Like so many other times of vacation, we decided to worship at another church in our community. We’ve already done the big-box rock around the clock churches were the beautiful people hang out. We have filed into the pews of some of the big traditional churches in town. Today we wanted to worship in an ordinary congregation in an ordinary building with ordinary people. And we got exactly what we were looking for.
This was a congregation where you couldn’t be anonymous if you wanted to. Go to the big box churches for that and settle down into your theater seat among the crowd. In this ordinary congregation they drafted some little kid to light the candles and average people led the music and worship in a respectable way. The pastor gave a solid sermon. None of it was going to set the world on fire. But there was an unmistakable sense of Christian family. People seemed to know why they were there. And we did, too. It was about worshiping God and how we should be Christians in the world. Mission accomplished.
I think that some day in the not-to-distant future average congregations are going to make a come back. In time, maybe now, maybe later, people are going to catch the drift that there is a difference between a Christian entertainment event and a congregation of real people to worship, serve together and love each other on the way to loving God. Like Cheers, it’s some place where everybody knows your name.
It’s going to happen, I predict, and average congregations should get ready. All they really have to do is welcome people with love and then be about being who they are. People will find them and where they fit. But I’m certain that the more depersonalized the world gets, the more we are consumed by entertainment culture, the more important this will become. And, in the end, people are just going to want their spiritual home to be that, a home, where we are baptized, share the table, learn about God, hug our babies and comfort the grieving. We’ll eat together and try our best to shed some light of the kingdom.
And, just saying, every time I worship on vacation I sense a little more about how “the other half” lives on Sunday morning. The other half would be those who are not ministers or not overly committed lay leaders who are rushing around. I got up, greeted the Sabbath, had my coffee and did my devotional reading. I entered church at a leisurely stroll. We sat and talked and worshiped and had a bite afterwards.
As enjoyable as that was I would call it something like “church lite.” Perhaps that’s just a comparison with my normal. But I think it’s more. I think my experience as a vacation guest is roughly analogous to the regular experience of many, many church folk. And what is that? Pretty minimal, not much expected, fairly non-participatory. I showed up so you could say I was belonging in some manner. But my commitment, my participation was minimal. Actually, it made me hungry for more than lunch. It made me hungry for community, for growing. And if I were one of the lay persons, not the obligated clergy, I would want to get more involved, to feel a part of the family, to find out how my participation matters.
By the way, if you are just doing “church lite” as I just did, why in the world would you complain about coming to worship once a week? I mean, that’s about the lowest commitment level imaginable. A whole hour for God. Wow. Careful, don’t overdo it.