Monday, February 4, 2008

Why visit church worship services?

A friend of mine recently asked me two good questions:

  1. Why are we visiting various church worship services?

  2. What have we learned from these experiences?

I'd like to begin by stating that I do not rank, rate, or otherwise grade the churches that I visit. I merely report on my own personal experience during a worship service as a first-time visitor - as well as the experiences of those who join us. Another person's experience could be vastly different from my own, for better or worse. Also, I recognize that by solely experiencing the worship service only, my knowledge of a particular church in all of its functions and personality is severely limited. Also, let me clearly state that we are not "church shopping", "church hopping" or otherwise looking for a church family. Be that as it may, we have learned much from these past 8 months of church field trips.

We began this journey simply to see "what was out there" with a secondary motive of searching for any church which might fit the bill of "emerging". It is one thing to read about it, another to experience it.

Too many people never leave the spiritual/religious box in which they were raised: Catholic, Unitarian, Mormon, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, or no church at all. This also goes for adult converts who immediately adopt a "version" or denomination of Christianity. Simply leaving the box (a friend of mine calls it a pilgrimage) is a worthy exercise in itself. I would be lying if I said that I haven't been outside of my own comfort zone on more than one occasion during these field trips.

My wife and I have discovered that we are more charismatic in belief, if not practice, than we once thought we were. Having left the box, we've frequently found ourselves among people who both engage us, excite us, as well as just freaking us out with their own level of excitement about being followers of Jesus.

We have indeed seen the methodological aspects of the emerging church movement firsthand, and we like what we've seen.

We've seen bi-vocational pastors who immerse themselves in ecclesiastical hardships. We've seen pastors, as well as lay people go out of their way to meet and engage new people. Unfortunately, we've also seen some pastors who seem to driven purely by their own ego and intellectual haughtiness. We've seen struggling churches and we've seen "successful" churches - depending on your definition of success. (There was even a church in Pembroke Pines that called it quits before we had a chance to visit them. Sorry, Liz.)

We've seen pastors who prioritize preaching the Gospel, and we've seen pastors who forget to preach the Gospel.

We've worshipped with congregations that tear the roof down with their zeal, creativity, and volume. We've also worshipped with congregations that don't actually seem to be awake or alive or both. Mostly, this has taught us that corporate worship is between us and God, and if a few hundred people are surrounding us and they're as excited about worship as we are - well then, the more the merrier.

I could go on, but this is one of those occasions where I'll end up with a 12 page paper if I don't just go ahead and stop myself short.


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