I didn't grow up going to church, and when I did become a Christ follower at the age of 18 I assumed that all churches were the same as the one I'd started attending (a non charismatic Baptist church). It was only as friends started to invite me to their churches that I began to realise that they weren't all the same, in fact some of them were so different that you could have thought they represented different faiths, not just different expressions of the same faith!
On the one hand I got invited to very traditional Anglican churches, with all the liturgies, creeds, confessions and Bible readings. On the other I went to full on charismatic churches which would have 90 minutes of worship, a break for coffee and recovery, a 90 minute preach and then at the end there would be more people horizontal than vertical as they invited the Holy Spirit to come.
In Kerith we feel called to build something which embraces the strengths of both of those extremes. That's never easy, and can sometimes leave you being criticised from both sides as people express their own preferences as to how they think the church should be run. However, part of being a leader is living with tensions, and even striving to keep us in the tension because that's often where God is experienced (full of grace and truth, focussed on both Word and Spirit etc).
However, there are also times where you look at something in one style of church and realise we've lost something by not embracing something they do. Sometimes we've done that without realising it, other times they are things we've consciously rejected because we didn't want to be 'traditional', whereas we've actually lost something which had life and meaning to it.
I feel one of those things is the reading the Bible in our meetings. We'll always have the preacher read a passage of scripture as part of their message, and often a worship leader will exhort us with a verse or two, but I'm thinking more of what I experienced in Anglican churches where every week they would read set portions of scripture, which often had little to do with the rest of the meeting but just exposed me to another way God could speak to me though the meeting.
Paul seemed to have the same thing in mind when he wrote to his young disciple Timothy to say: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:13)
For the rest of this year we're therefore going to read our way through the whole of John's gospel in our Sunday gatherings - in fact we started last Sunday if you were there. Most of the time it won't tie in with what's being preached, other than that for this year the preach will always be from somewhere else in John. Sometimes we'll be read to, sometimes we'll all read together. Sometimes it will be in the middle of worship, sometimes somewhere else in the meeting. We won't establish a tradition around it! But please join me in believing in the power of God's word, and that lives will be changed as we allow God to speak to us through his word. In the words of Isaiah:
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)
See you Sunday for some water into wine :)