I am often asked by pastors how far is too far. From big screens and big hair to modern worship and candlelight services, there are so many ways to do, have, and present “church.” From the mini to the mega, from the old-fashioned steeples to the churches who lease space in night clubs, the experiences are virtually endless. Quiet and sincere. Loud and glorious. Seeker sensitive. Evangelistic. Dancin’ in the aisles. Liturgy. Laughter. Multi-media. Cup holders. You name it and there is a good chance it is available or been tried.
Yet the questions remain: How much should I do? What should I avoid? What is cool? What works?
Here’s a simple approach I’ve learned…
If the electricity went out, and your walls fell down, and your biggest givers died, what would you have left? Would you have a community of people still seeking after the heart of God? Would you still worship even without a band? Would you still be able to learn about God even though you can’t show a video or a PowerPoint slide? In other words, what you have when everything else goes away is what your church is really all about.
I recall the words of Brennan Manning in his book The Importance of Being Foolish:
Consider how our churches have explored and exploited our need to replace the numbness in our lives with a passion for something, anything. We’ve created worship in which music is meant to stir the emotions but the soul is left unmoved, in which the words spoken are little more than manipulations of the heart. We have created cathartic experiences filled with weeping and dancing in the Spirit that leaves us with the sense that we have touched God but that fail to give us the sense that God has touched us. We run to churches where the message feels good and where we feel energized and uplifted–but never challenged or convicted. “It is not surprising that spiritual experiences are mushrooming all over the place and have become highly sought-after commercial items,” writes Henri Nouwen. “Many people flock to places and persons who promise intensive experiences of togetherness, cathartic emotions of exhilaration and sweetness, and liberating sensations of rapture and ecstasy. In our desperate need for fulfillment and our restless search for the experience of divine intimacy, we are all too prone to construct our own spiritual events.”
We can hide behind great church brands and marketing campaigns. We can plow new grounds in getting the world to take notice of our creativity. We can even make a name for ourself in our communities. But what remains when the lights are out and the sound is unplugged? When the hurricane wipes it all way. When the earthquake swallows your best intentions.
When God speaks, I’d rather be in a position to listen than scrambling for the microphone to make sure he’s heard. Instead of getting so jazzed up about showing a Bruce Almighty film clip, I want to make sure I’m seeing God’s real miracles every day.