Monday, July 19, 2004

Yesterday I went to the worship gathering of a fairly new church not too terribly far from where I live.  I met the pastor about a year ago, so I go check in with him every so often.  The church is what many would call postmodern or alternative.  I'm not sure what I'd call it, so I'll just stick to "church."  Whatever they are, they've grown to over 1,000 in worship attendance in about two years time.  I realize that there's a healthy discussion going on about whether churches of 1,000+ (or even 500, 200, 50, 25) are a good thing or not - I'll leave that one alone for now.
The thing that I had rattling around in my head, though, was a discussion that Jordon Cooper raised on his blog a couple weeks ago.  It goes something like this: in the "emerging church", we've got all these heady notions of all the things that we're changing.  But when you step back and really evaluate things, are we really changing more than about 10%?  In the case of this new church, I can honestly say "absolutely not." 
Here's what I noticed.  I drive into the parking lot of a big industrial type building, park my truck and walk toward the entrance.  Between my truck and the seat I select inside the meeting space, I am greeted by about five people - all of which are obviously "assigned" to stand in a spot and say hello to people as they come in.  One of these people hands me some paper, with announcements and church information on it.  I sit down, and the band leader on stage begins to play and sing and invite people to sing along.  We sing three or four songs together - all but one I've heard before in other churches over the past five years.  Then the pastor gets up on stage and tells everyone to say hello to the people around them.  We sit down, read scripture, listen to people talk about what God is doing in their lives, pray again, and are dismissed.
Now, let me say that I enjoyed my time with this body of the Church.  Cool people, relaxed atmosphere, music that I relate to (played by a dude with dreadlocks). 
But then I remembered what I had seen on the church website earlier in the day, when I had gone to find out what their service times were.  On one of the pages, it told their story as a church.  It says something like, "In those early days, we reconsidered what it means to be a church.  It wouldn't have been unusual to hear questions like, 'Why do we have music in church?' or 'Why do we gather for a worship service?'"  I happen to know that there are some very intelligent, genuine people who love God, and want to be sensitive to the Spirit there.
So my question for them would be, "Why is it that after all this questioning and consideration did it turn out that your church looks almost exactly like the vast majority of other churches in the area?"  Go back and read the paragraph describing my experience and tell me if there's anything different.  Did the process of considering the aspects of church life bring you to the conclusion that most churches have gotten it right?
Some questions I have:
1. Is there an actual need for change from the "traditional" church to the "emerging" church?
2. If so, how much of the formula needs to change?
3. What is the proper motivation for change?
4. What would actual change look like?
5. What are the measures that might help us evaluate whether anything substantial has changed or not?
I'm sure there are other questions.  For the most part, I think that what we have come to think of as "revolutionary" or "adventurous" or "innovative" is actually not all that impressive.  I think we like to think of ourselves as having done something different mostly as a mind trip - "Oooh, lookie here at the cool stuff we're doing.  We're breaking the 'rules' and being dangerous."  We need to get over ourselves.  Seems to me that we're looking for praise from other people, by developing all these pseudo-new things.  Let's be open to change, but when we do change, let's do it to improve our worship of the only One deserving of it.  Let's have fun and be crazy and get jiggy before our God, but only because we are interested in increasing His glory in our joy.

posted by Steve at 10:05 AM
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I'm Steve Lewis. This used to be my blogging home. My online home is now at When this blog was my active online home, I lived in Seattle. Now I live in London, UK. I follow Jesus (poorly most of the time), worship simply, read a lot, watch culture, go to school, listen to music, write, enjoy art, and drink a lot of coffee.
e-mail me:

seattle spots

victrola coffee
zoka coffee
university of washington
church of the apostles
quest church
sanctuary church
shoreline vineyard

sites i visit

off the map
nt wright

a few of the blogs in the feedreader

jason evans
joe boyd
kevin rains
alan creech
chris marshall
bill bean
eugene cho
jordon cooper
dwight friesen
john chandler
amy palmer
ryan bolger
rudy carrasco
ryan sharp
sings in the sunshine
rick bennett
scot mcknight
karen ward
alan hirsch
dan kimball
petey crowder

i'm reading it

colossians remixed
africa unchained

i finished reading it - 2007

generation me
jesus and the restoration of israel
god's continent
globalizing theology
gustavo gutierrez: essential writings
jesus and the eyewitnesses
garlands of grace
twenty poems to nourish your soul
the black swan
dancing in the streets
made to stick
signs in contemporary culture
hit the bullseye
the politics of jesus
readings in christian ethics
toward old testament ethics
the kite runner
principles of conduct
velvet elvis
the irresistable revolution
they like jesus, but not the church
the great omission
charisma: the gift of grace, and how it has been taken from us
the starfish and the spider
a perfect mess
the world cafe
the new faces of christianity
leaving church
journeying in faith
the creed
transforming mission
metaphors we live by
foolishness to the greeks
personal knowledge

states i've spent time: 2007

british columbia
oh yeah, denmark, too

i wrote it

managing conflict in the 'new world'
music review: over the rhine
film review: bonhoeffer
music review: fighting jacks
film review: the passion of the christ
how reality tv changes lives
the best tv article you've ever read
corks & caps: a wine lover's story of change
america's idols
random, disorganized thoughts about life after the katrina disaster
missional . . . plain and simple
on becoming post-gnostic

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