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Old 07-08-2018, 11:53 PM
deacon blues deacon blues is offline
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Looking for Jesus at Church

Starbucks was trendy once. There are too many of them now and SB has lost some of its appeal. People are trending more toward local, authentic, mom and pop style coffee shops. I know here in Memphis I’d rather stop by one of these local coffee shops than go into the predictable, cookie cutter style Starbucks.

Same for churches. When I stepped down from pastoring I took a break from church. When I started looking for a place to worship I visited many assemblies. I got very tired of walking into the cookie cutter trendy churches that all were doing church from the same playbook. You could almost superimpose each one of them on top of the other and not know you were visiting a different church.

Greeters with plastic smiles, rehearsed lines, and robotic body language. Staging and lighting and the “countdown” on the screen with soundtrack with heavy bass and rhythm playing. The band, the singers, all excellent musicians and vocalists singing songs to the audience, trained to smile and move and connect with the audience rather than to worship and focus their attention on their object of worship. Songs that EVERYONE is doing. I like a good song but when you hear the same songs 30 times on the radio a day, then at church, the freshness of the song kind of loses it’s ability to touch the spirit. Visit another church and the same songs are being sung.

Cool announcements on video, cool people getting up to share some things, cool people everywhere.

Then the preaching. Self help, positive thinking, series preaching with little to no scripture, proof texting hop scotching all over the Bible using wide varieties of passages. The “countdown” clock to keep the preacher right at 20 minutes so the service can end promptly in 75 minutes so earlier service can get herded out quickly for the next service time.

It’s a fine tuned machine. It’s doing church like all the other trendy, cool, growing mega churches are doing.

But I never got the feeling that Jesus was the star of the show. The preacher was, or the band was, or just how cool the place was, the identity of the church was, the visitors or the effort to attract more visitors was. Something other than Jesus seemed to be the driving force of the whole operation.

Pastors with body guards to keep the masses at arms length. The guest speaker or singers in a “green room” just like Jimmy Fallon has or Jimmy Kimmel or any other cool late night talk show. Multimillion dollar operations to keep mega facilities going, expanding with new campuses, to pay large ministry staffers, to keep the place looking like the finest of commercial properties.

All of them seemed so predictable. They all seemed to be copies of copies of copies. I found very little about them that appealed to me.

Then I found the church I was looking for. Talented musicians and singers with eyes closed, hands raised, looking up, as they sang and entertained the only audience that mattered: Jesus. New songs, older songs, hymns, all included in the worship to keep the worship set fresh, variegated, and unpredictable. A short segment highlighting a couple of important upcoming events with a slide or two with information. An offering quickly gathered with little to no speeches about giving or arm twisting to get more out of the crowd. Then a sermon. A message. Maybe a series, maybe a stand alone message. If a series, usually an expositional walk through a book of the Bible. A lot of scripture. In context. A lot of history behind the passages. The pastor was obviously very intelligent but not pious or proud. Actually very humble. And loving. Not cocky. Not a showman. Not attempting to be a part time stand up comedian. Not trying to be Mr Cool. He’s transparent. He talks about his struggles and failures. He is approachable. He has time to talk. He’ll meet you for coffee.

The sermon always, always, always includes an explanation of the gospel. The service always ends with communion. My only critique of the church is that although the service always ends with prayer and one final song during communion, there isn’t an invitation forward. Not what we who were raised in Apostolic Church would call “altar time”. I do think that has an important potential to help people find God and deliverance. I suspect because the “altar call” is more of a modern addendum to church life, this church shies away from it. They do invite anyone wanting prayer or wanting to know more about salvation to come forward to pray with specific people designated to pray with them.

I often wonder, “How is the church growing by leaps and bounds in South America and Africa and Asia without all of these expensive productions and buildings?” How did the first church turn the world upside down without greeters, bands, stage lights, and a series on Sex, Love, and Dating?

I once was a leader of a church and felt the pressure to follow the trends. I had young leaders on my team constantly pushing me to follow the trends. I often felt conflicted because it just wasn’t me. It wasn’t my style. It wasn’t what my heart yearned for as a pastor or leader. The difference of opinion drove a wedge between me and members of my team and ultimately caused us to part ways.

As a simple church goer now, a simple worshiper, I know why I go to church. I am looking for Jesus. He’s all I want. I couldn’t care less what the building looked like, what the stage looked like, how cool the leaders were. If I found Jesus in the typical trendy church I would’ve stuck around. I visited some very traditional churches too and found them void of life.

We all have a variety of tastes and maybe that’s why I couldn’t find what I was looking for at those places. I wouldn’t say Jesus isn’t at those other churches unequivocally. I personally couldn’t find Him there. Many others would argue with me I’m certain. They attend there for a reason. It’s hard to believe they attend and find no connection to God.

