(A Note to my (2) readers: This is a long and rambling post about church. If you’re not a churchy kind of person, you might wanna skip this one)
After our “regular” churches’ tithing sermon a few weeks ago (see: And the Lord Sayeth...) CareerMom and I decided it was time to look elsewhere for our spiritual infilling. CareerMom fairly recently attended a church north of us called “NorthPoint Community Church,” and lacking any other candidates, I agreed that we should check it out. She had warned me that it was “big” though, so that I could mentally prepare. She’s used to big church crowds having attended that huge church out in Texas presided over by Joel Osteen, but I’m more of a medium-sized kinda guy, so I was psyching myself up the whole time I was getting ready.
Now that we have kids, it’s important to me that our new church have a good kids’ program. I mean, I can deal with preaching that isn’t that great, but if I’m going to go through all the hassle of getting the kids ready and dragging them to church, I want them to do more than just cry the whole time they are there.
Let me just say that, regarding the size of this church, BIG would be an understatement! On the way there, we were ushered by numerous off-duty policemen and “volunteers” through a maze of orange cones and jean-clad worshippers, all the way over to the “G” section of the lot, which was by no means the furthest out. I mean, we parked farther out than I usually park at the mall during the Christmas rush.
We finally made our way across the parking lot and into the church, where we were greeted by a huge crowd of people milling about and apparently going nowhere. Luckily there were signs and we finally made our way over to the kids’ section and were directed to a registration desk where, after multiple attempts at getting all of our contact and personal information, I finally said to the lady, “We’re not sure we’re going to attend here full time, so we’re not really interesting in getting on your mailing list.” I can only imagine what went through the lady’s head, but folks, I don’t dig crowds, so my patience was already wearing thin.
A teen volunteer walked with us to the boys’ classrooms–such was the immensity of the children’s area–and ensured we got them properly registered. At his class, MLI (My Little Introvert = my oldest son) clung to my leg and a nice older lady had to pry him off me while CareerMom and I beat a hasty retreat to the sanctuary.
Apparently you have to get to this church really early to get a seat, and after circling the back of the auditorium only to come up empty, I finally half-ran over to the far edge where there were a few empty seats on the periphery. As we came to find out, those seats were empty because the view was like being behind the speakers at a rock concert; you just couldn’t see much.
But the band played and the music was good. The whole production, which is what it was, a production, was as good as I’ve seen at some concerts and the nerd in me reveled at the engineering marvel that was the lighting, the sound setup and all the other hooplah that went into it.
But you know…I couldn’t really have cared less. I sat there thinking, “If I were 16 again, this would totally pull me in.” But I’m not 16 anymore and all this, to me, was just a show. Nothing more.
The pastor came out and gave his sermon, which was good in that it wasn’t “preachy.” It was a lesson morelike, something that everyone could relate to. The ending was simple and abrupt though. There was no, “If you felt led by the Lord to come here today, we’d like to pray with you” invitation like I’m used to. There was no real “call to action” per se to follow up on all that we had seen and heard. I was a bit disappointed, not because I was longing for some public invitation to come up to the front and be prayed over (snort! Not bloody likely!), but I longed to get something personal out this public spectacle and there was nothing.
After the dismissal, we went and fetched the kids, who were generally fine, though far from excited. We made our way back to the car where neither CareerMom nor I spoke about the service, which is odd since we usually do. I think it was obvious that this church wasn’t my thing and I think she was conflicted as well.
A church this size, I just don’t get it really. I want to tell her that for me, church is something that I can take or leave, but that I’ll go for her and the kids. But I know that if I speak that out loud, it will ruin something about the experience for her. I’ve changed spiritually since she met me and the last time I tried to broach the subject, it didn’t end well and I’m not anxious to revisit it.
I don’t know though. I’m torn. I want my kids to have a spiritual basis; I feel that a child needs something to believe in even if their beliefs change significantly as they get older, like mine have. But at the same time, what value is there in attending church if they are going to be miserable the whole time?
I also have to question a church setup like this that requires scores of people to logistically pull off. I found out that this church has a remote site in town where scores of people come and watch the pastor on TV remotely as he broadcasts from the location we attended. This begs the question of what is the difference between that and watching a televangelist? Other than rubbing elbows with a few friends, all you’re doing is increasing the amount of donations that DON’T go into outreach programs and instead go to fund a sanctuary that doesn’t even house a pastor.
To me, it’s mind-boggling. I don’t know how Christianity got to this place, but I know that the more of it I see, the more I want to retreat to a medium-sized church where I know a few people, my kids learn about Jesus—maybe drink some Kool Aid—and where I know that the bulk of my donations aren’t going to go towards paying the power bill.
I don’t know what I want in a church really. I want anonymity so that if we miss a Sunday (or two) people don’t freak out and want to come over and pray for us, but I also want to make some spiritual friends, preferably some who feel as I do (misery LOVES company right?) and who I can talk to about spiritual things without feeling like some sort of ingrate. I also want our kids to have wholesome friends, rather than just the hoodlums they are bound to meet in the public school system. I want depth and intelligent insight from my pastor, and I also want good, heartfelt music, not just the latest bass-driven worship music played over the Christian radio. For that, CareerMom wants to donate some time to the kids and I will be more than happy to pitch in and use my handiness talents to help others.
It seems like a lot, and finding it would be asking for perfection, which, last I checked, only Jesus was credited with achieving. Oh well, we’ll just keep looking. Sooner or later we’ll find a winner.