I hope you realize with two Mark Twain quotes that this post is meant to be humorous, but to point out that some people aren’t comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings. I was shooting for something between the quoted Mark Twain yarn and Andy Griffith’s “What it was, was football.”
“You can’t reason with your heart; it has its own laws, and thumps about things which the intellect scorns.”
- Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
We went to our son’s church a couple of weeks ago. We had gone to his previous church, but they had moved from Mississippi to Tennessee. Thus, there was a new church that was even more modern than the last one.
I felt that I had been beamed up to another planet. In the least, I felt like the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. It wasn’t that it was bad, good, or anything in between. It was simply different.
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”
- Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
My son told me that dressing for church was optional. I hope he meant that you needed to at least put clothing on. What I found was that all of the “teams” wore T-Shirts. There were the welcomers that held the door open. We were introduced to the couple at the ‘Bridge’ area (but no idea where the bridge went) because they had lived in Pennsylvania as well, but moved to Tennessee for the warmer climate upon retirement. They were gray-haired. It seemed that there were people of all ages there. The ‘Bridge’ people had computers next to them. If we were potential new members, they might have entered information on the computer about us, but as it was, they never touched the computer.
As we looked around the entrance that was made of stainless steel, aluminum, and glass (no fingerprints in sight on any surface – totally unlived in), we saw other teams in T-Shirts, almost all having laptops on slim metal posts. There were four people all in a row along one wall hiding behind computer screens. I guess they were getting fed information by the other teams. They said nothing to anyone, but their fingers were busy typing or clicking their mice. They were simply untalking heads.
Near the row of computers with untalking heads, there was a coffee area. Between coffee makers was a sticker printing system. Each parent registered each child into a dedicated computer. Our older two grandchildren got one sticker each. The three-year-old (This was his birthday.) got three stickers (chest, back pocket of his pants, and the diaper bag). The parents each got a sticker. It seemed that the church was so big, that no one knew each other. To claim a child, you had to have a sticker with that child’s code number on it. Heaven forbid, a sticker gets lost. Do they keep children forever when the stickers don’t match? I never found out. I know that this is for child protection, but it was so horribly impersonal. Yet, the sticker system is the one thing that they had at their old church, even though the church was smaller and our son seemed to know most of the people.
With the grandchildren all carted away to their Sunday school rooms, my son suggested that we stay in the entrance area instead of going into the sanctuary. He pointed to huge screens. “You might not like the sanctuary, Dad.”
I insisted that I wanted to worship in person, not via a video screen. Oh, how naive I was.
We received what I thought was a bulletin. It was really a lot of church advertisements and a space to take notes during the message. No date on the folded card, probably printed in bulk. Part of the card was a tear away so that you could enter your cell phone number and e-mail address. I suppose low-techies had difficulty joining, but again, I didn’t ask. Maybe that is what the untalking heads were for?
We went into a room that could never be considered a sanctuary. Just my opinion, based on the general definition and what happened there. I would have called it a high tech, modern concert hall. My son chose a row and we sat in individual seats. There was a gap to the next couple. I was informed that I’d have to move down if others chose our row. It was the early service. We were safe, at least about shifting our seats.
By the time I sat down, the lights went out and the ‘music’ started to play. I now knew what my son meant by not liking it. The volume was so loud that I was unable to hear much for quite some time after the ‘music’ had stopped. You could feel the vibrations from the speakers against your face. A live band played rock music, okay contemporary Christian music. I guess it was music. There were guitars and drums. The words on the huge screens were uplifting, but very repetitious. Does that qualify it as music? One of the lead vocalists would yell and scream at us between verses. Obviously, we were worshiping wrong, and he had to correct us. As I said earlier, my ears were ringing from the cacophony. I couldn’t hear him. I had no idea what I was doing wrong, but the guy with the microphone kept yelling anyway.
We then saw a video of a young married couple that were joining the church. They each gave their testimonies, individually. That was nice.
Then a preacher came on the screen and introduced the guest speaker. The guest speaker was the head writer for the Sunday school material that was being taught, along with the material for small group studies.
Then the guest speaker came on screen. He gave a very good message. I took a lot of notes on the non-bulletin.
It wasn’t until then that I realized that this was a multiple campus church and the preacher, and in this case the guest speaker, was somewhere else. Was it live or was it Memorex? Again,I didn’t ask. Our son said that the preacher occasionally came to their campus. The way he said it, it didn’t sound like that happened very often. He had fallen in love with the church before they had problems (money?) and had to merge with a multi-campus church.
They never collected an offering. I don’t remember much praying either.
When the guest speaker was finished, my son ushered us outside fast. They ran to get the grandchildren and we got in the cars as quickly as possible. It seems that one topic that they don’t teach in the church is courtesy to other drivers. He said that we had to back out of our parking places and get moving or we’d be stuck for almost a half hour by other church members that don’t believe in taking turns. I didn’t want to test his theory, so we left.
My wife liked the service, but she admitted that watching a movie screen wasn’t much different than watching a TV preacher on Sunday mornings, again very impersonal. At least if you saw it at home on TV, you could adjust the volume.
The church was a ‘raising hands’ church. I’d seen the Tim Hawkins’ routine on different forms of raising your hands. I knew that I could start off small, but I wasn’t comfortable with any of that. They don’t call me ‘frozen chosen’ for nothing.
New small groups were starting up. The adults didn’t have Sunday school. They were expected to join a small group. My son and his wife hadn’t started one yet, but went to their first meeting later that week. We babysat. It was a good thing. The Bible study was free, but babysitting was $5 per kid per night. My son wasn’t ready to take $60 out of his monthly budget (four weeks and three children) just for babysitting. He was already stretched with his church giving. I don’t know how that will work in the future.
I hope you picked up on my humor here. I’m not a Sheldon Cooper (of Big Bang Theory) who said his new friends were having fun, but they were doing it wrong. After attending, I quickly realized that our church had a long way to go in developing a modern, contemporary service. But what our church has in the way of a contemporary service is low key and not nearly as loud. Plus, there is the conventional service alternatives.
I won’t say that I didn’t get anything out of the service. I took a lot of notes. If I can find the non-bulletin, I might even write about it. But this particular Frozen Chosen is more comfortable with a laid-back service that even sings a Fannie Crosby hymn once a quarter.
While God never changes, there is nothing wrong with changing the way we worship, as long as we are worshiping the One, the only, true God of the universe. If you haven’t checked out a different type of service, you should try it. Take hearing protection, just in case. (I can’t help it. I was a safety man for part of my career. We’re talking well over 100dB. I’ve been to quieter football games.) You might love it, but if you don’t, you might appreciate your home church and your home preacher a little more. Whatever worship service you like, remember SDG. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone)