Since moving to Sydney I have been struggling to find a home church that I fit into. I have spent countless hours looking at many church websites and reading their doctrines, lining them up to what I believe. Maybe I am doing this wrong but in the past I have had major falling outs with churches where I fundamentally disagree with something that is believed, taught, preached or made a rule of membership. So far the few churches that I would love to visit have been at least 20km to the west or north of the city and without a car I can’t make it to them.
Over the last five weeks I have been attending, with a group of friends, a very large and “modern” Pentecostal church. If I were five years younger I would probably have loved to attend the church but now I seem to be seeking something more “real”.
I use the term “real” with caution, but even in a modern church that has done away with all the church tradition there seems to be something very religious about following a perfectly timed script every Sunday that goes something along the lines of this:
- A few minutes before the service dim the lights, add lots of artificial fog into the room, play a five minute video and light show to build the mood.
- Start into worship with a roar and two songs that are so loud you can’t hear the lyrics, and can’t get over the “rock concert” like experience that is happening at the front of the church.
- Do another two songs that are a lot slower and quieter (although they are still on the loud side).
- Have a leader get up and welcome people to church, do prayer requests, show a video testimony, do the offering, show the church news.
- Do preaching for about 30 minutes
- Do a call for salvation
- Final song
Sure most churches use a variation of that formula every week, but that is something I am grappling with. Why do we have to use that formula every single week?
I am not trying to say there is anything wrong with loud music, people jumping up and down, or any of the other stuff. Heck, at Parachute Festival I will be up the front in the middle of the moshpit even during the Sunday night worship.
And maybe I have just grown up so churched that now I am seeking something more. The church I was attending in Auckland for the last six years was something different. They were doing things differently. Sure there was plenty of Sundays were they followed the formula I have outlined above, but just as many would be different, say a Sunday where there is nothing but an piano, acoustic guitar and
bongo hand drums on stage. Or a day where instead of doing “church” they would have a big meal as a church community or instead of preaching they would have a group of people sharing testimonies. It was church, but it was different church.
And that brings me to community, a church is a community of believers, but also a church should work in the community. I am finding a lot of churches are very inner focussed they will help those who are in “their” community but seem to be doing little in the wider community.
Throughout the last few weeks as I have questioned what I really believe and where I fit in I have also felt my conservatism rebuilding. It is interesting how attending a church with little in the way of church tradition has left me seeking church tradition. I don’t believe in religion, but I do believe in church heritage and it would be nice to have a mention of it currently being the season of lent and how that applies to our lives today (and I have to admit I am not doing anything for lent), or to do a communion one day. It seems to me that the “modern” church has done so much to attract those who got sick of church religion and as a result have nothing to do with the traditional church. Surely there is a balance somewhere in between?