Since leaving Heights Church at the end of the year, I have determined to visit different churches every week. (It seems I’ve been busy most Sundays the past 19 years.)
We have visited different churches of different denominations and certainly different sizes.
This weekend my wife was out of town so I decided to church binge. I chose a multisite megachurch for Saturday afternoon, a huge beautiful Lutheran church for early Sunday, and a small Church of God in Christ church for late Sunday morning.
Having now visited six churches this month (one each week the first three weeks and then three this weekend), there are some observations.
First, the Body of Christ is wide and beautiful. It is varied. And I am more in love with Christ and his Church in this short amount of time than I would have anticipated. I’m not just having fun, I am loving this look into a wider “cut” of the Body of Christ.
Second, I am more convinced than ever that when people say they are “burned out” on church or “turned off” by the church, they have only sampled a very tiny slice of some particular experience. There are so many beautiful expressions! And in each one, I have found something beautiful about the Church.
Third, not everything is my cup of tea and I didn’t mind that. I wasn’t “looking” for anything in particular, but I will say I could point out obvious things I didn’t like… but I just didn’t want to when the service was over.
This weekend is a great example. I intentionally went to a multisite megachurch because in hearing about them I just don’t get them. It’s an appeal I don’t get. After being in that service… I still don’t get it. What I DO get, though, is that people get it. I’m just not one of them. I walked in and there was fog in the air. Immediately, I had every Babylon Bee satirical story in my head about megachurches. That dissipated in my mind and I left loving the message of the pastor, even if it came on a screen while he preached from another location. I left having had a great conversation with someone in the lobby and asking them about their experiences over the years with that church.
The early Sunday morning service was in Central Lutheran in downtown Minneapolis. I chose that one because of the time, but also because it is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever been in before. It is such a beautiful, sacred space. I also went because I knew they would be serving the Table of the Lord and I hadn’t had that in three weeks. (Totally weird for me, since we had worshiped at the Table every week in Heights Church. I was missing it.)
I didn’t know how much I missed it until we were moving toward the Table in worship. With each prayer and each blessing, my heart began to well up. Finally, I found myself weeping. His presence and his mercy in my life were so real. I went forward to take communion and when I got back to my seat, the tears flowed again. His presence was overwhelming.
I then went over to St. Paul for a late morning service at St. Albans Church of God in Christ. I have wanted to be in a black church since leaving Heights Church so I took the opportunity.
What Central Lutheran was in grandeur (as a building), the worship space in St. Albans was probably able to fit on the platform of Central Lutheran. It was a beautiful space, but much MUCH smaller. About 65 worshipers gathered.
Megachurches can offer an opportunity to talk to people if you want, or just head out the door and get to the parking lot. Central Lutheran was somewhat the same. St. Albans was NOT going to let you get by without at least saying “Hi”. And it’s good to talk in church there. Let the preacher know he is doing!
The big surprise here, for me, was the singing. We didn’t sing much. I wasn’t used to that. I had an expectation of a long song service, a long sermon, and a long prayer time.
The music was incredible. The team took off during the offering time! They had the Hammond organ… and that kid would make it sing.
But, in all, not much singing.
The pastor did an incredible job in teaching. He had given them an assignment from last week’s sermon and was calling them into accountability for having done their homework! He handed out the printed version of his sermon to those of us who weren’t there last week. He then launched into a careful walk-through of what he had preached on, then had the congregation come back with verses that would verify what he said as being true!
He wasn’t taking any, “Well, I know in some Scripture it says…” either. If someone was answering, they had to give him the full reference before they could say what the verse said… and then people in the congregation were taking notes and they would keep asking for the reference as well. It was an amazing time in the Word! He was stretching them and preparing them. He was teaching them to walk through Scripture on their own.
I have come away this weekend full of the Word and worship. I have come to the end of this weekend in love with the Church all over again. There is so much good going on in the Church!
Friends, the Body of Christ is beautiful. There are warts. There are “issues.” But… WOW… is Christ’s bride beautiful!