Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Stage Has Hijacked The Church

When I was developing the model that we now call member-driven church, I did a 2 year study of what the Bible actually said about how to do church. I slowly realized how much of what we do for church is "extra-biblical". Over the centuries, we added rules and rituals--defining the "right" way to live out the biblical commands.

Those methods increasingly became centered on a professional few standing on a stage, inspiring the passive members watching from their seats. And in the process, we've forgotten all the other forms of ministry that aren't stage-based.

In short, the stage has hijacked the church.

Churches first used raised platforms in the third century AD. For three hundred years, a stage in your church was a strange idea. But it's grown and grown in use until the modern concept of church services is entirely defined by what is done on a stage to inspire the members sitting and watching.

Hold on--isn't doing everything on a stage simply a practical consideration? There's just no other way to handle a gathering where hundreds--maybe thousands--are in the same room. The stage is the only viable option, right?

That assumption is exactly what I'm concerned about. There are many ways to engage a crowd without using the stage--even crowds of thousands. You can break them up in small groups, each with their own table (think banquet). You can set up stations around the room and allow them to choose what activities to do (think expo). You can have a room set up with activities in some places, food in others, and lounging areas in others (think family reunion).

That's not practical in our sanctuary, you might be thinking. And that's exactly my point. Churches have spent millions to build buildings--and a culture--that allows for only stage performances. Room layouts exist for the non-stage crowd experiences I mentioned above. But the stage has so hijacked our understanding of church that we can't think outside that box.

I'm not opposed to the stage. In fact, I love the stage. I grew up performing on stage, doing my first play at age 4, going on to act, sing, dance, do comedy, Shakespeare, lead a band...I even  got my bachelor's degree in musical theater performance. And the stage isn't just a fun, personal hobby--it's a  powerful tool, changing lives every week.

I don't want to remove the stage from our services (thereby making another error swinging the another extreme). I'm interested in adding back in the non-stage ministry to our Sunday services. That would require reducing the stage in our services to make room for other ministry experiences. We've come so far from the practices of the early church. Maybe we can take a couple of steps back toward a healthy middle, incorporating the best of today's performance skills and the original discipleship methods that changed the world.

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