Previous Post Justice Friday


service.jpgI am trying to be careful how I post this as there is the possibility of explosion, me exploding on this post that is. So yesterday I went to church, as I usually do on Sunday. I am finding more and more that there is a cultural separation between the world that I live in each and every day and the church services that I attend each Sunday. Different music, different dress, different attitude, etc. Church services are just a culture in their own and has been that way for me for as long as I can remember.

 Now I know that this conversation has been going on for a while now, but I am freshly frustrated so I will continue it on here. I want to be careful not to turn this into a bitch session, I just want to share my thoughts and even hurts. The church service I attended yesterday has a dress code, not for the attendees, but for the people involved in the service, ushers, worship leaders, pastors.  Now it is totally their prerogative and right to have this dress code (shirt, tie, slacks and jacket), but what I feel it does is separate the congregation from everyone else. I am sure that is what they are trying to do though, it is not a coincidence.

There was a row of youth in front of me during the service. They were dressed in jeans and short sleeve snap button up shirts and had piercings and funky hair. I was surprised to see them in the church. I was surprised because what was going on in that building was totally counter cultural to their lives, outside of loving Jesus that is. They would never hang out in a club that played contemporary pop songs, they wouldn’t go to a party where everyone wore suits and they wouldn’t normally, outside of school sit in an auditorium with 600 people watching people lead them in song and preach to them. Why were they there then? I couldn’t figure it out.

I leaned over and asked my good friend who has attended there his whole life and he told me it’s bacause this is all they know. They started going there with their parents when they were born and they continue to go cause it is what they know as church. Just writing this brings me to tears. They are missing out, they are missing out on the body of Christ and are just hanging out at the arm when there are eyes, ears, legs and feet out there for them to experience as well. The problem isn’t that they are stuck there, the problem is that they are afraid to leave and they don’t know that they can.  Even if they did leave they would not know where to go. I am not blaming the church service on this, I am just saying I wish somehow, someone would show them that this is not the only way to do church, but that there are many, many expressions of Jesus and his body out there that they can be a part of.

At the end of the service we had communion, which is remembering Jesus body broken on the cross and blood shed for our sins. We do this by eating bread and drinking wine/juice that represents Jesus body and blood.  The thing that I noticed is that we got through the whole celebration without mentioning the name of Jesus. He was referred to as the great intercessor, the Christ child and even Him, but not Jesus, not even in prayer. I wondered at how we can remember Jesus sacrifice for us, this sacrifice that allows us to be able to come to him directly and receive his grace and forgiveness without the mention of His name, Jesus. His name was finally mentioned during the closing prayer, in Jesus name Amen.

I am not sure who I am frustrated with, I think it is the whole system. Jesus offers us so much, but so many of us never see what He is offering, we just see a slice, this is unfair and wrong. I would love your feedback on this as I have been a bit scared to post it as I am an empathetic developer in my strengths, not a button pushing agitator. Thanks for your time and your thoughts.

In Jesus name amen.

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15 comments so far on “Church

  1. Brandon says:

    I share your frustration brother! I wish I had easy answers, but all I really know is that statistically most of those young people will not remain in the church after they graduate from high school. I find myself increasingly uncomfortable in the institutional church and yet called to serve in it. I wrote briefly about something similar on my blog. I need to blog more. You really should grab hold of “The Present Future” by Reggie McNeal. I think you would get into it and it addresses some of these issues.

  2. phil says:

    Thanks Brandon, I always appreciate your thoughts, even though they are not helpful in this situation since we share the same frustration. Your a good man.

  3. unknown says:

    I come from a small town…and it really is ‘all you know’. Not all small towns or their churches are like this. But from my home church, a lot of kids just don’t come to church and don’t go to another, there is no exposure to other ways of worship. I moved to the city and then ventured entirely by myself (with God’s leading I’m sure) to the church I now attend. People who grow up in the ‘city’ church are exposed to other churches – either by their private schools (which are connected to churches), or the ‘easy’ ability to go elsewhere, lots of choices they have. I went back home recently and did not my parents church but went to a nearby ‘evangelical’ church. I was sure that church would have progressed in the last 10 years. No. Altho they had a new young pastor, the church was the same as when I visited with my hometown friend 15 years ago. I was quite shocked. Seriously, 15 years and no progression, still no projector, the same hymns and chorus books. I don’t believe we all have to sing the same songs, but I thought they would have progressed in SOME way, even if it be their OWN way. There is a lot more to say about small town churches, altho the problem doesn’t reside in only small towns…I just can’t put into words at this time.

