There were a few questions that guided our weekend in Victoria and Seattle:
- What is church in a city?
- And what does church/community look like in a city?
We experienced diverse expressions of Christian community. From house-church to megachurch, we saw no shortage of variety in the body of Christ.
Saturday evening was spent with a house-church movement called Pangea Communities in which we experienced a dinner and communion service - a sort-of hybrid of their typical gatherings. Warm hospitality and connection was coupled with a new experience for all of us: “Anabaptist Liturgical Charismatic worship” (as described by leader Kurt Willems). It was rich.
|Mars Hill Church Downtown|
Sunday was met with sunshine and more diversity of Christian community. In the morning we attended Mars Hill Church Downtown, a campus of the famed megachurch led by Mark Driscoll (who preached live at the service we attended). I was grateful he didn’t talk about pacifism (!!!) Students were actively processing the contrast of the mega church service with the house-church experience of the night before. We had (and continue to have!) lively discussion on this topic. Sunday afternoon we wrapped up our trip with a neighborhood tour with Tim Soerens of Parish Collective, an organization focused on networking and training Christians who are engaging their local neighborhoods. Here we encountered the diversity of Seattle’s neighborhoods, discussing a range of issues from gentrification, affordable housing, youth ministry, and multicultural church. It was primarily a time of hearing stories of God’s people asking the question, “What’s God’s dream for our neighborhood?” It was stimulating to say the least.
All of these churches emphasized community and relationships as integral to faith and following Jesus. From sharing a meal, to strongly emphasizing home group ministry, to church-run community centers, it was clear that following Jesus was more than just about “me.” It was interesting, however, to observe how and where community fit into each particular expression of church. As a house church, everything Pangea Communities does flows from relationship together as sisters and brothers in Christ, to the point of where any language spoken in the group is intentionally corporate (e.g. “I” is changed to “we” in familiar songs). For Mars Hill Church, preaching and singing focus on the profound meaning of personal faith and life in Christ, with the value on community mentioned in announcements following the service.
It was clear that both groups firmly believe community is important for Christians. Community is a gospel truth in this sense. But how we emphasize community will invariably influence how we practice it. The medium (i.e. how community is presented) is the message. In a house church gathering, the very practices of eating together and having open discussion reflect a centrality of faith and community. In a megachurch gathering, a format of teaching and singing that aims at developing a vibrant personal faith has community as an extension of such faith.This isn't a right or wrong issue. But it is different.
Overall, I appreciate the diversity of church, and enjoyed experiencing this variety on our trip. But I’m left wondering: does how we talk about and experience community - this “medium” for faith - impact the depth of our fellowship together? (cf. Acts 2:42; 1 Jn 1:1-4). From house-church to megachurch alike, such a question is essential in seeking a deep faith and life together.