I really should be cleaning my room right now, because… have you seen it? No. Of course you haven’t seen it. Mainly because it’s covered in crap. (Did I seriously just say, “I should be cleaning my room right now.”? What am I, sixteen? Is my mom not going to let me go to the Homecoming Dance? Is this what my life has become? UGH….)
Anyway, instead of cleaning my room I’m going to talk about church. (I know, I’m such a badass.)
Last night I went to church.
Going to church isn’t a new thing for me, but it’s become a rather uncommon occurrence.
Come to think of it, I can’t remember the last time I went to church.
Good grief, I haven’t been to church since APRIL?! What kind of heathen am I? Have I become one of these infidels who only goes to church on high holidays?!
It’s not that I’m anti-church. Church is great. I love church. It’s just that… well… it’s so HARD to get up early on Sunday mornings. I mean, it’s one of two days you get to sleep in and you’re going to spend it getting up early? I don’t think so. What kind of insanity is that? Especially in this day and age when you can just watch the sermon via podcast. Seriously, churches… you shouldn’t be making it so easy not to come to church. It’s kind of counter productive to your mission, is it not?
I used to attend a mega church in the big city with the jerk before moving back home. (He was very serious about getting to church and watching the weekly podcasts when we had missed. Clearly, he got a LOT out of those sermons… ) I kind of hated going to a mega church. At first I thought it was great. They had professional musicians and coffee shops and fancy lights and stadium seating. And then I started to hate it because of the professional musicians and coffee shops and fancy lights and stadium seating. It made me wonder how many tables Jesus would overturn if he were to walk into any of these mega-churches around the country. I mean… church should be for worship, not our entertainment. It’s a church. Not a mall. Plus, you don’t really get to know anyone at a mega church. Especially when they offer 14 services on the weekends. Okay, maybe not 14 but when you have services Saturday afternoon, Saturday night, Sunday morning, and Sunday afternoon… all at different campuses… and you watch the pastor preach on a big screen… and nobody knows your name or even cares if you’re there… well, it’s sort of impersonal and further solidifies the fact that… you don’t really need to go. No one is going to miss you. And again, there’s always the podcast.
So, I had my mega church experience and I wasn’t a huge fan. I wanted something smaller, something more personal. Flash forward to moving back to a small town where every church is small and I guess I got what I wished for. My mom has more recently been going to a very small Lutheran church that she used to go to a very long time ago. I don’t remember ever attending this church, but my siblings do and apparently we were very active in it. This was before we changed churches and started going to a Pentecostal church. I know, right? Pentecostals? Aren’t they like… weird? Well, no. And… kind of. I mean there wasn’t shouting in tongues and women dancing with tambourines and slaying people in the spirit… although, I think there were a couple of “revivals” there which consisted of such things. Anyway, this Pentecostal-type church was the church I grew up in. I was used to church being a little more… free flowing. People weren’t super uptight and they talked about Jesus a lot and prayed for you on the spot and God wasn’t just reserved for Sundays. In some ways, it was really great to grow up in a church like that. In other ways, they could be very judgmental and very focused on fire and brimstone, but I guess you take the good with the bad. Eventually, when I was a little older, we moved on to different churches – one Baptist, one Evangelical. And again, these churches too were more open and free. After some time, we sort of stopped going to church. In a small town where there are only so many options, it’s hard to find a “home church” that offers what you need and it became easier to maintain a spiritual walk at home without some of the unnecessary “churchy” stuff. (How many committees are you serving on? Why aren’t you part of the Bible study? You didn’t make it to communion last week?! You picked up lottery tickets?! Why haven’t you been baptized? What are you bringing to the potluck? You can’t sit there… that’s where the pillars of the church sit. Come to think of it… church can be a lot like high school… but that’s another post for another time.)
Then, during high school and the past couple of years there were a couple Evangelical churches, another Pentecostal church, the mega church, and even a Catholic church that came about while teaching in a Catholic school. On this journey of church hopping, most churches maintain the same beliefs, with slight variations on the same theme. However, there seem to be two types of churches: Traditional and Non-Traditional. I was much more comfortable with the non-traditional.
So, when I went to the little Lutheran church with my mom, I was expecting a very traditional service. And I wasn’t disappointed. It was nearly exactly like a Catholic service but without the priest and altar boys. Liturgy, call and response, hymns accompanied by an organ, somber, serious, whispered tones, and nobody making any sudden movements… we don’t want the Lord to think we’re heathens. It was… weird. I wasn’t used to it. It made me uncomfortable. At one point, I tried to say something in my normal speaking voice and instantly had to lower it to a whisper because it sounded like I was shouting. People don’t speak in this church. They whisper. And I couldn’t figure out why everyone seemed so… sad. Maybe they hadn’t gotten the memo? Jesus isn’t dead anymore. It’s okay. You can crack a smile. Just a little one. Not even a full one. Maybe just tilt the side of your mouth up ever so slightly. No? You’re not comfortable with that? Okay. We’ll stick with the frowning then. And then hymns were slooooow and draaaaagy and *sigh* somewhat defeated. And not once did anyone clap their hands… the songs were too slow for that. And no one shouted “Amen!” in the middle of the sermon. And no one raised their hands in praise. And everything was slightly foreign to me.
But then I realized… for the majority of people… this is church. This is how it’s always been and how it always will be. That’s how they worship. And that’s okay. Just because it’s not my style doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
Church is funny. We’re all so different. We all take different approaches. We all appreciate different things. And yet, we’re all part of the bigger “church”. I wonder if that’s what God intended for the church all along.