Foreign Born – Early Warnings
Some years ago, when the whole “emerging” thing was getting off the ground, Alison and I attended a service that was billed as being a Gen X experience. That was back when people actually still talked about Gen X. Funny what a few years can do to our language. It was one of their pilot services… an experiment if you will.
At that point in my life, while I wasn’t all that interested in “traditional” church, the contemporary-seeker-friendly-church had sort of lost its luster for me as well. It wasn’t like I was looking for a new church to attend. The one I was working at probably wouldn’t have been all that impressed with my choosing to worship elsewhere. However, I was very interested in seeing what other churches were doing and if there was anything worthy of adopting.
I should have known that the experience wasn’t going to be all that it was cracked up to be simply based on where it was being held. It was housed in the campus of one of the largest churches in the Seattle area. But I was willing to push through that. I didn’t (and still don’t) despise mega-churches. I mean how trendy would that have been? And as we all know, I’m anything but trendy. Which, of course, is trendy in its own right. What were we talking about? Oh yeah, me doing the most non-trendy thing thing in the world by attending a Gen X service.
So, warning sign number two should have been that as we were walking in, we were allowed to “choose” a photograph of some nature scene that appealed to us. Ok, that’s nice. A little pre-service gift, of sorts. Then we entered a very dimly lit auditorium-style room. Dimly lit because the only illumination was a number of candles scattered across the stage and room. I think the idea was to convince us that we weren’t really in some sterile warehouse for people, but something more akin to a monastery. I really don’t know what the deal was. Maybe the church had given them such a limited budget to try it out that they weren’t allowed to use electricity.
The service progressed – and I’m sure that in many respects it was a very nice time of worship – not too unlike many other contemporary services I’ve attended prior to and since then. Of course, the nature photo had a purpose… I was suppose to turn to some stranger near me and explain how the scene (which I had come discover represented one of the four seasons) was a reflection of my spiritual or emotional state at the time. Hokey? Yes. Memorable? Obviously. Honestly, it wasn’t the worst exercise in the world. It just didn’t ring true. I’m all for stuff like that when the people leading and participating really mean it. Instead, the whole thing seemed like something of a reach. Something manufactured.
I didn’t go back. Which I’m certain is why the service only lasted a year or so.
Ok, there is so much that could be said about this topic. One of the things I’ve discovered is that there isn’t anybody who is opinion-less about what a worship service should look like. What do you think is missing from worship services in typical evangelical churches today? What do you think about Belcher’s proposal that churches need to keep the Bible, tradition, and culture in tension with each other? Once again, I’ve had several great conversations with people over all this, and look forward to others.