I am a local church fanatic. Some people have Star Wars (none of which I have ever seen), some have gadgets, others have sports. I am borderline obsessed with studying local churches as organized institutions. This research includes streaming several worship experiences to my iPad in the kitchen while doing dishes or even the bathroom while shaving or brushing my teeth. Fortunately, my wife and children are very accommodating to my fanaticism.
I was recently streaming the worship experience of a local church and was very intrigued by what I saw. Here is the order of segments within this particular experience:
- To start, a host, dressed as Alex Trebek (complete with wig and fake mustache), led a “Jeparody” segment in which contestants attempted to answer questions relating to pop culture and current events. This very entertaining opener lasted 16 minutes.
- Next, a different host introduced a video of a married couple sharing their experience of this local church’s small groups.
- The camera then returned to the host who invited the crowd to attend an upcoming event at which they can learn more about small groups.
- Then there was an offering…finally something we good church people can relate to…something familiar…25 minutes into the worship experience!
- The offering time featured the lone song of the experience. What song, you might ask? Jesus Loves Me? If you’re only going to sing one, then that has to be it, right? Nope. It was a song called Believe by those classic hymn writers Mumford & Sons from the band’s third album, Wilder Mind, released in 2015.
- Following this pop music selection, the pastor began to speak. He spoke for about 40 minutes and get this…no Bible! He quoted from authors and journalists such as Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, among others, but did not read from the Bible at all. Heresy!
And that was it. No other songs. No traditional rituals. No altar call.
Why would they do that? This isn’t church! When I go to a local church, I want familiar songs written for the local church. I want to stand up and sit down an average of 4.7 times. I want to hear an average of 6.3 Bible verses read. But…here’s the thing…they don’t care what I want or what I expect. They don’t make decisions in order to meet my (or anyone else’s) expectations.
Instead, the leadership of this local church makes decisions based entirely on their purpose. Meeting expectations don’t even come into the conversation. The purpose or mission of this local church is to create churches that unchurched people love to attend. Every idea is filtered through this purpose. Those who rally around the mission are welcome to get on board. Those who don’t are free to exit.
This particular local church is even willing to cut across their own precedent they have set in order to see their mission fulfilled. For this local church, everything starts with why.
Does that excite you? Does that offend you? Could you imagine being a part of an organization that operated solely out of purpose, rather than expectation and precedent?
You know people who are not interested in church. Some of them are your children or your grandchildren. You yourself might not be interested in church.
Thank God that local churches like this one don’t care what people expect and, instead, are making decisions in order to reach people like your friends, your neighbors, and your children with urgency.
Even if they don’t care about your opinion of what church is supposed to look like, if you follow Jesus, I hope you appreciate local churches who are making decisions in order to effectively reach people with the live-saving and life-giving message of Jesus.
I don’t get it. Did this church present the message of Jesus? I missed that part.
Good question, Hugh. Yes, this particular local church does center their beliefs on the message of Jesus. The worship experience I described is the first in a series titled “Who Needs God?” through which they are targeting those who no longer identify with any religion and who have walked away from the Christian faith. Therefore, they are speaking the language of this target demographic in order to gain their attention. I’m excited to see how the Gospel is presented as the series continues.