Simple not Slick, Smooth or Sophisticated
As I drove back home from east London on Sunday morning I caught the Daily Service on Radio 4. Just for the record, that’s not a usual thing; either driving back from Stratford or listening to Radio 4’s Daily Service. I’d been dropping ‘the daughter’ at the Lee Valley Velodrome for an early morning meet for a track cycling session. I was travelling back alone. And I wanted something to listen to on the drive back south of the river. Anyway, back to the service. It was coming from a Cathedral in Glasgow. It was sophisticated, professional and impressive. And it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting! The Prayer Book Liturgy and some old hymns prevent a certain amount of doctrinal drift!
But as I drove home and allowed my mind to wander, I thought ahead to our first ever congregational meeting that afternoon. Bridge Church Peckham would be ‘going live’. We’d be doing church in a more deliberate way than we’d done before. The three of us involved in leading the plant have spent a fair amount of time talking about what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to do it in our Sunday gatherings. There’s been a remarkable amount of agreement. And, where we haven’t agreed, there’s been willingness to be flexible on non-essentials and reach a consensus. But we’ve never really driven some principled stakes into the ground, preferring to take a more relaxed somewhat evolutionary approach to what we’re doing as we do something, reflect on it, consult and tweak. It’s an approach that suits our personalities and the situation in which we’re in.
But on Sunday we wanted to give people an idea of what to expect going forward. We’d covered some of this in our preparatory launch meetings as we’d talked about the purpose of church, the role of music and so on. But we were aware that we’d have people checking us out. And it seemed a good time to nail our colours to the mast. We were pretty sure that they weren’t expecting the Daily Service. But we wanted to let them know what to expect and our direction of travel.
It’s early days for us at the Bridge and so we really need to be sensible about what we do and ruthless about what we don’t do. We’re in this for the long haul. And we need to go the distance. So we’ve made a decision that our congregational meetings are going to be simple and uncomplicated. And to that end they’re always going to consist of these three essential elements: praise, prayer and proclamation.
Praise because we want to advertise God’s character . We’ve got something to sing about and celebrate because the God of the Bible and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is, quite simply, amazing. And we want everyone to know that. We want to tell him, we want to remind one another and we want to tell the world. And so praising him is at the heart of why we’ve started.
Prayer because we want to ask for God’s provision. We’re absolutely dependent on him. It’s especially noticeable given our vulnerability as a new church starting out. We need him to be providing for us everything that he thinks that we need. And so we’ll pray. We’ll pray along the lines of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to say in Matthew 6, perhaps paying particular attention to ‘our daily bread’.
Proclamation because we want to attend to God’s word. We don’t want to be that church that ignores God’s word. He’s spoken. Our job is to listen, understand and obey. And so, together as a church family, we’ll read the Bible and someone will explain it to us and explore its implications. And then we’ll encourage one another to believe it and respond to it as God would have us do.
I suspect, over time, like a yacht travelling through sea water, a whole heap of stuff will get stuck to the bottom of our currently clean hull. And, in time, we may need to get the boat out of the water, inspect it and scrape of those unwelcome additions that are slowing us down. But we’re not there yet. We’re just starting out. And the clean lines of praise, prayer and proclamation whilst not necessarily delivered in an essentially slick, smooth or sophisticated way will serve us well as we begin our journey, the Lord willing.