Reflections on how Christians help each other to grow and mature in loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Drive-in Worship?

A recent UMNS story tells about a church in Marietta, Georgia that has been offering a “Drive-in worship” service at 8:00 am on Sunday mornings. You can read the story here: Drive-in worshipers opt for bucket seats over pews

I commend Rev. Markle for his desire to reach new people for Jesus Christ. I commend his creativity. What he is doing is not unlike the early Methodist practice of field preaching. They were compelled to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to people who otherwise never cross the threshold of a church door. I believe the Rev. Markle is driven by the same desire to offer the gospel of Jesus Christ to people who, for what ever reasons, will not attend a traditional service of worship. I trust, also, that Rev. Markle is preaching Christ in all his offices: Prophet, Priest, and King. I trust, also, that his congregation, like the early Methodist societies, has an intentional process of Christian initiation that awaits those people who respond to the gospel and surrender their lives to Christ and his kingdom.

My problem with this article is that what is happening in the parking lot of New Hope United Methodist Church is being called “worship.” A more accurate description is “evangelical assembly.” Worship, by definition, is the work of the people of God. It is the self-offering of a congregation, a people united in the love of God incarnate in Jesus Christ, through prayer, Scripture, proclamation, sacrament, and service. For worship to be worship the people must be able to reach out and touch and embrace one another.

The drive-in “worship” described in the article is not worship because it is necessarily passive and the people are separated from one another by tons of steel. The inherent isolation of the people in the cars prevents the gatherings from ever being sacramental. The isolation caused by the automobiles prevents the gathering from every being a true assembly. It will always be a collection of isolated individuals. Worship, by its very nature, is communal, relational, and tactile. An assembly of individuals separated from one another by steel and glass cannot truly be Christian worship.

I commend the people of New Hope UMC and Rev. Markle for their creativity in reclaiming the Methodist practice of field preaching. I pray that it will bring them much growth and vitality. But, let’s not call what is happening in the parking lot on Sunday morning worship.


Blogger Kim said...

As I was reading this at first I cringed, and then as you went on I jumped in. But then again when you said that this wasn't a gathering of God's people I cringed again. But in the end I think you are on to something. Worship must indeed be physical, must be united.

This makes me think about the rising trend of "church on the Internet" - particularly the appearance of "churches" on the online communities like Second Life, etc... So much about our faith and call as disciples of Christ is to be side-by-side with each other, to touch another in love (hugs, hand shakes, pat on the back), to hear the words and the actual breath of each other.

Jesus Christ was incarnate on earth because that contact and bodiness is so vital to our lives and to our faith. So I am not sure I would call is "worship" but a gathering, a cohort, a parking lot of faith commuters.

7:40 AM

Blogger John said...

Drive-in church?

Shoot, the most innovating churches are offering a drive-through window.

9:24 PM


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