Wouldn’t it be interesting to go to a church meeting where, after an opening song, the pastor announced that the congregation would be writing the sermon?
I think that would get most people’s attention. The idea is that the congregation would be invited to take 10 minutes to recall snippets from any sermon they have heard over the years – something said which has stuck with them and been useful – and write it down, anonymously. (Pens and paper passed around, after 10 minutes collected. Perhaps taken outside the room, for piecing together in similar themes – or perhaps not, if the pastor is brave, as an open show of transparency).
After that, perhaps another song or something to let people settle down and think that this temporary madness has passed.
Then the pastor/worship leader announces that there will now be a chance to write down anything you are finding so interesting that you are thinking about or reading about it this week – and it can be ‘secular’. (Pens and paper passed around, again, then safely gathered in.)
At the usual time for the sermon, the papers can be read out, slowly, with some seconds of silence between each, to allow for the fact that they will be disjointed thoughts, not a connected sermon. This also gives space to laugh. Because some folks will write that they are absorbed by the gorgeousness of the pastor’s tie, or why their football team lost this week – or some other such fun comments. When people discover it’s fine to laugh at this, it gives a great common shared experience, a cameraderie. Life is, indeed, full of seriousness and sadness and joys and pratfalls – none of this is new to God.
Then allow 5 minutes of ‘chew time’ afterwards – silence.
Then a prayer or song and out the door, to coffee and chat. (There will be plenty to chat about).
It could be interesting to do after a major celebration, such as Christmas or Easter – on the subject of what have people realised afresh about this season, this year? (If there is nothing, perhaps the pastor might like to take that on board as a challenge for next year).
And at some point later in the year, when/if people are beginning to seem a bit passive in church, why not rouse the sleepers with an announcement at the beginning “We’re going to write the closing hymn together”. Out with the sheets, for people to write down what they’re thankful for, today, at the start of the service.
Then, at the end, a joyful reading of what is written, as a psalm of thankfulness. (Expecting, again, that there will be thanks for things serious, funny and thought-provoking).
All of this isn’t something new or bizarre: the word “liturgy” means “the work of the people”. Such a service gives everyone in the congregation a say in what is done and said.
Would you like to go to such a church service?