  4. Trevor says:

    Since I am one of the Pastors at the church you speak of, you might think I have a thoughtful response…however I am not sure that I do. I notice the disconnect between cultures, and I am often frustrated by it myself. Like Brandon I really worry that these young people will not be in the church in a few years, because they are not comfortable with the culture and don’t know any other way to follow Jesus. In the end I hope they distinguish between who Jesus is and the expressions that may take place many times in our churches. Maybe I have grown too comfortable with all this.

    I have a couple questions though:
    – is it possible that we should call certain people out of their culture into a new one?
    – should we treat worship as special enough to get dressed up for it?
    – does worship need to fit our culture, or do we need to adjust ourselves in order to worship?

  5. Aaron says:

    Culture and style are not interchangeable. The “postmodern,” or “emerging,” or whatever buzzwords are used to describe people who like that particular style of church are behaving like judgmental hipster kids. They hate all the “frat boys” – the ones who look like their old bullies from high school, perhaps – but now that they’re older, have the same superiority complex that they detested in their tormentors.

    Conservative dress, predictable worship styles, and formal language all have a place in the culture of Christianity, the same as places who appreciate their absences. (Not having a style is a style, just like getting hung up over not using the word “Jesus” is like being bothered about which translation of the Bible they use – He had a lot of names…) But, we have to look past tastes & preferences. We have to get to know the people. Individually. I’ve met too many folks who have shattered my impressions of them after I’ve gotten to know them. I go to church in Bellevue, for God’s sake, and it’s not at all what I expected after I made some real friends there.

    Church services are (should be) such a small part of a Christian’s life, yet we spend so much time worrying about how they look/sound. I think the focus should be on Jesus in people & in services (culture), more so than how people and their services appear (style).

    Perhaps that’s why you feel like you “see just a slice.” God is infinite & diverse & f’ing huge. And God is in us. Not just a slice of God, but all of him, and he’s in everyone. Look for that, and maybe it’ll make the next “…and also with you” a little more bearable. ;)

  6. LORIFOX says:

    Thoughts on “I have a couple questions though:”
    – “is it possible that we should call certain people out of their culture into a new one?”
    For what purpose? Cultures are man-made traditions. Rules and structures that say what is accepted and what is not in society. Jesus is beyond this. He loved the pimps and used-car-salesmen of his day. He didn’t ask them to change, He just said “come to me”. It is never our place to make someone look like or act like we do. We are all different and God celebrates this! He created us and only He knows who we are becoming. In that light I feel we should be a body of believers who accepts others with open and loving arms, who seeks God on behalf of the others best interest, and who seek to see the other persons perspective- we are all coming from different places that’s for sure! God just wants us to come to him, to feel, to be real and question, and seek, and love.

    – “should we treat worship as special enough to get dressed up for it?”
    It’s so nice that we americans have the luxury of pondering questions like this. I think that it is a nice gesture on our parts to want to “look nice” because we are so driven by pleasing others. What can I DO to make you love me, to make you like me, to make my worship more meaningful, etc. We were created without any clothes on so I think he’d just be pleased if we don’t wear anything.

    – “does worship need to fit our culture, or do we need to adjust ourselves in order to worship?”
    I feel our hearts need to be adjusted to Christ Jesus. Everything that flows out of this is worship. It’s the sacrifice of praise that erupts from acknowledging Christ in our boring-day-to-day chores. It’s saying “You are in control” and “I offer you my life”. This goes beyond a once or twice a week corporate gathering of singing and clapping, and the “Hillsong” praise tape ride home. It’s our attitude in everyday situations. Man has a need for structure and segmenting life into clean little boxes but God created us for continuous fellowship with him; in the garden, picking fruit, pulling weeds, with us, at all times. If we need the structure of a service with songs and people then God smiles on our heart that longs to touch his. If we need the solitude of mountains and nature and silence, then He is still pleased. We don’t have to perform. We don’t have to be at a certain place. We just have to be. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom and He loves us as we are – no matter what.

  7. LORIFOX says:

    Philter- i’ll be watching this post to see others thoughts. I am with you and so many others on this issue. I decided in November to not go to church anymore after finding myself trying to cram my foot into a shoe that just wasn’t fitting. I am not anti-church. I am anti-church corporation. I am not back-sliding. I am going back to finding God in the simple everyday things in life- good, bad, boring, depressing. He’s always there- and I even missed church on sunday (for the past four years.) There is much more that I won’t get into. But, I am seeking a community of believers. A very small community. I do not discredit the power of and need for this. But I don’t want to trust a room full of people I don’t know, I want to trust a few who know me and my heart in a very real way. This is where growth comes from, I believe.
    So it seems us Gen-Xers are wrestling and struggling and trying to find Christ outside of the building we grew up in. And I have a feeling he’s just sitting there watching saying, “come to me.”
    What would it look like if the church had no walls? If our tithe and offerings were used to feed the hungry instead of keep the lights on? If we were involved in the community to fulfill our need to be with others- children playing, pic-nics in the park, service acts? If we just came together a couple of times per week with a few of our close friends to study the Bible, to struggle and laugh together, and pray for each other? To live Christ at the office, and while driving in the car, and by loving our children and our spouse? This is my Christian Utopia. To be in the world but not of it. What do you think?

