I used to have an ish with this mega church in Southern California. From the shallow preaching to the equivalent of a jumbotron at a baseball game that would capture unsuspecting church goers right in the middle of the teaching – I hated it. From people ditching service early during the alter call so that they could miss all the traffic to ministries spheres as outlandish as “Quilting” and “Dog Lovers” – I hated it. From the camera guy crawling on stage getting close ups of the worship band to millions and millions of dollars being put into the building – I hated it. I criticized that church like it was my job.
It took a few years, but the Holy Spirit changed me. The first step was MS’s father became its Executive Pastor, the next step was that it became Impact’s new base church, and well the last step was good ol’ truth. So attitudes like hating the people that leave church early and literally get in the way of people trying to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior, turned into, okay I’ll just pray for those selfish people, which finally turned into, okay I’m just going to stop judging them altogether because sometimes you’ve just got to leave church early. And other attitudes involving hating the camera angles I am getting of the band because that guy is seriously on his back, turned into, I’m just glad that guy has a job and that all these peoples tithes are contributing to that. I say these peoples because Lord knows I wasn’t tithing to that money grubbing place – I was too busy self-righteously “tithing” to the tuitions of 194 students.
So when I could no longer rely on 194 as a church anymore, I had to woman-up, face reality and ask myself – do I go to Mega Church? My community, my friends, my ministry – it was all there. But I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to real bad. I no longer hated it – in fact, the good outweighed the bad, tremendously. I just still didn’t want to go. And that’s when I started reading Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck.
What DeYoung and Kluck, a couple of Reformed dudes from the Midwest, do well is remind us that church is not only biblical but goes hand in hand with relationship with God. Basically, if you don’t love the church, you don’t love God, wholly and rightly. This is truth, this I love. And the way you love church is being it, in the most traditional and boring of senses. These two gentlemen also do a great job at debunking the leading ideologies and men who seem to be the perpetuating force behind the degeneration of the church as well as the people flocking behind them. “Church-leavers” and “church-bashers” are constantly referenced, dissected, psyhco-analyzed and exhorted throughout the entirety of this book.
Ironically though, DeYoung and Kluck don’t get away with, but do make room for making fun of and complaining about the things they don’t like about church, particularly and generally, all the while convincing you that unless the Gospel is being compromised, stop complaining yourself, and get better at church.
So I guess this is my final advice: Find a good local church, get involved, become a member, stay there for the long haul. Put away thoughts of revolution for a while and join the plodding visionaries. Go to church this Sunday and worship there in spirit and truth, be patient with your leaders, rejoice when the gospel is faithfully proclaimed, bear with those who hurt you, and give people the benefit of the doubt. While you are there, sing like you mean it, say hi to the teenager no one notices, welcome the blue hairs and the nose-ringed, volunteer for the nursery once in a while. And yes, bring your fried chicken to the potluck like everyone else, invite a friend to church, take a new couple out for coffee, give to the Christmas offering, be thankful someone vacuumed the carpet, enjoy the Sundays that click for you, pray extra hard on the Sundays that don’t, and do not despise “the day of small things.” (Zechariah 4:10)
Though the urgency to get churched didn’t come but any earlier than a few months before I left for Florida, I still, enthusiastically, with much conviction, went to Mega Church, every Sunday. I even tithed. I finally realized the problem was not church – just simply a problem with commitment – a commitment to love the body, precisely how the Bible tells me to. And now I belong to a church that needs my love, support and consistency just as much. I’m probably more out of place than ever before. I don’t know if I have entered a worship gathering or a fashion show. Literally, everyone is twenty-something, hip, uber creative and constantly hyping up what they’re passionate about. I struggle with this because at face value, I see this as self-serving. But no! That’s not true – the Spirit is working, the Gospel is going forth and I can either choose to be committed to this body, or be deliberately disobedient. I choose obedience, gladly.