July 19, 2004, 10:05 am
Filed under: uncategorized

Yesterday I went to the worship gathering of a fairly new church not too terribly far from where I live.  I met the pastor about a year ago, so I go check in with him every so often.  The church is what many would call postmodern or alternative.  I’m not sure what I’d call it, so I’ll just stick to “church.”  Whatever they are, they’ve grown to over 1,000 in worship attendance in about two years time.  I realize that there’s a healthy discussion going on about whether churches of 1,000+ (or even 500, 200, 50, 25) are a good thing or not – I’ll leave that one alone for now.


The thing that I had rattling around in my head, though, was a discussion that Jordon Cooper raised on his blog a couple weeks ago.  It goes something like this: in the “emerging church”, we’ve got all these heady notions of all the things that we’re changing.  But when you step back and really evaluate things, are we really changing more than about 10%?  In the case of this new church, I can honestly say “absolutely not.” 


Here’s what I noticed.  I drive into the parking lot of a big industrial type building, park my truck and walk toward the entrance.  Between my truck and the seat I select inside the meeting space, I am greeted by about five people – all of which are obviously “assigned” to stand in a spot and say hello to people as they come in.  One of these people hands me some paper, with announcements and church information on it.  I sit down, and the band leader on stage begins to play and sing and invite people to sing along.  We sing three or four songs together – all but one I’ve heard before in other churches over the past five years.  Then the pastor gets up on stage and tells everyone to say hello to the people around them.  We sit down, read scripture, listen to people talk about what God is doing in their lives, pray again, and are dismissed.


Now, let me say that I enjoyed my time with this body of the Church.  Cool people, relaxed atmosphere, music that I relate to (played by a dude with dreadlocks). 


But then I remembered what I had seen on the church website earlier in the day, when I had gone to find out what their service times were.  On one of the pages, it told their story as a church.  It says something like, “In those early days, we reconsidered what it means to be a church.  It wouldn’t have been unusual to hear questions like, ‘Why do we have music in church?’ or ‘Why do we gather for a worship service?'”  I happen to know that there are some very intelligent, genuine people who love God, and want to be sensitive to the Spirit there.


So my question for them would be, “Why is it that after all this questioning and consideration did it turn out that your church looks almost exactly like the vast majority of other churches in the area?”  Go back and read the paragraph describing my experience and tell me if there’s anything different.  Did the process of considering the aspects of church life bring you to the conclusion that most churches have gotten it right?


Some questions I have:

1. Is there an actual need for change from the “traditional” church to the “emerging” church?

2. If so, how much of the formula needs to change?

3. What is the proper motivation for change?

4. What would actual change look like?

5. What are the measures that might help us evaluate whether anything substantial has changed or not?


I’m sure there are other questions.  For the most part, I think that what we have come to think of as “revolutionary” or “adventurous” or “innovative” is actually not all that impressive.  I think we like to think of ourselves as having done something different mostly as a mind trip – “Oooh, lookie here at the cool stuff we’re doing.  We’re breaking the ‘rules’ and being dangerous.”  We need to get over ourselves.  Seems to me that we’re looking for praise from other people, by developing all these pseudo-new things.  Let’s be open to change, but when we do change, let’s do it to improve our worship of the only One deserving of it.  Let’s have fun and be crazy and get jiggy before our God, but only because we are interested in increasing His glory in our joy.


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