In the 1800s, camp meetings held in large tents brought religion and a sense of community to rural areas on the frontier where there were no churches. Word of mouth and posters spread the news that a religious meeting was coming. People came from miles around to hear the preaching. By the late nineteenth century, most rural areas had established church buildings and had regular congregations. Successful camp meeting preachers eventually made the transition to radio and television as media began to play a more important part in American culture, and the popularity of camp services began to fade.
Rev. Benjamin Camp, Rev. Francisco Garcia-Velasquez, and Rev. Chelsea Simon believe the time is right for re-inventing the roving worship service. Called “Pop-Up Worship,” the purpose of the temporary worship locations will be to reach those who are unfamiliar or disenchanted with traditional church worship. “We believe that to reach those who are not currently attending church, we need to unveil the mystery of worship by giving others a peek inside,” said the team in their presentation at the 2017 Transforming Ministries Conference where they received a mini-grant to implement their idea.
In Scripture we find an insightful encounter between Jesus and a woman from Samaria. “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem . . . The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.’” Rev.Benjamin, Rev. Francisco and Rev. Chelsea believe that this encounter from the Gospel of John casts a vision for developing an innovative worship experience that extends beyond the walls of the local church to embrace a dislocated approach delivered across various contexts.
“We hope to start innovative pop-up worship experiences throughout our communities,” the team added. “These experiences could take place at different locations including community gardens, beaches, parks and even parking lots. The idea is for each community to identify the popular areas that could reach a large number of unchurched people.”
Pop-ups have become a cultural phenomenon with pop-up restaurants and stores experiencing great success. The concept can be applied to church, too – much like it was in the late 1800s — only now technology will be used to communicate the location of the temporary worship spaces. For those looking to participate in this inventive worship community, a Facebook post or tweet will be posted to identify the location and time of each pop-up worship service.
“Lots of people have had a bad experience in church. Pop-Up Worship will turn church inside out so people can get a taste of how wonderful worship can be. The scary images some people have of church don’t match what a Spirit-filled experience of God in community looks like,” Rev. Chelsea explained.
Congratulations to Rev. Benjamin, Rev. Francisco and Rev. Chelsea on the receipt of their grant. May Pop-Up Worship bring religion to a new frontier of people who want to see what it means to be part of loving, grace-filled worship experience without ever crossing the threshold of a church building.