The Power of Presence
Why do we do what we do?
Welcome to The Bridge Church. If you’re new here, you’ll undoubtedly notice that we do things a little differently here than you might be used to at other evangelical churches. Perhaps it’s the geography of the service - the way we set things up and use our space; or perhaps it the style of the service - either more formal, or less formal than you might be used to from where you came; or perhaps it’s the form of the service - the way we structure and order the elements of worship over the course of 90 minutes. Whatever you’ve noticed, I want to tell you that much of it is intentional, and there are important reasons for why they are the way they are.
If you’re not new here, perhaps you’ve been here for a while and find our unique way of doing things familiar, or perhaps you’ve been here so long that you remember a time when things were different and perhaps long for a time gone by. I want to take the better part of the next semester on the blog to remind you of why we do what we do, and to help you remember the very intentional reasons we have for the choices we have made. Last time we looked at why we centre our worship around the communion table, and continuing over the next couple weeks we will be looking at the following aspects of our worship service to better help you understand/remember who we are, why we do what we do, and what are the goals of our choices.
The Geography of Worship - what we want you to notice and experience when you walk into our space for worship
A Peculiar People; a Thankful People - why we start with the offering
Perfectly Balanced as All Things Should Be - how we consider both who we are and who we long to be when choosing a vocabulary of worship (song style and selection)
The Proclaimed Word - rediscovering the public reading of scripture
The Applied Word - why the sermon is dialogical (discussion questions matter)
The Great Unburdening - the liberating power of corporate confession
Recognizing the Body - why we take time every Sunday for the passing of the peace
A Community of Hospitality - how and why we centre the service around the open table
The Power of Presence - why the prayer and ministry time at the end of the service is not just an addendum
Sending - what we bring back into the world
We're in the final stretch now - today we look at our end-of-worship prayer time, and why that's not just an addendum to the service.
When I first arrived at The Bridge Church in 2013 there was already an ongoing practice of prayer ministry happening at the front of the auditorium with the elders for anyone who wanted prayer. It was a beautiful thing to behold because week after week people would come forward and sit in the front and be ministered to.
I say that it was beautiful, but that is not to say that it was perfect. There were inherent problems with the way we did things, first and foremost among them was that the pastors and elders never got a chance to speak to people after the service except for those who came forward for prayer. So we tinkered with the format a bit, and quite honestly, we broke it.
There, confession time. I broke something good by trying to make it better. Ask my wife about any of my home improvement efforts and you'll see where I get this from.
But making mistakes is a part of life, and what's even more important that mistake avoidance, is learning from your mistakes and so we have tried a number of different things over the years to recapture that post-service prayer ministry without falling back into the ditch of becoming unavailable after the service.
For a while that has meant that the pastor (myself) has made a bee-line for the Got Questions Kiosk to meet and greet people following the service while the elders ministered to anyone who needed prayer. Then later, we gave clearer direction and sent people to the prayer room after communion expecting that elders would follow them in and minister to them as needed. This was an improvement, but the ad-hoc nature of the ministry was wearing on some people who need more structure and the freedom to not be "on call" every week for ministry. We also wanted to broaden our ministry team beyond the board of elders to bring in some other gifted intercessors who could minister well to people, and we have been recognizing the limitations of the space when it comes to ministering to multiple people at the same time. So come this January, we're changing things up again.
From the perspective of the person coming forward for prayer, not much will change. You will still be invited forward after partaking communion, you will still be directed to come to the prayer room, and you will still be ministered to by a trained and equipped team of intercessors. What will change is how we structure who that team is, where the intercession will happen, and how follow-up occurs. Allow me to explain:
Who will I be praying with? Instead of limiting our intercession and ministry prayer to the Board of Elders only, we are recruiting, training and empowering some key leaders and prayer warriors within the congregation to give leadership to this ministry beginning in 2019. The elders will still be involved in the prayer ministry and at least two elders will be scheduled to be part of the ministry every week to ensure a connection with our pastoral ministry team, but they will no longer be the only people involved, nor will they be leading the charge.
Where will prayer happen? We are still going to use the prayer room as the rallying point for our post-communion ministry time, but if the prayer room fills up, we are going to have other designated spaces around the auditorium that will be set aside for quiet prayer ministry. The leaders for the week will assess the situation and potentially send people along with (an) intercessor(s) to one of those spaces as needed.
How will follow-up care be provided? In the past, we have relied on the relationships between parishioners and their flock elders to facilitate the pastoral care follow-up for people who come forward. Wisdom and discretion have been employed to ensure that appropriate information is passed onto the pastors and other elders so that the person being prayed for can receive care beyond that Sunday morning. This will not change fundamentally, but what will happen is that the prayer team for that week will meet after the service is done to debrief and entrust the elders scheduled for that week with any information that needs to be run up the ladder as it were. The elders will be responsible for discerning what and how much to share with the pastoral team, and the rest of the team will be bound to confidentiality to the extent that is appropriate or requested by the person being prayed for. In this way we hope to strike a balance between confidentiality and pastoral care, and it is the elders who make that decision. As in any situation, any person that explicitly asks for confidentiality of any nature (barring legal obligations for reporting related to self-harm, abuse, or danger to others) will have that request respected.
Why do we care so much on this small aspect of the service that most people don't participate in? Because Jesus cares. In Matthew 25, we are reminded that for Jesus, whatever you do to "the lease of these my brethren, you do to me." Prayer ministry at the end of the service might seem like a small ministry to a small number of people, but it's an important part of what it means to faithfully be the church. We hope that the changes that are coming in 2019 will help make things better than they have ever been before, but if not, we'll keep tweaking and investing in this part of worship because it's worth it.
Next time, we'll wrap up this series with a look at our practice of benediction, and why we pray the same prayer every Sunday as we finish.