The Perfect Church Service – the Worst Experience

13 12 2007

worship1.jpgI posted some questions about the church on a forum I frequent and received some enlightening responses I’d like to share (with their permission).

Below is perhaps the most thorough and thoughtful description of a church service I’ve ever read from the perspective a new comer.

WARNING: His language is real and raw and we hereby deny any liability for flashbacks or offenses that may result. It’s important to see things from a variety of perspectives and as these churches almost always give new comers feedback cards that come back with canned responses, here’s what you won’t get in your survey.

Enjoy –

“My biggest issue with church is the suffocating emotionality of it all.

First, I pull into the parking lot and make my way past the hip, extroverted greeters who high five the youngsters and give me the over-friendly welcomes.

Then I make my way through the halls of people milling about and chattering. This part isn’t so bad except that I get the distinct feeling that everyone is “being Christian” at this point. All the body language and vernacular seems calculated to reflect their true Christian core. Everyone is suddenly called brother and sister and the amount of caring they show over the most trivial aspects of each others lives is both impressive and disturbing. Frankly, I suspect many of them are just doing what they think a dutiful Christian should do with no actual understanding why they should even care.

After that, I sit in the pew and consider why I’m there. Why did I come to Church? What am I seeking? What is going on here.

About 5 to 10 minutes later, some lead vocalist person shouts into the mic “Let’s all stand up and praise the Lord!” and the cool-Christian-rock-band tears into an up-tempo worship number. Wow, everyone is having such a GOOD TIME! The vocalist inevitably starts clapping in time to the snare hits while bopping their head and lyrics from the powerpoint slide flash across those nifty projection screens backed with some artsy-fartsy image of a cross or serene lake or the clear blue sky. The music is usually based on a verse from Psalms, but fixed up to show that this church understands rock and roll and is cool with youthful energy.

Some people in the congregation squish their eyes shut and extend their arms upwards and palms out while getting real into this praise and worship time. Others, bop and clap along with the beat and others stand next to their spouse seeming very robotic like.

After 10 to 15 minutes, someone (usually the worship/music director) segues into a soothing piano piece. Everyone closes their eyes, the lights dim and (s)he starts a prayer in a voice that, frankly, sounds like they’re getting good oral. Very breathy and overwhelmed by the majesty of the Father.

The worst part is when they (sometimes) do the “let’s turn around and greet each other this morning” and the pews come to life with hugs, handshakes and more over friendly greetings.

At this point, I feel like a turtle that’s having it’s shell ripped off by a bunch of curious, but unruly schoolboys and the actual message hasn’t even been delivered yet. Once we get to that part, I’m fine. But once it’s over we have to back to more flamboyant praise-and-worship. Ugh.

It’s just the sheer ritual, robotic, trance-like nature of it all. Very uncomfortable to me. And I don’t dare ask questions or tell people that I’m not a Christian. Or tell them I’m a truth seeker who’s read just as much of the Hindu and Buddhist texts as I have the Bible. They’re not so happy-go-lucky then.

I just hate being around anything that tries to twist my emotions around before delivering some bit of self-proclaimed truth. I wonder if lots of people in the congregation are like that. Is their knowledge of God just what they get after hearing some loud worship songs and being told what they already know? Or do they go home and read texts authored by apologists from other religions when they’re not emotionally high?”

Advertisements




Is Card Counting (Blackjack) a sin?

15 10 2007

This is a great question I’ve been asked recently so I put my thoughts on the morality and ethics of Christians card counting into these two videos.

Part 1

Part 2





Why Middle-class Christians Neglect the Poor

9 10 2007

“All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” – Paul

Neglect of the poor is an embarrassing, dangerous failing of the modern church.  Our society is deeply divided by economic factors and its getting worse.  Our choice of restaurants, grocery stores, clothes, cars, beverages, neighborhoods, churches, schools, recreation and many other areas consistently breaks along economic lines.  We can now live happy socially active lives for decades without developing a single significant relationship with someone from a different economic strata.

So what’s the results?  We neglect the poor.  Not because we’re uncaring.  Not because we haven’t been transformed by the love of Christ.  I think the main reason is far more simple.  Far more subtle.  We don’t know them.  We don’t see them.  A lack of contact creates a convenient barrier between our blessed life and their deep needs.  And the church has quietly accepted this development in our culture as an unasked for blessing.

Faced with this reality you can do several things –

1. Push the whole unpleasant thought out of your mind with a few sips of Cabernet Sauvignon.
2. Feel a pang of guilt a few times a year and throw a bone to charity on occasion to medicate the sting.
3. Get involved in a ministry that helps bridge the relational gap and introduces you to a family in need that you can help in practical ways.

Members of our community’s outreach team are working to design a relational bridge and now we’re asking everyone – are you willing to walk across that bridge and develop an ongoing relationship with someone in need?





Are Sermons Destroying Christianity?

26 09 2007

***UPDATE  – While I continue to greatly struggle with the dominant use of weekly sermons as a means of training disciples I don’t like the spirit this post was written in and so I’m removing it from my blog***





Has Christianity Done More Evil than Good?

30 07 2007

Should Christians apologize for the great evil done in Christ’s name?  This is a question I’ve asked but no longer after reading this rebuttal of Christopher Hitchen’s letter by Douglas Wilson in CT.

“…you say that if “Christianity is to claim credit for the work of outstanding Christians or for the labors of famous charities, then it must in all honesty accept responsibility for the opposite.” In short, if we point to our saints, you are going to demand that we point also to our charlatans, persecutors, shysters, slave-traders, inquisitors, hucksters, televangelists, and so on. Now allow me the privilege of pointing out the structure of your argument here. If a professor takes credit for the student who mastered the material, aced his finals, and went on to a career that was a benefit to himself and the university he graduated from, the professor must (fairness dictates) be upbraided for the dope-smoking slacker that he kicked out of class in the second week. They were both formally enrolled, is that not correct? They were both students, were they not?

What you are doing is saying that Christianity must be judged not only on the basis of those who believe the gospel in truth and live accordingly but also on the basis of those baptized Christians who cannot listen to the Sermon on the Mount without a horse laugh and a life to match. You are saying that those who excel in the course and those who flunk out of it are all the same. This seems to me to be a curious way of proceeding.”