My church is about 400-500 strong. They have two services because our facility is too tight for one service with that many. When we went to two services the pastor said “we aren’t going to two services because it sounds great, we just need to in order to give us breathing room.” Just a few weeks ago he said “My goal here is not so this church becomes so large I become famous in Memphis. I’m happy to have more people join us. But ultimately I just want this church to be a body of believers who grow together in community, and in love, and care for one another and help one another. And for us to spread the Gospel. If this is all the larger we get, but we accomplish that, then I’ll feel we will become what Jesus wants us to be.”

92% of all North American churches will never grow beyond 500. 98% will never grow beyond 1,000. Are the mega churches the only churches that are doing God’s will? Or does the Lord use all types and kinds and shapes and sizes to reach the world?

So whatever your style, don’t just copy anyone or any church for the sake of accomplishing results. Be you. Be real. Teach your people to love everyone. Don’t treat your service like some kind of prepackaged product like one of 15,000 Starbucks serving the same lattes, frappuccinos, and coffee drinks. May your goal be to present Jesus each week and the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is the power of God unto salvation.
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‎When a newspaper posed the question, "What's Wrong with the World?" G. K. Chesterton reputedly wrote a brief letter in response: "Dear Sirs: I am. Sincerely Yours, G. K. Chesterton." That is the attitude of someone who has grasped the message of Jesus.
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Old 07-09-2018, 12:19 AM
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berkeley berkeley is offline
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Re: Looking for Jesus at Church

As usual, very well written. Thanks for sharing this.
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Old 07-09-2018, 02:21 AM
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votivesoul votivesoul is offline
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Re: Looking for Jesus at Church

I sure hope you didn't lift this from another source and not give it the credit due:

https://www.localprayers.com/US/Shre...ear-of-Jubilee
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Old 07-09-2018, 06:33 AM
deacon blues deacon blues is offline
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Re: Looking for Jesus at Church

Quote:
Originally Posted by votivesoul View Post
I sure hope you didn't lift this from another source and not give it the credit due:

https://www.localprayers.com/US/Shre...ear-of-Jubilee
Mark asked me if he could repost it elsewhere after I wrote and shared it on a closed group on Facebook, then on my personal Facebook. Friday I was interviewed on Nashville radio because of the article.

http://stevensolomon.org/ep-191-fran...former-pastor/
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‎When a newspaper posed the question, "What's Wrong with the World?" G. K. Chesterton reputedly wrote a brief letter in response: "Dear Sirs: I am. Sincerely Yours, G. K. Chesterton." That is the attitude of someone who has grasped the message of Jesus.
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Old 07-09-2018, 09:06 PM
Wilsonwas Wilsonwas is offline
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Re: Looking for Jesus at Church

Quote:
Originally Posted by deacon blues View Post

So whatever your style, don’t just copy anyone or any church for the sake of accomplishing results. Be you. Be real. Teach your people to love everyone. Don’t treat your service like some kind of prepackaged product like one of 15,000 Starbucks serving the same lattes, frappuccinos, and coffee drinks. May your goal be to present Jesus each week and the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is the power of God unto salvation.
I was busily googling why some might find a guitar solo "un-churchlike" and discovered some discussion of the mega-light rock-hillsong-ubercool church that gets copied because it produced mega churches. Someone see it - says that is what we need - and poof Olsteenesq.....
....but this article said in the words of a millennial ....we are turned off by your show...we want something authentic. We fought the worship wars until the side in favor of "the new" won, then we became the old, and packaged the whole thing up, gave it fog and stage lights and it was mainstream to church insiders. The world marched on -We forgot - these are the people that have been marketed to death. They have a million little devices, and big screens, and pod-casts - all marketing to them. And they are smarter than we were about it. They want REAL. They want WORD, not presented with the hell-fire-and brimstone (Cut the lights -they are all worked up now) that scared us 40+ years ago, nor the wishy washy 90%er feel good, they want to know who Jesus was - IS- they want it straight. Redo a folksy mix to an old hymn -mix in something new, then actually preach something -not just sin is sin - gays - the world is bad/ or God is about to bless you with a Bentley. Preach Jesus is -was, what he did - what he said. They will see through a copy -they will second guess the insincerity of a church trying to be hipster. This is really something I think should be taught in bible college.
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Old 07-11-2018, 08:21 AM
mizpeh mizpeh is offline
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Re: Looking for Jesus at Church

DB, are you not pastoring anymore?

Your pastor has the correct attitude, imo.
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To be a servant of God, it will cost us our total commitment to God, and God alone. His burden must be our burden... Sis Alvear
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Old 07-11-2018, 08:45 AM
aegsm76 aegsm76 is offline
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Re: Looking for Jesus at Church

DB - great article. Good to see you back here and back at it in the "real" world.
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