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American or African Church. Which is Better?


Church service here is different from that in the good ol’ USA. I thought about it and figured I would jot down some things.


Start time.

It depends on which service you attend. Some churches try to begin in the ballpark of the same time each week. Others just wait until a critical mass arrives. I planned on speaking at a church and asked three people, one of them an elder and the other the pastor, what time it started. No one knew. Compare this to the countdown clocks you guys have. Your church will begin in 5, 4, 3, 2, “All Hail The Power….


Length of the service.

This is drastically different. It is anywhere from two to four hours. It ends when everything is done. The churches do not even bother advertising some type of ending, like the States. You will say, “Our service is from 10:15 until 11:30. Here we say, “It starts in the morning sometime in the vicinity of 10 and ends a few hours later.


Comfort.

I should say the lack thereof. In the US, we try to balance the form vs function aspect. You have comfy chairs, Heating and Air Conditioning, pleasant carpet, fresh painted walls, nice lights including stage lights, etc. Here we have a place to meet. Most churches in the city have plastic chairs. Outside in villages they might have plastic chairs, and for sure some logs to sit on. No padding. No comfort. The only thing in mind is function. It is hot. Very hot. No air flow. Floor is tile or dirt and the walls were painted once, but that might have been many years ago. The lighting system is a bulb here and a bulb there.


Sound System.

Tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on sound systems in the States. When we built our auditorium in Virginia, the sound tech company brought out computers and microphones and mapped the bouncing of the sound waves. Speakers placed in exact locations to optimize sound. Here, speakers are put at the front and turned up all the way. The speaker itself blew in 2003 and has been rattling away ever since. The sound mix is simple. Turn everything, every microphone and every instrument up all the way. Let the listener sort it out.


Music/Worship

Drums. More drums. Loud drums. Soft drums. Cymbals. Guitar. Drums. Keyboard. Drums.. Flute. Drums. We love drums. The music service is also extremely upbeat for the most part. The worship leader dances, others people dance, people form a dance line and walk through thee church. Tambourines are played and towels waved in the air. We start with pre-game worship. There is a 10-15 minute worship time and then church begins. Prayer time is loud and long with faith declarations and Holy Spirit being called down, spiritual truths declared and spiritual forces bound. Music continues during the prayer. I went to a service that started with a thirty minute prayer time. After pre-worship, prayer, worship, it is testimony time. Testimonies can be in word, song and dance. We then have an official ‘Time to Dance’ and the worship team sings and the church dances. Sometimes, like what just happened in our church, the worship leader will declare it is time for a ‘Second Worship’. It is like second breakfast. The first one just whetted your appetite. Worship was going so well, we just added thirty minutes more to it. Giving time is next and everyone takes turns walking/dancing to the front of the church and putting, or pretending to put, their offering in the basket. Now it is sermon time. Just like in America, this varies greatly due to the ability, giftedness and training of the pastor. It is also one of the reasons we are here, to try and make this time better and Bible based. Some pastors are good speakers but little training. Others are not either. A select few, very few, are both.


So, which is better?

There are pros/cons to both. The efficient American in me wants and likes a well run programmed with time allocations given and followed. I like to know when church will end so I can plan my other activities. However, I have to say, I like the free spirited worship better. It is nice to not have time constraints. It is good to just do what needs to be done. After all, isn’t worship, encountering God, fellowship, testimonies and corporate teaching what we are here for? I don’t like the way in America we cram everything into an hour and fifteen minutes. God do it now or don’t do it. I like how here, we have structure, but it is our servant and not our master. So, I vote African Worship for the win..

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