Church Offers ‘Express Worship’ Service for People Too Busy for God
Fast faith initiative draws newcomers but offends other pastors
by Andy Butcher
A Florida church has come up with a novel way of reaching out to those who have no time for God–an express worship service. Family Bible Church in Eustis guarantees its 9 a.m. congregation songs, prayer, announcements, collection and a sermon all within 45 minutes.
The fast-food-for-the-soul program has attracted scores of first-time churchgoers, according to pastor Allen Speegle, who admits that the approach has drawn some criticism for its no-frills, no-nonsense style.
Some argue the clock-watching service is unseemly haste, but Speegle says that it simply recognizes the demands of modern life. “The church needs to adapt to meet the needs of society. That is what Jesus did. He went to where the people were and ministered to them–without compromising His message,” he said. “For some people Sunday is their only family day, and they don’t want to spend all day in church. I would rather have them for 45 minutes than not at all.”
Speegle was himself skeptical when the idea was first put to him by a member of on staff at the nondenominational church. But soon after introducing the service as an experiment a few weeks ago, he was sold. Up to 100 people attend the service, and after an initial dip the regular 10:30 a.m. service–which lasts around 90 minutes–is back up to its usual numbers.
The “worship express–45 minutes guaranteed” service has been advertised outside the church in local newspapers and a community mailing. The ad features a man in a prison suit with a ball and chain and the question, “Is this your idea of church?”
Speegle keeps to the 45-minute deadline with a short period of worship and by cutting his sermon time almost in half. The congregation is behind the idea. Criticism came from other pastors “who really got very upset about it…But once I explained our thinking, they were fine with it.”
Speegle said that the short service appealed not only to Christians facing time crunches, but also to nonchurchgoers who wanted to be involved in a church “but are not ready for an hour-and-a-half service.” People also felt more comfortable staying for prayer and ministry, which takes place at the end as the service concludes and others leave, he said.
Speegle is now toying with the idea of a short midweek service for people in the local business district. “We are trying to reach people who are not involved in church,” he said. “The church has kind of presented the gospel like: ‘This is what we are. If you want it, come over here and get it.’ That’s not the way Jesus did it. He ministered in the common street language of the people of that day.”
Speegle isn’t the only pastor trying new ways to reach those caught up in the rat race. Bishop Nathaniel Johnson is offering drive-through prayer to commuters passing his Isle of Wight, Va., church on the way to work in the morning, the Associated Press reported.
He stands in front of the church between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. every day. “We’ve got drive-through banks and drive-through hamburger joints,” he said. “Why not drive-through prayer?”