Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Lookin for a Buzz
A very interesting thing happened in Wichita, Kansas, where a bunch of people who had been going to my church. They were, like, in the 20 year olds group - they had been going there for several years, and they went over to visit The Vineyard. And after they started visiting The Vineyard they decided to join The Vineyard. So they went forward, and the pastor said, "Why do you want to join our church?"
They said, "Well, because your worship is just so exciting to us."
And you know what the pastor of The Vineyard said? He said, "Go back to your old church. We don't particularly need you in this congregation because this is what will happen: You used to go to the church where you've been going for about three or four years because you got a buzz out of it. So suddenly you come to visit our church and we give you a better buzz so you decide that suddenly you no longer want to be faithful to the church where you're a member. Suddenly you're going to go to a church that gives you a better buzz. You know what's going to happen? You're gonna get used to the way that we do our worship service here and then you're not gonna get the buzz out of it and then you're going to go seek out another church. You'll end up being the member of about 50 dozen churches by the time you're 50 and you won't have helped anybody and you won't have grown because you will have gone from one goosebump feeling to another."
It worries me that in churches, the demand among people my age and younger, is that we make services more exciting to us. You don't go to church for excitement. That's why you go to movies. We go to church for fellowship. We go to church to be taught the Apostles' doctrine. And we go to church for the breaking of bread. We go to church for the sake of sharing all things. We don't go to church for thrills. And yet we find that part of our religious experience so boring that now suddenly you can't only have church with a piano and an organ. Suddenly you have to have an entire orchestra. All of the sudden, you have to have a rock combo. You have to have a backbeat in order to sing a hymn because we want a sensation.
And you know, what's very scary to me are people who come away from services where they've just been beat to death with a lot of sensationalism. And you know what? I enjoy those services, too. There's something really cool about being able to go to a church (I like to do it occasionally) where you get to clap your hands and you get to whirl around and you get to sing at the top of your lungs and you get to yell "amen" whenever you want and there's a rhythm in it. You know it's that whole, tribal kind of exciting thing.
But the danger is, we frequently mistake that sensationalistic wonderful experience for being a spiritual experience. It's not a spiritual experience. It's a fun experience and there's nothing wrong with it, but if we think that that's spirituality then we've missed the boat.
Please understand I'm not criticizing an exciting service. I'm merely saying that that is not the equivalent of a spiritual service. Does this make sense to everybody? We live in a world that says if it doesn't feel powerful, it's probably not real. Well, I have a feeling like it is real whether it feels real or not. I have a feeling that maybe sound doctrine is more important than goosebumps. I have a feeling that a real "holding all things in common" is more spiritual than a lot of dancing around and clapping your hands.
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We went to one of Rich Mullins last concerts. He made some of the same comments. He also talked about the way people and leaders claim that God talks to them apart from the Word. He spoke forcefully against that false teaching. Woven through out the concert were more tidbits that lead my family to believe that Rich was probably ready to convert to catholicism Most notably a shot at Luther for adding the word "alone", not in scripture he said. His later music was clearly more doctrinal in nature. Loved the song Creed, and If I Fall.
Rich Mullins died a week after we saw him.
I think this is true. We have to keep upping the ante in everything we do. Boxing isn't good enough, we have to have extreme whatever. Silent movies gave way to talkees and now to 3D.
People aren't satisfied. And through it all, the best part, Christ died for you is missed.
The law of diminishing return applies to worship when we get it turned 180 degrees.
If it's about what we do for God, then ultimately, it's about us. When that's the case, we have to have greater and greater excitements (read C.G. Finney).
If it's about what God does for us, gives to us; how He comes to us to save and forgive us, our emotional state is not a concern at all.
You wrote: "You'll end up being the member of about 50 dozen churches by the time you're 50....."
At what point will church shoppers everywhere burn out and either seek out a traditional, confessional church or quit church altogether. Call it Schadenfreude, if you will, but I am looking forward to the general population waking up and walking away from the non-denominational seeker churches.
I hope the confessional LCMS congregations are ready to receive the disillusioned with open arms.
We are so eager to give away confessional Lutheran materials overseas, and yet so many of our congregations in the USA ignore such materials in favor of publications promoted by Willow Creek and Saddleback. Lutheran churches overseas are more confessional than many LCMS congregations. How sad.
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