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July 24, 2014

What Is Worship Without Walls?

We often think of church as a building. Either that or “church” is something that happens in an hourlong service on Sunday mornings. When we began Providence Church, we had neither a building nor morning worship for nine months. It was an important time as we considered what it really meant to be the church.

After a careful examination of Jesus, we noticed that he spent much of his time with those who felt disconnected from God, the community, and the faith community. It led us as a new church, with no church building and no church services, to go out into the places of need in our community. We devoted most of our time in those nine months to serving our community. It seemed like what Jesus would have done had he been in our shoes. We listened to and learned from our community as we served in any way we could.

Eventually, our church began worshiping on Sunday mornings. We still don’t have a building! (We have met in a city park, movie theater, hotel meeting room, and at elementary, middle, and high schools.) What we found a year or so in, though, was it that it becomes easier and easier to just have “church” on Sunday mornings and not be the church in the community. It was out of this tension that we organized and held our first Worship Without Walls in 2010.

On Worship Without Walls Sunday, instead of worshiping for an hour in our middle school gym, we worship God by serving our community. We communicate that worship takes on many forms, and instead of a worship service, we worship through service. The projects are varied, and we have projects that are accessible to all people.

Worship Without Walls has allowed us to become known as “that church that worked on Sunday!” and “the church that is doing things in the community.” Our local city government contacts us now to let us know how we can serve them. WWW has developed partnerships with local nonprofits that are serving those in need, and now we serve with them throughout the year. But most important for us is that it has kept us connected to what we believe is God’s vision for our church.

The vision of our new church is “to see those who feel disconnected from God and the church find hope, healing, and wholeness in Jesus Christ.” Worship Without Walls has become for us not just a one-day event, but a way of life.

Every day we encounter people who are in the midst of life-altering interruptions who need to know Jesus is with them even and especially then. We must remember that church is neither a building nor a one-hour gathering for worship. Our lives change when we see worship as something that can happen outside the walls of the church building – worship as a way of life that honors God and connects the disconnected.

 

Jacob Armstrong–InterruptionsJacob Armstrong is the founding pastor of Providence Church, a vibrant young United Methodist congregation in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. Jacob and his wife, Rachel, have three daughters. He is the author of 5 books, including Interruptions: A 40-Day Journey with Jesus.
 
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