  8. phil says:

    I love this Lori, as I love you and they way you think and express who you are in Jesus. I am not sure how we got this way, in church I mean, but like all things that are we can either fit into them and not see any change or we can start thinking and asking questions like why is it like this? Is there something more? Even though this is not wrong, should I feel guilty cause it is not working for me? I am so glad we have the freedom to ask these questions, but so many of us don’t for fear of the answer.

    I have been thinking about church a lot lately. My thoughts are, it is important to be a part of a church, body of believers, so that we can be encouraged, challenged and even understood. We were not meant to live this life for Jesus alone, we were called to live it in community, i believe. How that community looks, how big or small or in a pub or a living room doesn’t matter, it is the gathering, worship and encouragement of other believers meeting together that matters.

  9. David Kendall says:

    I am reminded of a church in our neighbourhood that we attended a few times (some of my daughter’s friends go there and have gotten her involved in the programs, so inevitably we’ve attended some of their services), the pastor was in blue jeans and sweats, as was most of the congregation. The church membership was also younger than the church you referenced in your blog post (which is also the church I go to regularly). Even though that one (and another similar one that we also attended when we had car trouble and had to walk to church) are closer, we still attend the one you posted about. Why? I guess tradition mostly, I’ve been going there since I moved here almost 30 years ago. Honestly, I don’t agree 100% with all the policies of that church (nor of the other churches I spoke of either), nor am I a member of the church (one of the very few people who go there who aren’t), but, aside from tradition, I do feel God’s love there, and I have friends there. I don’t know if those are the best reasons to go to church, or go to a church, but those are my reasons.

  10. Clayre says:

    I love what you say at the end about being an “empathetic developer in my strengths, not a button pushing agitator.” This is exactly what allows real and meningful discussion and debate. Thank you for your attitude in critique and your openness for discussion.

    I too feel your frustration about these issues.

  11. Johnny says:

    Phil, I would love to be church with you again. One year ago we were more church than a building could’ve contained. I miss it. A lot.


  12. Robert says:

    Maybe some of these kids see that the church has real cool missionaries and they aspire to be like them?
    Maybe they’ve grown up in that church and been feed from the Word and say “I’ve been given much here, now I will give back. I want to show this congregation and my God that use what I am given”?
    Maybe they posses what so many youth lack today – commitment. Not commitment that equals a trap, commitment that says “I don’t leave because it’s not perfect” (see divorce stats)
    Maybe we can’t judge by outside appearance “T”s or “Tie”s.
    I’m comfortable in both…
    That’s all speculation, it maybe tough to know what Jesus would have this church do, but if we criticise because it doesn’t fit into a particular mould then we are being judgemental.

  13. phil says:

    Robert, hey man, I am so sorry I haven’t responded or approved your comment till now. I suck and it was stuck in my spam folder between a Viagra add and a Penis enlargement add in spam. I just went through it today and saw it. crap.

    Anyway, I do appreciate you reading my posts and I appreciate your comment, thanks so much. I agree, it is cause they have cool missionaries there, haha. As far as church goes, I love our church bro. I ow so much of my life and who I am to the church there, by church I mean people. They have supported me, believed in me, given me a chance, disciplined me, etc. It has and is great.

    I do agree that people need to give back, not just be consumers of the church, but contributors. I am trying to do this when I come there. I also think that all churches are not the same and you need to go to a place that you can relate to, where you do grow, where you can give. As far as appearance goes, as i said, it is the churches prerogative to have a dress code. I am not trying to be judgmental in my post, just trying to ask questions and get other to ask the same. I believe the church is to encourage the believe and to bring others to faith in Jesus, it seems like our church WEFC is doing both, but I still wanted to ask questions, and put it out there for others.

    Thanks again friend. Please keep commenting and reading.

  14. robbie says:

    you’re the man Phil – we are both right when we say we can’t judge by apperances. A church with suits isn’t necessarly stuffy and one with jeans isn’t necessarily vibrant. It’s the heart of the church that matters.
    Dress code only applies to people on stage – I think EVERY church has a dress code whether they admit it or not! LOL.
    Keep being a cool missionary – we love you for it!

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