Slow down

August 20, 2011

Our church does (or did) something that I think is very telling about the way we view our lives. About two to three minutes prior to the start of the worship service, a large digital times would be projected onto the two jumbotrons on either side of the stage. 59…58…57…5…4…3…2…1. It would countdown to the start of worship. I’m not sure if we do this anymore since having two kids means that I’m virtually never early for a service and if I was, I’d be too enervated to pay attention to the screens at the front of the room.

I almost always take my seat for worship feeling harried, distracted, and tired. The countdown always exacerbated these feelings. It always made me feel as though we were getting ready for a high energy sprint through our feelings toward God. The problem is when you’re feeling harried, distracted, and tired…well, you don’t have the energy for a high energy sprint.

Over the years the countdown has gone the way of all flesh (I think, again I’m never early to church except when the time changes). The empty stage now has a carpet and some candles as well as signs of the ministry that is taking place — pulpit (sometimes a coffee shop table, but that’s cool), font, and table. Roots.

I think our church is slowly catching onto a new need in our society — the need for an unhurried church, a slow church. 

Tim Chester has an interesting post on slow church. He takes a look at the Proverbs and pulls out a bunch of references to slowness as something than can set the stage for the development of Godliness in our lives.

His conclusion:

Our culture is always in a hurry. We want to achieve everything today. It is striking that Jesus waited for 30 years before beginning his public ministry. I wonder if most of us had had our way we would have urged him into ministry earlier.

I don’t know about you, but one of the things I most desperately need in my life is unhurried time with God and with others — time that is not under the clock, interrupted with phone calls, ticking through an agenda.

As we move further into the 21st century it may just be that it’s as important for the church to slow down as it is for us to be missional, centered on the mission of God. For far too long the church has basically baptized the values of our consumer culture and placed a patina of Christianity on an otherwise totally secular way of life that is inimical to Christian faith.

The reason that I’m a pastor is that I long to see the church serve as an agent of deep transformation in our society, not simply affirmed and baptizing culture, but creating a new kingdom culture.