Time for Church

I actually went to church the other day. It’d been awhile and I was starting to think that it was time to just up and go. This church was one we had previously visited – a contemporary megachurch that usually has about three services a day. It’s also about an hour or so drive’s away – making it a chore to try to plug-in or get involved to any degree. The one advantage about this sort of church is that you can be just a face in the crowd. With so many people streaming in and out, nobody really knows anybody. You could attend there for a year and be just as much of a stranger as a stranger making their second visit. At least this time, we knew not to park the car in the western half of the parking lot – which was furthest from the main building’s entrance.

With contemporary churches – it doesn’t take a very long absence before the music goes from the sort of songs you do know to ones you haven’t really heard of. At least when we lived in the same town as our last non-denominational contemporary church, they also had this extremely popular Christian radio station. On the drive to church, you could listen to one of the songs that would soon be sung together. In this area, the radio stations are far less capable – so we have no idea what’s popular or being sung – no way to prepare ourselves for the new music. I did manage to write down the first line of each song that they displayed, but aside from that – there’s no real way to identify which songs were sung or who wrote / sang them originally.

Sermon theme: “Sacrifice”

Main points: “A Christ-follower understands the value of the Kingdom of Heaven.” “A Christ-follower is willing to sacrifice everything for the Kingdom of God.” “A Christ-follower knows the truth.”

The sermon was a fairly standard message – basically it was about giving up everything to follow Jesus. Which is something no church really wants it’s regulars to do. Churches need tithes to operate, tithes come from a steady paycheck, employment, housing, transportation. Sure, technically you could give up hobbies and leisure activities – but even Jesus was known to retreat from the world and rest. It felt a lot like preaching to the choir about needing to sing for the Lord. People don’t go to church because they aren’t saved – they go because they are and they have already given up the rights to their souls. They go for encouragement, being uplifted, being comforted, for a sense of belonging to something greater than themselves.

There was a moment I looked around and realized just how much of an outsider I always seem to be. I’m too contemporary for the traditional churches, and too out of the loop for the contemporary churches and in both cases not really belonging to any group at all. If Christians are trying to make it hard to leave – they’re not doing a very good job of it. They’re not really making it easy to stay, come to think of it. Churches have taken this “If you build it, they will come” approach to getting people to show up – but it’s like they don’t know what to do with them when they get there. How friendly should they be? How helpful should they be? Should they be left up to their own devices? Should room be allowed for them to approach the appropriate channels when they’re ready for more?

 

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7 thoughts on “Time for Church

  1. I don’t suppose there will ever be an easy answer. Small churches?…but then folk can get insular and insisting their way is the only true way? In theory each person should seek the truth from within, but folk being folk…..

    In the UK the traditional established forms are very much on the retreat, so congregations are small in big places; does give you a bit of room to think and reflect, though…..

    In the end I suppose it comes back to seeking within and not paying attention to what goes on outside.

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    • I’m not sure there is an answer, it’s probably all been tried by now – every variation and style. It’s just that not every kind of Christianity is available everywhere. My county is overwhelmingly SBC, and pretty much every one of those churches sing hymns – it’s so not my cup of tea. I don’t understand why there isn’t a contemporary church with more egalitarian theology that creates a sense of community and belonging out here. The Methodist church I tried was egalitarian, but they did hymns, too. Part of being a community is having a shared culture, a shared sort of music – without that, it’s hard to feel like you belong. It reminded me of the time that a pastor started singing a hymn out of memory and every one of the church regulars joined it – but I didn’t know it, so I didn’t know what to do, what to sing, how to sing it, what the words were.

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      • It can be very difficult indeed.
        Sometimes there can be a quirky kind of transmigration.
        My wife is Catholic and a few years back I converted.
        Now in my part of the UK- Wales, there is the Welsh Language, although I am English speaking. We went on holiday to a location where the Catholic Mass was conducted in welsh, at the time I was new to the Mass and all over the place.
        Because my wife knew the Mass, she was able to follow, even though the language was different, and she enjoyed the experience thoroughly; and followed her lead.

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      • When I was a kid, my Protestant churches had lead me to believe that the Catholics were “basically” Christian but who didn’t do it right because they were devoted to tradition and worshiped Mary and saints. As I grew older, I realized that my church had a vested interest in portraying them that way as if to say that as Protestants they were the true gate-keepers of salvation and they had exaggerated Catholic beliefs. I developed a friendship with a Catholic and went to one of her church services – which was in Spanish. My familiarity with the language helped somewhat, but public schools don’t often teach the cultural aspects of Spanish – so I was somewhat lost, not being familiar with the tradition of Mass and my Spanish being quite rusty. What really impressed me is that in all the time I spent in her country, everyone seemed to be kind, going out of their way to be helpful. They seemed more Christian to me than all the Christians in the states combined.
        I’ve heard that a great many millenials are leaving behind evangelical protestantism and joining more liturgical churches – so there’s bound to be something in it.

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      • And in some countries such as Brazil folk are leaving the traditional Catholic Faith and taking up evangelical means of worship.
        Oh we are restless creatures us Humans aren’t we?
        Keeping an open mind sometimes is the only option while you try to find your own way.
        All the best with your journey.

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      • I wonder if that’s why I seem to resist the notion that there’s one true church, one true form of worship, I think each and every form of church and worship have something in them – one might excel at being emotional, another at being relational, another at serving the community, another at being creative – it’s as if when we’re all pooled together we get it right – but apart from each other we can miss the mark.

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...Anyway, that's just how I feel about it ... What do you think?

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