How did we get here? How did Church History bring us to the assembling, service, and singing we call, church? How did we get from Jesus ascending into heaven and the great commission to drums on the stage and people sitting on bar stools crying about the lack of enthusiastic singers and volunteers?
I'd so love to challenge our church to do a Daniel, meaning, pare down the just veggies for a month, and see if things improve. Cut the crap. One hymn. One sermon involving lots and lots of scripture. No cute family stories or fluff. But, I have not the energy, nor voice. I am just angry. I am just an old, fat, angry old lady. And I feel like I am watching our church die. And it is so sad.
We can't compete with Hollywood. We can't compete with the temple down the street where people pay $500 per seat to be bombarded for a few hours with noise, smoke, and strutting football players. And even Veggie Tales teaches concepts better than we do to our children.
But, how did we get here? Jesus never went to church as we know it. And the huge medieval churches of Europe sit mostly empty except as tourist attractions. The mega churches seem to be thriving, but they, too, suffer the same laments as the small churches where a handful of people do most of the work.
My dream church? An every day place, like where I attended as a teenager, where feeding on the Word daily was as important as feeding physically. A place of daily Scripture reading, prayer, a hymn or two--one at the beginning and one at the end. Sounds almost Catholic, except instead of rituals, candles, and genuflecting, the daily teaching would require a pastor who studied constantly to dig out the nuggets. So, visitation, funerals, weddings and other things that drain a pastor's time and energy would need to be delegated to different ones with those gifts. And it would take maybe a stable of pastors to rotate in and out of the harness.
And in my dream church, children would be encouraged to sit and listen when able. Children's church would not be a holding area nor entertainment as much as preparation for learning in big church.
We cannot obey Jesus Christ's commands if we do not know them. And we cannot know them unless we have the structure and discipline to learn what the Bible says. Understanding how the Bible was written, the mixture of stories and doctrine, principles and warnings--these are so vital, and yet we have let other things creep in. We do things backwards, trying to attract others, when we should be doing our jobs as unto the Lord and let Him bring in others who want to learn and live as He has directed.
What does true worship look like? What is God's plan for this dispensation? Only God can keep us from getting rigid and legalistic. Only God can show us how to use His money wisely, and fulfill our purpose of sending out missionaries. But, how can we send out missionaries when our own are not being taught? How can we send out missionaries when our own are not being inspired nor called?
Was Jesus among us last Sunday? The chairs were half empty. The service so much fluff, emotion, and alarming display of interviewing the staff. I hoped and prayed no visitor chose that day to check us out. But, we are Christians, and as a Christian woman, admonished to keep quiet in church. So, instead, I come home and implode here. And cry out to heaven to correct this situation. I no longer want to vote with my dollars there. And the ultimate irony---our church buildings were broken into a week ago. The alarm was ignored because they thought it was a false alarm. They did not check it out because someone thought who would break in in broad daylight in the afternoon? Who would break the glass with a rock and ransack an office? The repairs will cost thousands. The criminals now know that we ignore alarms. The thousands paid for alarms, alarm companies, upkeep, tickets for false alarms---those thousands are such a waste. Might as well take what we have given over the years and flush it down the drain.
Cut the picnics, cut the dinners, cut the fluff. We need to get back to the bare bones of Bible Study---but our one Bible Study is attended by only a handful on Wednesday nights. Something is so very wrong here. And all I can do is call out to heaven: please do not give us what we deserve. Please rescue us from ourselves. Show us how to worship You, Lord in Your Way that honors You and that is attractive to others You seek to draw in. Change us, and change me. Please take away the anger, and critical judging spirit. Our church is suffering. We are top heavy for the number of pastors we support, all poorly. A youth minister, college minister, music person, secretary, and seminary student meeting in one of the schools. Our outreach is puny. Small. Our missionary support is embarrassing.
And another irony? Here at the Christmas season, where we celebrate Jesus' birth, our church takes a holiday---with a month of fluff: plays, music, substitute preachers, and cancelled services in the name of not wanting to interfere with family time. Well, guess what, our families are not going to survive on such weak, emotional fluff.