Thursday, February 4, 2010

Are We Reaching...?

So I'm speaking again Sunday morning as Pastor Doug is still in Panama this week.

I've felt led to talk about sharing God's story with those around us (Christian-ese translation: EVANGELISM), so I thought this would be a good opportunity to supplement that message with a post I've been meaning to make.

A couple weeks ago, my beautiful wife and our lovely children visited a Saturday night service at a larger church in Springfield.

We partly went because some friends had invited us, but we partly went to spy!!!

This church is a very modern, outreach focused church and I just wanted to share a few of my observations from my experience on HOW TO REACH THE CURRENT GENERATION:

1. JUST RELAX. As you enter this church...no. As you enter their parking lot, you are greeted with modern music and a smiling parking attendant who doesn't really tell you where to park as much as he waves at you enthusiastically. When you walk into the building there are people hanging out everywhere...and merchandise booths with tons of cool stuff to look at...and FREE COFFEE & COOKIES. Man, I love this! And Sports Center and music videos and Fox News are playing on various flatpanel TV's around the place. Now, when it's almost time for service, a countdown comes up on all of the monitors. But the most fascinating thing to me was what happened next. No one really moved towards the auditorium until the countdown was over. They shuffled in as a highlights video started and transitioned into the first song. It's not until after the first song when there was a welcome that most everybody found their seat. I personally liked the relaxedness of this style, but is this effective for everyone? Are there some people who are driven crazy by this? Is this an indicator of where our society is right now?

2. NEW DRESS CODE. Not many people were wearing suits or khaki slacks or dresses...ok, no one was really! But there seemed to be a different dress code. Almost every guy there (definitely all the staff and volunteers) seemed to be wearing an untucked, striped button-up shirt with a trendy graphic printed on it. This followed suit in the testimony video they played in the service and what the pastor was wearing when he came out. I am just wondering if, by trying to be different, are we just making the next generations traditional? Will I one day be looking at my grandkids and shake my head when they aren't wearing jeans and a polo shirt? "What's wrong with these kids today?"

3. HAVE A COOL NAME FOR EVERYTHING! Connection Time. Journey Rooms. Energetic Children Spot. Make sure that everything has a trendy, catchy descriptor. No old school Christian-ese here. Again, I like this approach. It put me at ease. It creates a comfortable atmosphere and an expectation that says, "This is gonna be good!"

4. WELCOME TO THE ROCK SHOW! Laser lights, electric guitars and edgy camera angles on three screens. My daughter's statement on the way home sums up the worship: "I'm trying to sing that rock song from that big church!" And it was well done. Excellent delivery. Superior musicianship. High-quality tech. But it definitely felt more like a concert than a transient experience. And for all the energy and enough lights to throw the best of us into an epileptic fit, I found myself easily feeling disconnected. Here were my questions for this new typical worship event: Does this foster community? Do people feel involved? Do you really need all of this media for this size of crowd?

5. COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION! From the bulletin that let me know exactly "What To Expect Today!" to the video announcements and transitions to the clearly stated yet profound main point of the message, the communication was excellent and multifaceted. And for today's media driven society, you must be excellent at multiple levels of communication. When done well, as in the case of my visit, it leaves you thinking "where did that hour go?" But when not done well, overdone, or ignored it leaves you thinking "what was that about?"

6. OLD SCHOOL CAMP ALTAR CALLS STILL WORK! Probably the most amazing thing to me was the ultra-traditional end of the service. The pastor clearly and simply explained the gospel. He asked everyone to bow their heads and closed their eyes. He prayed a prayer of acceptance of Jesus as Savior. He asked for whoever prayed that prayer to raise their hands. He thanked them for their hands. And I was in the back of the room cheating! I watched and in a room of five or six hundred people there were probably twenty or thirty hands! People were responding. People were having their lives changed. And it was all so simple. Why do we try to make it hard? Why do we try to change some of the things that work while keeping things that don't?

All in all it was a good experience. And it gave me some food for thought. I hope this has done the same for you. I hope you share your thoughts so we can keep trying to follow God's call to reach the lost together! Peace.

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