My daughters and I attend a pretty large local church not far from where we live. The church is typical of today’s non-denominational congregations. Two services on Sunday morning because the church is growing all the time. Almost always a building program in place with more and more space needed to accommodate the growing interest. Lots of classes and groups and “programs”…
I’ll admit the church is not at all what I would have thought I would end up attending. There is little substance to the messages – they’re “safe” and informative, but nothing earth moving and I’ve never had an epiphany of life changing proportion as a result of a sermon I’ve heard at a service there. The sermons slightly resemble radio commentary – very prepared, short, to the point and more of an information value than anything. I don’t really mind because if I’m not getting much from the experience, I’d rather it didn’t take up too much of my time.
Now, before I get slammed for attending a church that doesn’t provide much spiritual food, I should say that I have “tried out” a dozen or so local churches, only to find that most of them fit into this category, or worse yet – there’s no substance and the services last 2-3 hours. I would rather have church in my living room than put myself and my kids through that.
I suppose the draw to the church we attend is the music program. They have some pretty talented musicians and they put a lot of time and effort (not to mention money) into the music program within the church, so comparatively speaking, it’s the best place around to find a pretty good worship service. I’ve often wondered, though, if you took away all the musicians, the large “worship team”, the special effect lighting, the fog machine, etc….and just left the bald guy with the guitar up there singing in the front of the church, would the seats still be so full? Would it still be difficult to find a parking spot on Sunday morning?
I doubt it.
You see, the music isn’t necessarily what I would call “anointed”. It’s well played, well executed, very scripted and has some nice special effects to give it the “cool factor”. It attracts a younger crowd and isn’t so over-the-top to offend the older crowd. It’s what Goldilocks would call, “just right”.
I attend the church because I became discouraged with looking for a church that I felt at home in, which had good, sound Bible preaching from ministers who weren’t interested in sugar-coating things or selling out to mediocrity in order to draw in the masses. When I realized that such a monster did not exist in my immediate area, this place seemed like the most reasonable place to land.
Besides the fact that I am not at all moved by anything that has happened within this church since I started attending, there is something that bothers me every single Sunday when I walk through the doors. I won’t use it as a stumbling block for myself, but I can’t help being distracted by it every single Sunday.
I’ve blogged before on how offensive today’s “fashions” can be, so it should be no surprise that I have a difficult time understanding what would possess people to show up at church dressed the way most of them do. This time, however, I am not talking about the teenagers in the congregation or the people who seemingly don’t know better. I’m talking about a “come as you are” trend that has taken over many contemporary churches.
I grew up in a church where nobody was turned away. I remember one very hot summer evening when a dirty, drunk man found his way into our little church. He had fallen down the stairs to his apartment and had a bloody nose. I was probably 8 or 9 years old and he scared me to death. Not only was there no usher escorting him out of the church, but someone brought him a washcloth for his face, found him a seat and afterward, the pastor took him home with him, fed him and gave him some money before sending him on his way. I was raised to understand the meaning of Matthew 25:40, “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”.
So, if you think I’m just being hoity-toity, you’re missing my point. I’m not talking about the people who don’t know better, the people who can’t afford a nice suit or a skirt…I’m referring to the majority of the congregation and even the pastor.
Along with being raised to understand that God accepts us as we are, I also grew to an understanding that once you are a Christian and you have committed yourself to walking a Christian walk, you also have a responsibility to bring your best to the table. God told Moses that nobody should appear before Him empty handed and that we should bring our best…our first fruits…to the House of the Lord.
I was raised by parents who wouldn’t have let me out of the house on Sunday morning in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. What was acceptable for school or hanging out with friends was unacceptable for the House of God. I was to bring my best.
This concept is apparently lost on most churchgoers today. There have been days when I felt overdressed among the congregation at my church, dressed in a skirt or slacks. Of course, my children know better because I have led them by example. But as I sit in the congregation, watching the pastor deliver his sermon in jeans and an un-tucked flannel shirt, I can see where the rest of the congregation gets their example and I can’t help asking myself, “I wonder if he showed up at his son’s High School Graduation dressed like that.” or, “I wonder if he goes to business meetings dressed like that.” I suspect the answer to both queries is NO. In fact, the answer would be NO for most of the congregation as well.
I will admit that I haven’t become overly social within the congregation. As a rule, I stay away from people because people…in general…annoy me. I would much rather have a small group of good friends and family than a multitude of acquaintances. But I do see people I am familiar with every single week at church. I see people I recognize as patients of one of the facilities I manage. I see people from my daughter’s school. I see people from the insurance office and the car dealership. What’s interesting, though, is that I see these people dressed much better for work and school than they dress for church. In fact, some of the get-ups they show up in at church would violate the dress code in most offices and schools. Yet, somehow they find it appropriate for the House of God. What does that mean? Do they have more respect for their employers, their business acquaintances and their professional reputation than they have for God?
This trend simply confirms what most of us already know about today’s churches…that living a life, conducting yourself or offering yourself to God in a way that shows reverence to Him as more than just the “in” thing to do on Sunday morning is much less important than filling seats. Scripture tells us that we are not of this world and that the world should be able to tell the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. Today, the church is looking more and more like the world.
To draw “them” in.
The number of filled seats, regardless of the condition of the souls in them, is more important to them than walking a line that may be pleasing to God.
By the end of the service, I’m more saddened than annoyed.