It is a relatively modern phenomenon. One church, several locations.
Here’s how it works. It runs a bit like a corporation; with one main Pastor or CEO who runs the show and several co-Pastors who man their individual “Campuses.”
The way it happened in my last church was that our Pastor retired and another Pastor came in, one who already had a church in a neighboring town. All of a sudden we had a real live Pastor twice a month. The other time we saw him via a video feed speaking from the other campus.
The first time we went, it was so slick and polished and coordinated and pre-packaged…….and fast, we wondered if we had actually just attended church. Instead of speed dating, we were speed churching. It was like church drive-by.
We left. There was no more spontaneity, no more prayer for needs in the service, no more holiness. More than anything, I didn’t feel the Holy Spirit there anymore. It was like he packed up and moved out.
It’s really hard to get God to work in a constrained and prepackaged formula. The Holy Spirit needs room to breathe, room to work in and through His people. He doesn’t stay where He isn’t welcome.
Now it has happened again. Our church building was sold out from under us by the developer and almost overnight, we had to find a new home. The church that was interested in buying it backed out when they found out we didn’t even have a clue the building was up for sale. It was a bad deal all around.
Another Pastor who already had three “campuses” in other towns, offered to let us continue, but under his church name, and as part of his church organization. We were now the East Valley branch.
There is only one problem with it. We are unrecognizable from what we were before. We are them now, which to some people is just wonderful. Our Pastor is still the Pastor, sort of, but he doesn’t speak, he just introduces the other “hosting Pastor” who does his talk via video. I assume he will get a “turn.”
So this past Sunday was our make or break Sunday. Will we stay or leave. And we decided we will leave.
I think it is safe to say that we had both already decided when we heard a song by Stevie Wonder filtering into the church coming from the stage where we used to hear praise music. Nothing against Stevie Wonder, I love his music, just not to open a church service.
And when we saw the flat screens projecting, not church messages, but football scores, and an actual game, I got a vision of Jesus and the money changers in the Temple. I pictured him with a baseball bat bashing out the screens. This is the question that has haunted me ever since.
Have we gotten to the point where we really want more world in the church instead of more church in the world?
And someone kidnapped our outstanding music group with another guy who smiled a little too much and sang every song in a monotone. Elaine leaned over and whispered that “all that was missing was the mosh pit.”
Communion is also done differently than any church I have ever attended and I have attended a lot, in just about every denomination. The plate is passed and you eat and drink the elements right then before you pass them on.
It’s craziness. People trying to pass and balance, hurry and not spill looked more like people doing oyster shooters and shots of vodka than communion. By that time my sense of humor either saved me or failed me, whichever way you want to look at it. I had to bite the sides of my mouth to keep from laughing out loud. Where is the holiness, where is the reflective pause? Where is the feeling of community where we all gathered at the table and received it together.
Am I missing something?
The “talk” was short, and meatless. I felt more like I had just been to family counseling session than church. He had some very good points, and he smiled at the right times, and looked sympathetic and humble at the right times. He spoke like he has been through the Dale Carnegie school of public speaking…….more than once.
And again. There was no “altar call” and if that is just too evangelical for you, no time for “a decision.”
We will be looking for a new place of worship, needless to say.
And it makes me sad that once again, we have to do this. But do this we will. Because I believe in the church more than ever. Both as a body of believers and as an actual place to go.
I don’t need it relevant.
I need it real, and full of Jesus and some imperfection please.
If anyone is reading this and loves all the changes taking place, please don’t be offended. These are my thoughts and mine alone. I am sure the Pastors and staff are all wonderful people and want to do what is good for the community and are following their hearts. There is always the possibility that I am way off base with my synopsis of the way things are. I am by no means any kind of spiritual health meter of churches.
And yet, when it’s all said and done, each of us has to go where we are fed.
And my prayers, you can be assured, are with you always.
I would be interested in comments. Has anyone had similar experiences?