Less than two weeks to go until The Gathering begins. In the process of many many conversations with various folks at Crievewood, receiving feedback and whatnot, someone (I don't remember who) posed the question of whether we were going to have an invitation as part of our service. By "invitation" they mean something akin to what we do in our traditional service where, during the last hymn, we invite those who feel called to join the church, make a new or renew a commitment to Christ, etc. to come forward and share this with the congregation. It's kind of an "altar-call-lite".
This question may be more significant than the asker realized. The Gathering is designed to be a communally focused, participatory worship experience, so what is the place of a formal invitation in this service? Ideally, the whole thing should be an invitation to respond to God's grace. But as much as I may feel that's the case, might it be that some people need it specifically spelled out for them that the gospel always invites a response?
For that matter, what form should such an invitation take? Some people just don't feel comfortable coming forward. Wrestling with big concepts about God can be uncomfortable as it is, never mind being asked to stand in front of a large group of people and feeling pressured to affirm something you're just beginning to consider, and you're not sure you believe.
I guess one alternative could be an invitation for them to consider some kind of response right there in their seats. It has the benefit of no pressure to "perform" in some way for the group. But does that imply that one's relationship with God is entirely an individual concern? Christ is certainly personal, but never individual (isolated from the other). God calls us to work these issues out and live our faith as a community. How do we live as a community without knowing who is responding and how they're going about it?
As always, there's probably some middle way here that I haven't yet considered. It's a good question to sit with, but I have less than 13 days to make a decision about how this will fit into an order of worship. Any thoughts?