People have all of these ideas (prejudices and preconceptions) of what an “emergent” church looks like. Even I once wrote about how I was glad that some of the leaders in the movement were done emphasizing the cosmetic changes. “Ooh, look at us, we’re so edgy. We have services in the dark, lit only by candles.” “Let’s ride our bicycles for Jesus as a form of meditative prayer.” “Let’s have the DJ spin an ‘I love Jesus’ re-mix for 11 minutes.” I’m all for creativity, but sometimes I got the feeling that they were doing “new” things simply for the sake of being creative, without any real purpose or meaning.

I’m afraid most of our critics would be frankly disappointed, even possibly bored, by our services. Our typical Sunday morning gathering has three phases:

1. The worship gathering – our typical time together is fairly relaxed, slightly improvised, and more interactive than the “sing for 30 minutes/hear preaching for 45 minutes” model of church. However, it also features liturgical elements and whatever bit of creative engagement we’ve come up with that week. [NOTE: For those wondering what I do during this time, I’m usually on speaking probation during this phase of the service]

2. The fellowship meal – we have a community meal that we share every Sunday. Think of the fellowship that often surrounds the act of eating, be it with family or with friends, even co-workers. Think of how much more food is enjoyed when done in the company of people you love. Meals have a way of conveying both hospitality and friendship. Meals have a way of leveling the playing field, of signifying equality, by taking a rag tag group with little in common and binding them in fellowship.It’s a great time for folks to break out of their clique circles and get to know each other.

This also serves as a way to continue the conversation begun during the worship gathering, as people flesh out some of the ideas presented and ask questions. And, on the real, we have a lot of singles in our church. We don’t have a “singles ministry” per se because we aren’t treating singles like second class citizens within the body. But I also know, since many of our singles drop by the Broaddus household at all hours, that they ain’t cooking. Quit trying to tell me that Ramen noodles with hot dogs chopped into them counts as cooking. [NOTE: I organize this meal and do some of the cooking for it]

3. The after party – this is something that we never saw coming, nor could we have planned for this if we tried. [NOTE: It’s not my fault. I take no responsibility for this.] What started happening is that after the worship gathering, some people’s idea of what church is, some folks left. After the meal, another wave of folks left. However, those that lingered ended up having what I dubbed “the after party.” It is a more … relaxed time, where everyone, and I mean, everyone, lets their hair down. It was at the after party that “the voice” was born (um, the “preacher” voice that usually only comes out after I’ve had a drink or two).

It is during the after party that the important questions and issues of the day are discussed: whale night at strip clubs, our “six quick ones” discussion, eating delicacies such as tiger penis, how much beer to buy for our New Year’s Eve party, whether or not hair laws were applicable to pubic regions, whether our pastor should streak at the Colts game.

People tend to put pastors on pedestals. They’re “up front”, do the teaching, they’re the leaders. Because they are held to a higher standard sometimes that translates into held in higher regard. Some pastors foment this. We have found that the “after party” destroys any chance of a cult of personality developing. It reminds everyone that we are no different than anyone else, that we walk along side them, not above them. And frankly, the “after party” gets past the pretending that so often gets done at church. All those nice church personas can’t be sustained for too long.

Maybe this isn’t everyone’s idea of moving from orthodoxy to orthopraxis, but this is where we are. It might not work for everyone, but it works for us. Plus, it gives me a chance to end the after-service the same way since I have to lock up the building: “Jesus loves you. Now get the hell out.”

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