Tuesday, July 1, 2008

church talk

I haven't officially started brainstorming yet, but I've been thinking nonstop the past few days about my next Original Oratory. Like I said in the post, "christianity oratory", I want to do my next speech on Christianity. Again I'm not sure the exact direction I'm going to go, but that's the broader topic.

Last night me and a friend were looking for something to do so we decided to show up at this girl's house unannounced. We're very close friends with this girl, and so we've reached the point in our relationship where it's ok to do that sort of thing. When we pulled into her driveway her parents were outside walking the dogs, so we got out and started casually carrying on conversation. They told us that this girl was not home but that we could stay and hang out if we wanted. Typically that would seem like a very weird thing to do, I mean not many people go over to their friend's house to hang out when the friend isn't even home, but we enjoy talking to her parents so we stayed anyway just to talk to them.

We ended up talking outside for about an hour before it got dark. We talked about all sorts of different things, but mainly we talked about their experiences with church. See, my friend, the girl, and the girl's parents all go to a different church than I go to, so it can get kind of awkward whenever they start talking about church stuff. But I was being a good sport and just listened as the parents kept talking about problems associated with church as they know it.

The main focus of the conversation was the contemporary service their church has. They don't feel like it reaches anyone. They think that the message is often way too deep and never covers material that can be applied to anyone's life. They say that all of the students skip the service if they can. So they started asking us (me and my friend) what we thought should be changed to make church better.

Now being the only person in the conversation who does not attend their church, it was kind of hard for me to come up with any real useable material they could apply to the service to improve it. So I stayed quiet the whole time. After some intense discussion on the topic, the dad of this girl said to my friend, "See that's the problem. You wouldn't invite your friends to the service. I mean I know I wouldn't invite MY friends! Now, Grace (the church I attend), that's a church people can invite someone to without feeling ashamed. They can just wear whatever they want and feel comfortable."

I don't type any of this so that you can use inferences to figure out which church I'm talking about or be negative towards any particular church or anything like that. I’m also not saying that my church has all the answers or that we’re better than everyone. I'm telling this story for a reason, here it is:

I'm sick and tired of churches having a mindset that a contemporary service is going to fix all their problems. I can't tell you how many churches in our city have decided to start a contemporary service so they can satisfy the younger congregation at their church. They think that if they suddenly use a guitar in one of their services that lost people will just begin flocking in to come home to Jesus or something. Obviously, based on the story I just shared, this is not the case. They still have just as many problems in the church POST-contemporary service as they do PRE-contemporary service. People are not looking for a service that is "contemporary" (that word is the most traditional word in the history of the world by the way), people are looking for a group of people who love them regardless of their dress, flaws, mistakes, screw-ups, or hangovers. People want to be in an environment where they can simply be themselves, not have to put on a fake face for the church people. Until churches begin to realize this, we'll continue to see contemporary service after contemporary service pop up all over America without any real church growth occurring.

It's easy to see from an outsider's perspective that the problems at the church from the story are all problems that revolve around leadership at the church. If churches do not start having an attitude of grace, the "revival" the church is looking for will not take place, regardless of how great the music or preacher is.

Bottom Line: It would be better to have the hymnals out and sing every hymn in the book, but still have an attitude of grace, than to have the greatest lights, music, speaker, etc in the world but judge people when they walk in the door.

"Everyone needs a place to start over... that place is Grace." (That’s the slogan of my church.) I hope so much that we never lose sight of that vision and actually continue to live by it.

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