As my wife and I have explored entering a new church organization (to get to a local church community), we have reflected a lot on what church means and what needs get met in a church and what we really want in a church. I've posted a few times on this in the last few months. Here are some of my latest thoughts.
One of the things I knew but has been re-emphasized is that Sunday morning really is not all that important. True, the group worship "service" (I hate that word to describe the gatherings, though I use it myself--we are not "servicing" people or God--we are gathering to worship and commune) is important for bringing groups of Christians together. Without those gatherings, it is hard to join a new community.
However, beyond that, they're really becoming more of an obligation to me. I think this is because in most communities, this time is all focused on teaching, on information. I miss the worship, the communing with God, the experiential piece. Sure, there's music. Sure, there's prayer. That's not necessarily worship.
In fact, my wife and I have missed several weeks of Sunday gatherings. We sometimes will watch it online, but honestly, we don't feel like we miss much by missing. The announcements are the biggest thing we miss, and we can get those online.
Interestingly, a few weeks ago, we were late, so we sat in the Family Lounge so as not to enter the main sanctuary and interrupt anyone. There were only two other families there, and we had to watch the whole gathering on a TV screen (what's the difference between that and watching from home? I don't like going someplace only to watch a talking head on a screen.). However, it was probably my favorite Sunday yet. Why? Because it felt more like community as we smiled at the babies and their parents and actually felt like there was a connection between those around us. In contrast, on "normal" Sundays, when we go to the main sanctuary, I feel like I'm at the movie theater or a concert. I feel no connection to anyone else around me.
Community is important. THAT is the point of the large gatherings. Yet we suck at it.
That is why small group IS so important to us. I hate missing one. THAT feels more like church than anything else. As many people before me have said, that IS church because we ARE the church. We need to remember that. That living together and sharing each others' lives is so much more important than learning a nice lesson on a Scripture passage that you will forget an hour later.