Monday, August 28, 2006

Could this be church?

Seriously -- could this be church!?!?

We've had some very different “worship” experiences throughout the month of August. The first week of the month, we were in the Vondelpark -- lounging on blankets, enjoying picnic food, taking turns in a Tug-of-War contest, playing Ultimate Frisbee with both friends and strangers... In the second week of August, we criss-crossed Amsterdam's city center in a creative scavenger hunt including assignments such as composing an original song and taking a group photo with strangers on the Leidsestraat... The third Sunday of the month gave us an occasion for more intimate gatherings in homes throughout the city, sharing dinner and conversation like in a holiday gathering of extended family... And then the fourth weekend of the month -- this past weekend -- we gathered as a church on Saturday night (thus, we didn't even meet on "The Lord's Day" unless you count the wee hours of Sunday morning) simply to throw a big party! Food and drinks, music and laughter, a totally fun and festive environment that could definitely call into question the meaning of the word "church..."

So perhaps the question should be asked: Why have we been doing this?

Have we just been lazy? Have we been taking a vacation (like everyone else in Amsterdam during the month of August)? Have we decided that worship music and teaching from the Bible are not valuable church experiences? Can a picnic really be called “church?” Can games truly be considered “ministry activities?” Could a Saturday night party actually count as “worship?”

I'd be interested to hear the perspectives of others (please leave a comment if you have ideas!)... But most importantly, perhaps we should try to catch a sense of God's perspective. What would Jesus have had to say about the way that our church operates? What can be learned from his model of ministry? Certainly, Jesus sang songs with his disciples (Mark 14:26), and he preached sermons to large crowds of people (Matthew 5:1-2)… But it seems that a lot of his “ministry” was simply living, traveling, eating, talking, and laughing together with his disciples over a period of months and years…

So maybe we're not so far off in our concept of church... Or maybe we are... What do you think?


At 3:38 PM, Blogger Stef said...

I love Zolder's unique ideas and expressions about "church". So often, it seems church people get into a rut. We think church can only be church if it's programmed, and includes worship music and formal teaching. Yet there are so many other ways to worship God. And so many other ways to teach.

I'm always encouraged and inspired by Zolder's willingness to explore and experiment with true worship, and push the traditional envelope of teaching. Being willing to live outside of those man-made limitations and boundaries puts you, as a church and as individual followers of Christ, in a great position to experience God in extraordinary ways.

At 5:30 PM, Anonymous Jeroen said...

Well I for one got to know sooo many new people through these experiences which I never would have gotten to know throughout the normal services, eventually probably yeah but in in a much slower pace. So we might not have learned as much from study as we could have but we have grown as a group, as a church, as a family, HIS family. And that is groundwork on which He can built for years to come.

At 2:25 AM, Blogger Jay said...

I've been having SO many conversations about what the church in America has become.

Most notably, it has become a place noun. Not a person/people noun. Not a thing noun. A building, set in one spot, set in one way noun.

My own journey has me preparing for foster care. Shouldn't the church care for orphans and widows? My small group journey has me talking about selling possessions and commune living. Shouldn't the church sell all and follow, as Jesus asked? Where in the "service" do we serve? Where in "worship" do we pray? Aren't we to confess our sins to each other? If these are things the church is to do, why don't we do them? Can we make some changes and exist in a way closer to the heart of Jesus?

Aren't WE the church?

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Eric Asp said...

A hearty AMEN to all of the thoughts expressed here! It's always encouraging to hear from like-minded people...

I'd still be curious, though, to hear from the skeptics (if there are any that might happen across these words). The last month of ministry in Amsterdam has also made obvious some of the weaknesses of such irregularities in the "church" experience -- so I'm no starry-eyed idealist.

At 4:00 PM, Blogger Maura Grunkelmeier said...


I’m not sure I’m so much a skeptic as a proponent of balance. The kind of interactions you are describing sound to me to be great aspects of fellowship. Which, from all I have learned about being a disciple, is a large part of our call as Christians…and certainly, in fellowship, there is often also worship.

I guess the thing I like, or perhaps require at this point in my faith, about a more regular “meeting” or “service” is that it offers the opportunity to really focus in on the Word and discuss in specific ways how the Lord is moving in our lives…or how we are struggling…or what is confusing. I used to never read the Bible because it was always so confusing to me…hard to follow. But once I began studying it, and using it actively in worship, things became much easier. Now I read it almost every night because I often find it a comfort.

Also, there is something to me about making sacrifice for the Lord. For example, I often want to sleep in on the weekends. Getting up to attend 8:30 a.m. service is often a challenge for me. But many times I find myself getting up and running out the door to get there…not because I think I’ll burn in hell if I don’t…but because I ask myself “Can I never sacrifice my comforts in order to show the Lord that He is first in my life?” Maybe that seems trite…but, for me, it’s important to make those strides, however small, to put the Lord first.

I guess I just feel that there is perhaps a balance that can happen….regular meetings focused on the Word and some measure of disciplined worship…mixed in with joyful and creative times of fellowship with other Christians…and reaching out to non-believers.

But I do feel strongly that there is not some rote formula to worship. The “church” is not a building, or a meeting, or a ceremony…The Church is people...people gathered into the Body of Christ and gathered in his name. (And if I knew the Bible better I would give you some scriptural quotes to back that up…but I’m still a very young Christian)

That’s the two cents from my corner.

Much Love,


At 8:06 AM, Blogger Eric Asp said...

Thanks for your counter-perspective, Laura. You do raise some good points that fairly accurately mirror some of the comments that we heard here in Amsterdam. I still haven't decided if it's good or bad that people need their weekly teaching "fix."

On the one hand, I want so desperately for the Church in the West to break out of its consumeristic mentality, of which the weekly "feeding" at a church "service" seems to be such a glaring symptom...

But on the other hand, I do see how meeting regularly (Hebrews 10:25) and focusing on the apostles' teaching (Acts 2:42) are supposed to be a consistent part of involvement in the Body of Christ. And for better or worse, it's where a lot of people in our culture are at (as evidenced by the fact that a number of people from Zolder50 started visiting other churches on Sunday mornings toward the end of the month). So I don't think any of us are ready for the Church to become so "alternative" 24/7/365.

Actually, that's kind of what I like about the Zolder50 flow of events. We've done such a style of ministry one month out of the year for each of the last two years -- and it seems to be very effective in providing rest for the regular worker bees (worship band members, teachers, technical operators, the person who makes the coffee or stands at the front door to greet people, etc.) and then creating a hunger for "regular" church life.

But it's still all very much a work in progress. We are, after all, just a bunch of hacks trying to figure things out as we go...


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