Sometimes I take the Contact Church for granted. I forget about how different it is, until I talk to a visitor or invite someone to worship services.
This morning, I ran across Randy (one of our Contact Church members) and his boss while I was working. They were cutting down a tree in the yard of one of our Bible class teachers.
Randy's boss has visited the Contact Church several times and loves it. As he said, "At Contact, you don't worry about religion. You just love the people." I'm sure he meant that we don't worry about formalism and ritualism in our worship services. Instead, we concentrate on caring about each other and our visitors.
I started to think about some of our different practices. For example, we have a period in our worship assembly which we call prayer and praise. For about ten minutes, someone will approach the podium and take praise reports and prayer requests from the congregation. Everyone is welcome to tell us what makes them thankful or what concerns them at that time. Close to 90% of the comments are praise reports (ranging from "I'm thankful for my dog" to "Jesus is coming back"). The remainder consists of prayer requests (ranging from "My neighbor is in the hospital" to "My grandson is in jail").
When someone responds at the end of the service with a need for prayer, the entire congregation goes forward with him or her. The church surrounds the individual and lays hands on him or her as we pray for the person's concerns. If someone confesses faith in Christ and the desire to repent along with a request for baptism, the congregation surrounds him or her after the baptism and everyone gets an opportunity to offer words of encouragement before someone leads us in prayer for the new believer.
Throughout the morning, children (who make up roughly half of the 160 or so people in the assembly) roam the aisles with adults trying to gain some control over the clowns and darlins (as our minister refers to them). It makes for a lively worship service. Since most of the children do not have parents in the assembly, the adults have learned to take responsibility for more than their own children.
Most of the worship service is interactive. In addition to the prayer and praise portion of the service, the children will interact with the children's minister on stage before going to classes after our communion service. During the sermon, members of the congregation will speak to the preacher (whether he asks a question or not). (When I lead the prayer and praise or the communion service, Christopher will stand up front with me. Children tend to like to be on stage with adults. When we visit other churches, I'm always a little concerned that Christopher will not know how to act in a normal church, but he always does fine, despite what he is used to.)
We don't have calm and quiet worship services (except sometimes when the children are in summer camp...but not all the time even then). The Contact Church is a little different, but we always walk away encouraged to live a Christ-honoring lifestyle. It's different, but good.
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:23-25).