the united consumerist church
the other day in my sociology class, i heard about a church in Shreveport, Louisiana that had bought a mall and renovated it to their needs, including Christian bookstores, only G-rated movies in the theatre, and other adjustments. this information consequently sent me into a “Scrubs-like” daydream (which, consequently arrested my attention for the rest of my sociology class).
i walk in the front door and am promptly welcomed by one of the four greeters just inside and he hands me a bulletin with a read-by-numbers map, explaining where all the services and bible studies are taking place in the massive superstructure. senior sunday school takes place on the top floor, along with a few apologetics studies. at the far end of the building is a skate park where the youth group has bible study, next to a mini playground where nursery is held. as i am walking, admiring all the pretty signs and flashy advertisements, i hear a “hey boss!” come from one of the kiosks. i turn my head to see who’s yelling at me (because i am the boss), and as i lock eyes with the pleasant-looking young gentleman at the desk, he follows up with,”what kind of Bible you got?” i give the guy a pained look and let out,”uh, NIV.” “Oh, man you need that TNIV Bible, boss.” i gradually relax my face and simply ask,”why?” hesitating at first, he says,”because it’s Today’s NIV, boss.” despite my reluctance, he eventually convinces me to trade in, and i proudly walk away with my updated translation. i look at the bulletin trying to find out where the sermon is taking place, and it points me toward the theatre.
as i sit with my large bag of unleavened bread and a twenty-ounce grape juice, i take a peak at the bulletin to see what the sermon is on, but before i can get to the page, the speakers pick up. “Feeling lost? Feel like nobody knows you and never feel loved? Find direction and love in God and His Gospel.” i stare intently at the screen as it flashes five-second testimonials of people who have found direction and love in God and His Gospel and think, i want some o’ dat. in the place of trailers are announcements of the several events taking place in the following week and how i can get involved. also included are announcements of the revenue, memberships, and decisions that have taken place in the church throughout the previous month. thoroughly impressed with the church’s accomplishments, i continue watching to see Rick Warren’s face come on the screen as he delivers his message out of Proverbs (not sure why that was in my dream, but whatever). as he speaks, several felt-covered wooden trays go throughout the audience to collect offerings and i drop in the cash left over from my TNIV purchase.
i walk out of the theatre feeling pretty good about myself and proceed in the same direction most people are going, not sure where we are headed. i soon find out, though, as we come up to a stage in the center of the mall hosting a worship band and a screen with song lyrics on it. before the music starts, the worship leader informs us that the traditional worship service is being held in the audience hall by Berean. a few scarce attendees promptly vacate to join with the organ and hymn music as the modern hip band kicks up and we all sing along.
once the worship ends, i walk aimlessly through the mall, unable to ignore the fact that my stomach is starting to growl. i soon find the remedy for my excessively loud midsection, though, in the church’s food court. instead of McDonald’s and Panda Express, though, signs designate places like “Mrs. Martha’s Smoked Ham” and “Assorted Crackers, Salami, and Cheese”; a paradise of pot-lucks.
stuffed to the gills, i nod to the greeters again as i head to the exit. out of the corner of my eye, i see a series of chairs where people have apparently paid to clean the shoes of homeless people. i think, well that’s a decent idea, as i lazily punch the handicapped button to leave the building.
the reason i post this besides to share my bizarre daydream is that i found this church to be eerily familiar. in many churches, the services and church operation in general seem to have become self-based and self-serving. i sometimes wonder why there are so many bible studies in churches, and, not saying that it’s wrong to give people a choice in such matters, but they almost seem centered around an individual sometimes. i hear churches announce the funds they raised and the people that have been saved and God never enters the conversation. so many churches seem to be commercialized and focused on people feeling comfortable, not on serving God. i also sometimes think that the church feels like they’re inconveniencing me, so they make sure the sermon is no more than thirty minutes and provide food at the end of the service (not necessarily true, but you get my point).
i guess what i’m saying is that we need to remember the call of the church is to serve Christ and His people, and this is usually not a nice, neat, and comfortable task. the service of Christ is not to be fit around our schedule, but rather vice versa. let us not try to present a good service, but a Good Message.