Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The 3rd Service

Church services vary. There are worship services, Adult Bible Fellowships, baptism services, prayer meetings and potlucks. There are such a variety of services that a church can, and should offer that each type of service needs a good reason for being performed. Unfortunately, one vital function of a church often does not receive its own service: that being one of fellowship.

In our church, we show that we value community building events that produce healthy fellowship by listing it among our core values. We articulate this with "We strive for authentic fellowship in a closely relating community of faith. Opportunities to care for one another through ministry, enjoy one another in activities and encourage one another with love are pursued throughout life in the church." As a result, activities that foster greater fellowship and authentic community are not only allowable, but are necessary to give expression for such core values for a church. Furthermore, since other services of the church (worship, education, communion, etc.) give expression to those values, the value of "community" deserves its own church service as well.

I call this "the 3rd service" because churches will typically set aside time for education and worship, but fellowship often falls by the wayside. Seen as less important or structured, other events crowd it out. Coincidentally, Starbucks Coffee Co. has referred to coffeehouse as the "3rd place" for people go after home and work. This is a purposeful pursuit of fellowship building to develop a healthy community of believers. It is not an amount of wasted time in which nothing else occurs. It is instead a church service designed to facilitate an aspect of church life that is no less vital than prayer, music, preaching or Bible study.

The "3rd service," therefore, should be closely guarded, protected from those tendencies to schedule every moment of church with fast paced activity. In Everett, WA Naomi and I observed how this played out when the church enjoyed breakfast together Sunday mornings or supper together Tuesday nights. In this way they held the "3rd" service" every week. I'm so pleased that my church does the same.

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