I've been pondering lately what is necessary to have a church. By "church" I don't mean the universal Body of Christ, but the local gathering of believers.
If a few of us were to start a new church, what would we need? I think most of us would say we need a place to meet, someone to lead and preach, a musician or musical team, and someone to handle administrative tasks, such as putting money in the bank and paying bills.
But are all these things really necessary for cash-strapped little churches?
Well, I think every church - even small ones - need a place to meet, and someone to handle the administration, and a leader, but I'm not so sure about preaching and music.
In this age of electronics maybe you could replace live preaching with video tapes. There are a lot of good preachers out there, so why not use them? In fact, with video even the smallest church could learn from the greatest preachers in the world.
And I think the same might be said of music. Special singers at my church - which is large and has great live music - sometimes use recorded music as background, so why couldn't small churches use recorded music to which the congregation sings along? I know it sounds a little weird to sing along to a recording, but haven't you ever sung along to a song on a CD or on the radio?
Maybe a church service would look like this:
People enter the church, where there would be Christian songs or hymns playing in the background. The leader would get up, welcome people, open in prayer, invite people to greet one another, pray for prayer requests, then announce songs and play the music. After people had sung, the leader would announce the video or audio-taped message, and switch it on. At the end of the sermon, the leader would play another song or two and close in prayer.
I think great live preaching and great live music are always going to be best, but if they're not available - or are only available at a prohibitive price - then maybe canned preaching and music are the way to go. That way the whole church staff could be one dedicated but semi-skilled person working part time.