Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Church Visit

I went to church today.

There are plenty I could have chosen from, and most will have very similar statements of faith, and very similar approaches to conducting a worship service. The one I attended this morning was fairly typical. A couple of big screens showing a glitzy animation behind the projected lyrics, a rock band up on a stage and the congregation, audience like, facing the band. No one questions this stagey set-up, and in truth most people do seem right at home in it. We are the audience, you are the performers. There's a guy banging away at the drums, and a guy whaling away tastefully on his electric guitar.

I liked the songs they sang, but didn't really feel I was joining my voice with others, since the band was so much louder than we "others." If you closed your eyes, hiding the silly loop of graphics on the two big screens and hiding also the performers on stage, you might be able to focus on, you know, God. This doesn't seem to be a problem for most people. Guess I'm weird.

The sermon today was part of a series to get more people to volunteer, since this is a growing church that intends now to add a third service (on Saturday evenings). So it was what I like to call a "church-maintenance service." This is where the preacher, recognizing that ministry XYZ needs more help, finds the requisite Biblical passage to preach in order to inspire more helpers.

At first I was disappointed that we had clearly chosen to visit this church on one of their church-maintenance Sundays. But I gotta tellya, the guy did a bang-up job, and by the time he was finished I wanted to jump up and volunteer as a greeter. The dude even quoted Henry V's St. Crispin's day speech at length, and with ease! In all seriousness, I loved it and thought it was a pretty fair sermon, all things considered.

But an inspirational message wears off quick. I daresay even Shakespeare's Henry V filled his outnumbered and exhausted troops with a lot of high-flown hooey that day. You may win the battle at Agincourt, and you may staff the lobby with friendly greeters, but nothing much matters if it is not Christ living his life through his people. If what the theologians call "union with Christ" is not a lived and felt reality, no inspirational rhetoric will substitute for long.

But I don't want to be harsh. The preacher is following the template he's inherited, and so is most everyone else. I also understand that my impression from one Sunday morning experience is nothing to be conclusive about. These folks are trying their best, and they believe all the things you're supposed to believe, and they're very conscientiously trying to do it all well. I'm more or less resigned to putting up with the audience-church template, and the goofy little cups of grape juice and the chicklets of "bread." And I'm delighted that the message I heard this morning was not a self-centered God-has-a-wonderful-plan message, but essentially a discipleship message. In truth, this is about the most I can expect from evangelicals in my area, methinks.

1 comment:

nance marie said...

as soon as i saw the title it was like... grin time.
i like hearing your times at church.

services are like reading poems that i don't quite understand, yet enjoy the words anyway.