I am neither bragging nor complaining when I say my wife and I attend church regularly. We found a wonderful church in our neighborhood and enjoy participating in worship and in the life of that congregation.
Something I don’t enjoy at any church is visiting the first time.
I have worshiped at churches where the welcome is overwhelming; may I say “orchestrated.” In one church visitors had to wear purple ribbons and the pastor pointed out our ribbons for all to see. In our first visit to another church the pastor asked me to stand and introduce my family. When my 11-year old daughter brought an out-of-town friend with her a few Sundays later, the pastor asked her to introduce her friend. My daughter still remembers her distress. At one church the elderly couple serving as greeters was so tickled to see visitors the kindly old man nearly jumped out of his shoes while shaking our hands.
Then there were churches where we were invisible. No greeting of any kind – from a member or from a pastor or other staff person. Frankly, I don’t mind a little anonymity but it’s exasperating when you are earnestly seeking a new place to worship.
I have never been diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder but I abhor marathon church services. I believe the mind will absorb no more than the seat will endure.
All that said you will understand why I was not especially eager to go to church with Julie’s children and their families in Wisconsin recently.
Her daughter’s family is involved in a large metropolitan church that worships in three locations. Theirs is a relatively new and growing congregation that meets in a suburban middle school until a large, new facility is completed about a mile away later this year.
Walking into the middle school gym/worship center I made a note of the sturdy, comfortable-looking folding chairs. Large people take note of such things, always concerned with the chair’s structural integrity and load bearing reliability. When I was a kid churches had pews — strong wooden pews that would hold multiple families. I have never seen a pew collapse. I have seen folding chairs collapse.
So far, so good. The praise band was already playing as we took our seats and, frankly, they were good. Five pieces – violin, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, keyboard and a drum set. The two lead singers had great voices. Though I would have preferred to hear a Fanny Crosby hymn the contemporary songs were well performed.
While the stage was well lighted, it was relatively dark in the auditorium which is okay. Like I said, anonymity is not necessarily a bad thing.
Many churches practice the “meet and greet” at some point in the service. You, know meet and greet those around you. Shake hands; say “hello” to visitors. With apologies to Jonathon Edwards I call this event “The Great Shakening.”
This service included a “meet and greet.” Fortunately, no one jumped out of their shoes but folks were congenial.
Next was the main event in Protestant worship – the sermon. This was a video recording projected on a large screen. It was the sermon the senior pastor preached an hour earlier at their main downtown location. It was about politics and it was potent!
The middle-aged pastor, looking cool and comfortable in a sweater and blue jeans, powerfully reminded us that when we participate in discussions about today’s highly-charged partisan politics we must remember Jesus’ admonition to love our neighbor as we love our self. You had to be there for the full impact, but in the interest of brevity he said: “Be nice.”
Another set of contemporary music and we were dismissed.
As we left the building I realized there had been no offering. How can you run a church without taking an offering?
I was later told a depository is provided for financial contributions.
Bottom line: I enjoyed the service and not just because they didn’t take up an offering. The sermon was a bit longer than my ideal but it was so good I didn’t mind.
Wow, I must finally be growing up!
Arvid Huisman can be contacted at email@example.com. ©2016 by Huisman Communications.