you “do” Sunday service. Conversely, I’ve found it liberating to “skip” from weekly services. Once you get over the guilt (a funny feeling to have about church isn’t it?) you realize how much life there is beyond the Sunday routine. Not that gatherings aren’t important. But I know many Christians who now rarely “attend” a service and have found renewed vitality in their faith. Some church leaders have even found value in cancelling services every season to do. say, outreach initiatives together.
Institutions aren’t designed to accommodate change. They are built for self-preservation. That means change is unlikely to come from within. This posture doesn’t help anyone trying to make sense of their faith in our current world. Towards the end of summer, I saw a lot of social media attention following popular Christians publicly walking away from their faith. A new consciousness emerged as individuals woke up to the wide disconnection between their brand of faith and mainstream culture. Their traditions produced a witness incompatible with a modern world.
Have you ever felt a similar tension? Ever noted something “off” about the things said behind the pulpit or study group? Shake your head at something posted on social media? How did you respond?
The way you work through your tension is a process of deconstruction. Often a bad word and a symbol of a weak faith, deconstruction in my view should be an ongoing and healthy component of your faith. (It’s also best done in groups.) Left unchecked it could lead to a space of losing faith. But that’s not healthy in my opinion.
I can’t imagine faith without deconstruction. It’s a signal that something new and deeper is happening. Take for example the twelve disciples. From calling, to discipleship with Jesus, to Pentecost and beyond, their world was continuously changing. Their faith and traditions were being challenged and no longer made comfortable “sense”. I can imagine the challenges they faced between the new life Jesus was announcing, and losing their cultural and religious boundaries. For some, it took monumental encounters with Jesus to make any sort of shift. Paul had a conversion experience on the road to Damascus. Peter a vision while asleep under the yawning awning flapping in the sea breezed shores of Joppa. John had a crazy prophetic vision of life in the here and now, and the age to come. The disciples faced change and their ability to respond well contributed to the expansion of the early church.
How about you? What’s happening right now that may be shifting your practices and understanding? Perhaps it’s on the topic of sexuality, gender, identity, or race?
Institutions protect insider culture and are largely inept at connecting with people who don’t look and believe like it. Many are rightly searching for something deeper away from a hopeless gospel. Deconstruction is the journey to discover a deeper faith that makes sense in a contemporary world. It’s a normal enterprise for Christians who take seriously how they can live out a vibrant faith. A Christian faith that is the bearer of good news and breather of new life for neighbourhood and city.