(Photo: Jeff Severt)
A North Carolina pastor has established a website with the purpose of seeking questions from the public that he can address in his sermons each Sunday and helps attenders interact during the services.
Known as "WikiWorship," the online project is overseen by United Methodist Reverend Philip Chryst, who is a student at the Duke Divinity School. Individuals submit their questions to Chryst via the website or via email and he addresses them during a worship service he oversees in Wilmington known as The Anchor.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Chryst explained that the origin of WikiWorship comes from a sermon at Duke Divinity School's Goodson Chapel.
"While attending seminary there I heard a sermon where the question was posed: Are we as the church answering questions that no one is asking?" said Chryst. "That caused me to look further into questions that people were asking about God, life, and the church. We went door-to-door, to a college, to bars, restaurants, and parks. We would just gather questions that people were asking. Then we would invite them to come and hear an authentic response to that question."
Chryst developed the idea of gathering and answering questions into the WikiWorship site while taking an evangelism class taught by Dr. Stephen Gunter.
"The reason I decided on WikiWorship was based in Wikipedia. Anyone can edit the content of Wikipedia, so we decided to take on this post-modern posture of turning the microphone around and allowing anyone to edit the content of a worship service," said Chryst. "Of course there is always singing, scripture reading, and prayers. But this allows everyone to have a voice, not just the one person who is pontificating from the pulpit."
WikiWorship held its first service as part of The Anchor ministry at a downtown Wilmington bar known as Hell's Kitchen on Sunday, March 9. Chryst said the service was a great success.
"We had numerous folks who had never even heard of The Anchor that came and felt comfortable enough to speak up during the gathering," said Chryst. "We have had a very supportive response to our launch of WikiWorship. Numerous friends and family have went out of their way to come and lend their support. But we have also had lots of people intrigued by the notion which has caused them to send friends to come and check us out."
Gunter, associate dean for Methodist Studies at Duke Divinity School who had Chryst as a student, told CP that he was supportive of his former pupil's endeavor.
"As a church historian for 30-plus years, now devoted to teaching evangelism and missional theology, I know all too well the price the church pays when it does not find a way to reach new people," said Gunter. "There are lots of ways this might be done, and WikiWorship is one of those. I applaud it, but I know that it requires an exceptional minister to pull this off and do it well."
Gunter also told CP that WikiWorship was one of several projects to come out of the evangelism courses of Duke by students seeking to improve their communities.
"The term project for every student in my class is to develop a practical program that can be put in place in a congregation or other ministry setting," said Gunter. "Over the past decade at Duke Divinity School, there have been hundreds of these projects, and many of these have proved to be a cornerstone of the ministry the students enjoy when they graduate from Duke."
Regarding the WikiWorship outreach, Rev. Chryst told CP that he believed it is of "the utmost importance that the church should be able to listen to what people are saying."
"By having the patience to listen we then embody hope to the world," said Chryst, comparing this strategy to that of the friends of Job in the Old Testament. "They didn't give advice or try to convince him to think the way they thought. Instead, they sat. And in this action they embodied a hope that there was something more in this life," said Chryst.
"Sure there are times where we need to talk but that should always be tempered with the ear attuned to the conversation in front of us," he said.
On the Web: http://wikiworship.blogspot.com.