Recently my nephew had his 5th birthday. While I normally don’t identify the people whose stories I use in my blog, this little guy is too sharp and funny not to give him credit.
This story starts when my dad, a heating and a/c guy, got a call to check out the system at a local church. The pastor of the church is a long-time friend and had planned to meet Dad at the church. It was a Saturday afternoon and it so happened that my sister’s family was hanging out at my mom and dad’s house. Dad announced he had a service call and immediately Jonah, who was 4 at the time, wanted to go. No problem–my dad owns his own business so he sets the rules…..then promptly breaks them for the grand kids. The two of them piled into the truck and off they went.
After a brief detour to buy “bug juice” and M&Ms, they arrived at the church to find a few of the members working on some maintenance and renovations. The pastor walked up and greeted my dad and Jonah but there was a problem. He wasn’t wearing a suit and tie. He was in everyday clothes and clearly had been working. The two men discussed the problem with the air system and my dad went to the truck to retrieve his tool bag. While he was gone this conversation happened:
Jonah: “This your church?”
Pastor: “No, I’m the pastor here; its God’s church.”
“Well,” thought Jonah as he was giving the place the once over, “is He here?” The pastor was caught a little off guard.
I’m afraid Jonah nailed it. Is He here?
I have been on an epic journey, still in it. It’s epic to me but maybe not to you. My journey is to find the WAY, that legendary path spoken of in the New Testament, where those earnest in their desire to follow Jesus forsook all and bonded together in a family like group to worship Him. I just want to follow Him in a manner pleasing to Him. In an effort to find this pleasing manner, I have surveyed certain practices of the Christian lifestyle, for instance the church service.
Some years back it became fashionable in Christian circles to have a spirit of excellence. This call to excellence was in many ways a much-needed critique of some chaotic and honestly wacky habits. Those who answered the call wanted to give God their best so they made pertinent changes to reach that goal.
The buildings were remodeled, to tighten up the image of “God’s House.” The staff was reviewed and replaced as needed to provide a new perspective. The pastor incorporated fresher language, relevant sermon topics and used more media technology in his presentation. The position of Sound Guy was created and soon after changed to Media Pastor. The song leader turned into the praise team and they had tryouts for singers and musicians and lots of practice. The budget grew as the spirit of excellence took root.
All of these things were then blended into a flawless presentation every Sunday morning. A pre-programmed production designed to honor and worship God, to usher in the moment of decision, and to show all who came how excellent is our God.
Fast forward a few years. Some churches, perhaps those with bigger budgets, or more talented staff, or better equipment, have perfected the Sunday morning service. There is not one wasted second in the entire experience. Other churches download videos of these successful meetings. They want to jack these ideas and shuffle them into their own assemblies. It is truly an impressive use of time.
But, is HE here? Is God on schedule? Or, have we scheduled God out of the Sunday church meeting? Does He get to have His way in His own house?
I’ve found that the same packaged service itinerary has traveled all over the world. It’s as if someone took the remote control for Sunday morning and reset the audio to another language and then added the subtitles to the projector screen over the pulpit.
Let me be clear, I am NOT against doing our best for God. Excellence is a noble goal.
However, to have such an incredibly predictable, choreographed curriculum executed every week sabotages the spontaneity of God. I wonder what would happen if one Sunday we heard a pastor say “Well uh, Ok then. You’re up God.” I could picture us snapping out of the routine to think……
“Huh, Is He here?”
Are you stuck in a rut spiritually? What do you do to break out?