You know how it is. When you visit a church, you want to get something for your time.
It’s not that church has to be like a business proposal. It’s just that church is supposed to fulfill a need at the core of every human… to feel accepted and validated by a Higher Power. To know the Creator of the Universe is indeed, concerned about and able to reply to my situation.
Check out the reasons people go to church here:
It’s rather egotistical to think you and God can be on a first name basis, but church is supposed to help you realize that. Think of it. Without God, without the Bible, church has no real value. But, if you believe the Bible, if you believe God created the Universe, then you can get outside your own narrow view of life and open yourself up to a new concept that you may not have all the answers!
When you visit a new church, or are returning after not attending for some time, you tend to compare it to your home church, or the church you once attended regularly.
My wife and I visited a church far from home recently. Some things, we liked about the new church. It was like a double shot of espresso (this new church was hip; it featured a Starbucks style counter!) We liked the energy; the smiles; the way people gathered and talked. But, of course, we like that about our home church, too. Even though our church is older and “whiter”, it still reflects a common thread of friendliness. And yet, my home church, the church I’m visiting, any church… they all have a shellac coat of phoniness.
Church smells of polyurethane politeness.
What I find generally missing in many churches is the “you can tell by the way I walk my walk; I’m a real world friend with time to talk (and listen)” as it pertains to visitors and newer attendees.
Do you think church is hypocritical?
Don’t think I’m a sour grapes outsider. I grew up in the church bubble and lived the “cliquey connoisseur” lifestyle most of my life.
Back to my visit. My wife and I sat on the second row, center. Not a very visitor thing to do, I know. Most of you would be in the aisle seat toward the back, ready to spring at the first sign of commitment.
On our first visit two weeks ago, a friend introduced us to some regulars up in the front center who park in the SAME seats and get there early like groupies at a rock concert. So, being creatures of habit, we again sat up front, center, next to the groupies.
Only these church groupies aren’t so hip. They’re, er, older than I, which means, pretty well up there. On a scale of 1-10, they’re a 9 for being un-hip. Which I like, by the way. I listen patiently to the older guy telling me his ailments. He’s pretty cool, for an older, ailing guy. He can drive without pain, but his rotator cuff acts up, especially when he goes to grab his wallet (his words, not mine!) which may explain his lack of participation come offering time (who am I condemning; I didn’t drop anything into the offering bucket either!)
The older guy (his name is Trooper, or something unusual with a T) confesses he missed last Wednesday evening service, on purpose. I confess the same. His reason is the same as mine, ironically. We don’t wanna stand and praise Jesus for an entire hour. At this church, the praise-a-lleujah time is half an hour, followed by a 30 minute sermon. But, last week was praise week. No sitting. Lots of rotator cuff afflicting with the expectation of raising arms toward heaven.
“I can’t stand that long,” Trooper says.
“Why not sit during worship? I’ve seen it done.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that.”
Nah, not this guy.
He’s genuinely scaredy cat of being different…something Christians really frown upon.
Me? I plop down during the second song as the chubby bearded hipster with old lady 1930s glasses and short hair on the side, man boobs, and pants so skinny a prepubescent girl could wear them sings into the mic and strums his guitar dramatically. And his boots… so shiny, so… what are they? Combat meets Laura Ingalls Wilder. Lace up, tongue poking over skin tight stretchy pants… wow. Just, wow. Distracting with a big, fat, man booby Capital “D”.
So, I plop down and sit with my head resting on my forearm draped over the seat reserved for man boobs at the mic. How do I know? Each seat in the front row is adorned with a honkin’ huge laminated sign for the appropriate designee. For example, this seat in front of me reads “Worship Pastor”. Gosh, what an absolutely stupid title. No resume builder here, folks. Unless you never want a real job out in the real world. “D-uh, I’m a worship pastor. I can, uh, wear tight pants and raise my flabby arms towards heaven like a real worship hero. D-uh. Follow me, as I, like, uh, follow Christ, for real. I know, right?”
OK, a little Millennial generation gap hostility there… but if you’re still reading, you’ve been warned.
The other front row seats are smattered with equally garish reservation signs. They read: (Church abbreviation) Staff; Lead Pastor; Associate Pastor; Outreach Coordinator; Connection Director; Ambivalence Eliminator; Song Leader Boot Polisher; etc. and so forth. Each distinguished designee firmly and securely regarded in his or her seat (which were completely unoccupied come sermon time… ) which means they probably went for a double shot of espresso at the cafe/bar for hipsters near the main entrance?
So, the worship ensues, my head is down and I’m in the “praying fervently” position, or so it seems to observers of my second row antics. My lovely wife, in her tight red jeans and high heels, stands as if standing for an eternity in high heels is the most comfy thing in the world, as the entire congregation no doubt leers at her loveliness. She even waves at God with outstretched arms and claps along as they sing. Me, I’m watching those shoes close up. I think I have the better deal.
The sermon is by an older white guy. It’s good. It applies to me. My wife gives me the knowing look during the message that says, “Are you listening?”
Remember, I grew up in church. Heck, I was on staff at a church. I love God. I love Jesus. I just hate church.
I think everyone deserves to give church a chance. To get beyond merely observing and analyzing, but digest the meat of the message they’re trying to convey. You are short changing your religious experience if you think you can attend church as an observer only.
It’s not fair to sit back and judge like I do. I may hate church, but…
I’ll be back next week. I have a lot to learn.
John Cockroft is a walking contradiction. His religion is worthless, but he’s real and he doesn’t lay claim to a particular seat in church. You can sit anywhere you like. He’ll gladly adjust. For more about him and his lovely wife, visit TwentyFourSevenMarriage on YouTube, or go to www.JohnCockroft.com