Business as usual in many Anchorage churches is clearly not meeting the needs of some earnest seekers after truth. Sometimes clergy and church members see these church visit blog posts as unwarranted attacks upon their churches. My visit goals are clearly stated in the criteria on this blog. Recently I received an e-mail from a seeker who contacted me on behalf of their family. This person expressed concerns about “loud worship bands” and the use of music to stimulate the emotions to given ends. The use of “onstage lighting” and expensive “visual aids” is also mentioned, and the reader questions whether we really need all of this to “give God a moment of our time”. The reader wondered why they don’t hear the word “SIN” used without all the “hellfire and damnation” talk usually accompanying it. “Fuzzy Grace”, I call it “cheap grace”, is also mentioned as a concern. There’s more, but I think you get the message. Read more in the extract below. I’d love to hear what the Church Visit reader community has to share with someone looking for a church unburdened by the experiental trappings described.
Extract of Reader “X’s” Letter
I have been reading some of the articles about your church visits. I had been going to one of Anchorage’s “mega churches” before moving down to the Lower 48. Now that I am back, the church I started with has gone through some major changes etc… and I find it just isn’t what I need in a church anymore. Firstly, I know more now thanks to wonderful resources of Biblical info like James McDonald, David Jeremiah, Michael Youssef, Jack & Rexella Van Impe and a wonderful rancher, self-professed “layman” named Les Feldick from Oklahoma—his TV program that I was able to see in the Lower 48 called “Through the Bible with Les Feldick” has really opened up the Bible for me and help me to understand who God is in a way that my church never has. I guess in the beginning it was alright because I had no background in church or God’s Word or anything so I didn’t notice the little discrepancies or taking the Bible verses out of context etc….
But now I find myself disinterested in the loud worship band which just seems there for mere entertainment purposes, but will play a slow, emotionally moving song when the money bags are handed around to gather the tithe. Is this the new definition of “worship”? I almost expect to look up at the stage one day and see an “applause” sign blinking frantically!!
Are we as Christians that needy and ignorant that we need all these “bells and whistles” in order to give God a moment of our time, before we get back into our cars in the parking lot and back on our cell phones and text message people while we drive away from “God’s House” because after all we’re busy, important people? It almost seems more of a enabling manipulation, like some New Age momentum has creeped into what used to be sound doctrine.
I myself can’t seem to find a happy medium when it comes to my search for a church. I want a church that isn’t afraid to utter that 3-letter word (SIN) yet I don’t want to be yelled at constantly about hellfire and damnation. How can we be convicted to change with God’s help when all that’s out there is the warm and fuzzy message of God’s grace???? I think it needs to be a more balanced message. I believe Jesus is the one true way to God and that salvation is a gift from God when we believe the Gospel, and ask Jesus into our hearts, but I don’t believe the common thought that all of us are meant to be missionaries. If there were never followers who were working behind the scenes—whether it be at church or at home being the best they can be—what kind of families would we have? And if we can’t have strong families and people in our churches, how could we possibly help anyone when the situation presented itself? All it has created is a bunch of needy people who end up feeling more empty upon leaving church than when they arrived—unless of course they were able to take their mega coffees with them into the service as they slowly stroll up the aisle 15 minutes late into the service—then I guess they became physically full, but spiritually void. Don’t get me wrong—I enjoy being in comfy clothes as I try to draw closer to God—-I just feel that somewhere we lost all respect for the Almighty, and replaced it with “feel-good” theology. I would much rather hear a sermon that convicts me or makes me, then go somewhere to pat myself on the back for doing my Christian duty by showing up for church, shaking a few hands and singing a few songs.
It honestly feels more like a Woodstock concert these days then a church service. Last week I thought I would have to leave early because the band has gotten so loud! At one point I wanted to weep over the fact that I couldn’t understand why I was attending this church anymore, and how much it had changed. It seems to have died from the inside out…eroding more every Sunday.
It reminded me of when I was younger and would shop for Christmas presents at the malls and how overwhelming it could be with the crowds and the noise and hustle and bustle, and how after awhile I would seek out that one corner of solace—a lone person playing either an acoustic guitar or a piano and gently playing a soft song like “Silent night” amid all this confusion and chaos—the true meaning of Christmas was there–in that quiet song bringing me back to “the heart of worship”. All the other stuff was just “stuff”, but this soothing melody was able to bring me a connection with my Saviour…time seemed to stand still while the tune brought me to the greater reality that one can find God in the most unlikely places.
My question to you is, how do we hear His still small voice amidst this so-called “Progressive Christianity?” I don’t need to be entertained by a loud band—if I want that I’ll pay to see a rock concert. I don’t need tests and gimmicks to discern my “gifts” and how to use them. I just need God. The funny thing is, I can’t seem to find Him in church…
One of my favorite books is by Corrie Ten Boom called Tramp for the Lord and after I read certain parts of it I can’t help but wonder about people in foreign lands who meet secretly by candlelight—risking life and their family’s lives to get together to share God’s forbidden Word with each other. All that is needed is a Bible, a desire to learn about God, and people gathered together with an uncompromising courage. Their reward is fellowship, community and learning and applying deep spiritual truths by studying ALL of God’s Word—not just the “feel-good” parts…..What would this place be like if we all could remember how awesome our God is, and be able to rejoice in it together, and not in some rehearsed counterfeit way?
I guess my question to you is if you ever find a church that still preaches about Jesus being the only way and convicts us of our sin and doesn’t need fancy music or graphics to do it, please let me know. I know there aren’t any perfect churches out there. After all, this isn’t heaven. But I would still like to know if there are any churches out there preaching the truth in season and out of season—when it’s popular to do so, or not! It’s not about the size of the church either—a small or large congregation can care about each other very affectively. In my searching, all I seem to come across is compromising and “Pastor’s visions for bigger building structures”—fully financed by the congregation of course—-oh, don’t get me started!!!
This reader has commented upon some of the same church conditions I also find in my Anchorage church visits. I receive other similar communications and web comments from time to time, and while not everyone seeks what “Reader X” is looking for, many are! It also may be appropriate to consider whether current church worship forms are meant to appeal to man’s tastes and desires or whether God is the supreme object of our worship motives and practices. Please share your thoughts on this reader’s quest for their desired worship experience.