Friday, 22 August 2008
by mr. oak
I noticed something about myself that I can't really explain. I have this strange aversion to big churches.
I run into it time to time, most notably on the TV. It's the classic thing where you wake up early on Sunday and decide to turn on the tube as you get ready for church. And there it is - a pastor in a pristine new suit, holding a microphone, and pacing back and forth on an enormous stage. In the background there's a 100 person choir, with a full band set up that you swear looked like a late night television show's band.
Periodically the camera pans to the audience, and you see thousands of people sitting in the church. Old, young, families, singles....filling pews after pews. It's an awesome scene...
And for some reason, I always change the channel.
Charles Stanley, Joel Oesteen, Rick Warren...the lists goes on - the names are all known. But I don't want to watch them. I don't want to go to their church. I love reading their books, but I have no desire to get to know them.
And I can't figure out why.
There are many pastors out there that have built great churches. I was part of one of the largest in New York City. But something about being part of that church I felt misplaced. Empty even. The sermons were great, and the resources were bountiful. I plugged myself into small groups - attended a few events, invited friends. But something about the big church environment scared me. I was clearly allergic.
There's nothing wrong with big churches - they can serve as great places to meet God. I just have this weird feeling against it.
I wondered if it was all the production value - the practiced music, the overwhelming sea of people, the polished agenda pamphlets, the praise band that can play any song exactly like the original recording or even the synchronized shouts of Amen. Big churches generally do better - with more people, there are more resources. With more resources, quality will just be better. It's also such a blessing to have such plentitude - God's gift to everyone there.
But there's something about being in a small church that I just love. I love the praise team with the guitarist that's just starting out, fumbling with the chords. I love having Bible study in the old leaky basement of the church because there's no where else to do it. I love the old photo copied church bulletins where some words are cut off. I love the pastor, who just started out and still needs to check his notes every other minute. And I love the feeling of sitting with the small number of other brothers and sisters in the pews....and proudly having the privelege to know them all by name. And finally, I love worship there. In all it's mistakes, fumbles, sloppiness, and small scale - it's perfect. I meet God everytime.
Maybe it's just stripped down so much that it's just God and me. Maybe it's affirmation that I didn't 'choose' that church because of what it can do for me. I'm simply not sure...
Nevertheless, my church is always pushing to grow, but frankly - inside my heart, I hope it doesn't. I hope it stays small....
And maybe that's it - I love my small church so much, it made me allergic to big churches. Who knows.
Bottomline, I love small churches. How about you?