What Kind of Church Do YOU Want?
This post is inspired by a response I gave to a Friend’s post on Facebook, the Lead Pastor of one of the Triangle’s twelve rapidly growing “mega” churches, C3, also known as Cleveland Community Church. Pastor Matt Fry was interviewed for a piece in today’s Life section of the Triangle’s premiere newspaper, the News & Observer (more affectionately known as the N&O). The article is entitled, “The Sermon on the Screen”.
The N&O article references a study conducted by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research and the Leadership Network of Dallas on the rise of the mega church in American religion. Several conclusions were drawn from this study including who attends a mega church, why he or she prefers the mega church experience, and probably most important, why they stay? The reporter for the N&O article talked to some of the areas residents and Pastors of its growing mega churches to get a feel for why they continue to grow here. What I found interesting was this combination of statements –
…unlike traditional churches, megachurch leaders count attendance rather than membership. (1)
…one of the signature programs of nearly all megachurches is small groups. Pastors at these churches strongly recommend that people get involved in small groups to study the Bible, pray and offer one another support. These groups are critical for creating Christian community because the megachurch, by definition, is often too big to offer intimacy. (2)
On his Facebook wall, Pastor Matt asked for our thoughts on the article. I started to write this long drawn-out post and realized that I needed to expand it to a blog post. Thus, the reason for this writing. My response was –
I thought the statistical findings were very interesting. I think one of the things that attracts me to the “mega-church experience” is the mere fact that churches of that size just want to minister to and connect people whereas smaller, more “traditional” churches tend to be more “concerned” with following traditional structure (and I don’t know that “concerned” is the right word for what I’m trying to say here). Still, I’d like to find that happy medium somewhere, a mix of traditional and contemporary with an emphasis on the whole spiritual being connecting….
And I stopped there.
I’ve actually talked about something similar to this before (here) so I don’t want to repeat myself too much. Yet I feel so compelled to finish my thought from above that I think I will!
I actually enjoy attending a mega church every once in a while. I love the immediate feel of pure spiritual love that surrounds the worship center as a large congregation gathers in an equally large room worshiping in various ways. Some like to raise their hands high while others keep them a bit lower or don’t raise them at all. Some like to jump up and down to the music while others prefer to stay seated. I went to a seminar once where the topic was something to the effect of “it’s not how you worship; it’s just that you worship”. I completely agree….to a point. But, I’ll get to that later. My point here is that when walking into the worship center of a mega church on any given Sunday (or Saturday night), a spiritual person (and sometimes a not so spiritual person) instantly feels this incredible connection that draws him or her in to want to keep going, to want to raise his or her hands high (or not), without question to want to worship. It’s an amazing feeling.
But for me, that’s where it also stops. As I’ve said before, I grew up Lutheran, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS for short). While that denomination would be considered “organized religion” to some, to me it’s just all I know…and accept. However, as a whole the Lutheran church and the LCMS hasn’t seemed to embrace the worship style of the mega church. I wish it would.
Probably the closest I have come to a mega church experience within the Lutheran church is Concordia Lutheran in San Antonio, TX. I absolutely loved my church experience, my church family there. It’s been six years since I’ve lived there and boy do I miss not just Concordia but the experience it represented. I have not found anything remotely like that since moving here to the Triangle.
The infamous blue bonnets in bloom around Concordia (2005)
At Concordia, we had the traditional beliefs and values under a contemporary worship setting. There is a wonderful Christian school on site too (I taught there).
For me, Concordia represented all that I wanted in my walk in faith. Since moving to the Triangle, I have gone back and forth to various churches in the area, some mega and some LCMS. I can’t seem to find that happy home and I know it’s a detriment to my faith in some way but I also know that my faith is stronger than ever. It would be stronger sure IF I could find the right combination of worship experience.
And that’s what I was trying to say as I finished off the last part of my response to Pastor Matt – “Still, I’d like to find that happy medium somewhere, a mix of traditional and contemporary with an emphasis on the whole spiritual being connecting traditional LCMS values and beliefs to the contemporary worship experience.”
I guess for me, it IS how I worship…and I’m not just talking with hands high in the air. I’m talking about the entire experience – Sunday worship to small groups to volunteering my time to leading in some way. I feel most comfortable incorporating all of that into my spiritual journey when I’m in the “right” place, the right place for me.
And it took a whole blog post to do that. 🙂 I’m sure at some point I will find a place to call home. God has a tendency to lead people to the right place for them. I fully believe that.
What about you? What kind of church do YOU want? I’d be interested to see what you have to say on the subject.
p.s. Special Thanks to Pastor Matt Fry for the inspiration behind this posting.
(1) and (2) taken from “The Sermon on the screen“, News & Observer; June 18, 2009