Yesterday in my online news reading, I came across this story about a Detroit church. Sunday featured a sermon on “God’s Bailout Plan”, and the altar was adorned with 3 SUVs.
Just as I was rolling my eyes at this, the thought occurred to me: I could see something similar happening at my church.
Background: I was raised Baptist, my husband Lutheran. When we met, it quickly became apparent that he could never go Baptist (legalism on some things like drinking bothered him), while Lutheran was a step too far for me (I couldn’t get over infant baptism). So, for months we visited church after church. We used to get a big kick out of visiting two or even three churches on any given Sunday.
Finally, we found a church we both were happy with, mainly because of the excellent pastor. He was more of a teacher than a pastor actually; each Sunday we were inspired and actually learned something. I can’t imagine falling asleep during one of his sermons. The church was smallish, about 150.
The years went by, and apparently more people were noticing the pastor because the church began to grow. Today, we have over 1,000 each Sunday, and our dear little church has become that modern monstrosity, the megachurch.
The sermons are still good, but now tend to be themed around a television show or something else in pop culture. We have drama skits aimed to “connect”. And of course, the ubiquitous giant screen in the front which projects the words to the songs, because you know, looking it up in the hymnal is SO 1980.
Speaking of which, who even uses a hymnal anymore? We are hip and “with it,” with a “worship band” complete with synthesizer, drums, and numerous guitars. Organ? Passe!
This all saddens me, and I frequently think that the place I feel oldest and most like life has passed me by is in church. I feel much more worshipful when listening to, say, Mozart’s Requiem than singing a phrase like “I am a friend of God” over and over( and over.) Give me the strains of a good Widor organ symphony over the acoustic guitar anytime, something more serious and dignified — yet I know that I’m in the minority.
It bothers me also that my kids are growing up with this as their construct for “what church is”.
So why are we still there? It’s a good question. One thing I’ve learned is that when you have kids, it becomes harder to just uproot and go to a new church. We’ve visited some other churches, and even that is difficult, as churches tend to be so – well, evangelistic. They’re just so happy to see a NEW FAMILY; it makes you feel bad to not return. (This is a whole other post, but I find it highly interesting how welcoming churches are to families who visit, yet how invisible I was when visiting a church in my single days. The contrast is striking).
We found a nearby church with wonderful classical music and hymns, yet the pastor was very ho-hum.
I suppose for now we are staying because the pastor is good, and that’s no small thing. If he brings an SUV to the altar for the new year though, all bets are off.