So many church leaders wonder why folks are leaving the church – they think it is because they haven’t heard the Gospel. Little do they realize they have heard the Gospel, and they aren’t seeing it lived out in the Church.
Church should be more like Second Harvest or the Red Cross, rather than a sing-a-long and storytime. Church has been infantilized. Church is more like preschool than preparation for work.
Let’s look at how church is done currently with new eyes. Currently, this is what happens –
You sing hymns. The choir has practiced and leads the way, and you fumble along. You’ve all got the words in the book in front of you, or up on a screen if you are in a modern church. The songs are designed to cheer you up, but also to wake you up. You have to stand to sing them in many churches. So you are getting a little stretching in too.
They read stories to you from the Bible, telling you about all the things that happened way back when to everyone else. You’ve never told how to be in those stories – how to make them come alive for you, or to recognize them happening to you right now. Over a thousand years ago, you’d not even be allowed to read the Word for yourself – you’d be expected to just listen. Also – you probably couldn’t even understand it – it was in Latin, which nobody spoke. The stories weren’t meant for you to hear and understand. Somehow the words were supposed to have some sort of magic power, just the syllables were enough. Even though the words are in the local language now, you still aren’t taught how to live them out.
You aren’t allowed to discuss the stories. Your participation is not required – and in many cases it is not allowed. It certainly isn’t encouraged. You can read them for yourself on your own time if you want, but sharing your own interpretation is not OK. You aren’t ordained. You haven’t been to graduate school to get a degree in ministry – so you aren’t worthy of an opinion. The interpretation of God’s message is for the minister – not the people in the pews. This is just like pre-school – the teacher runs the class, not the students.
You get to play dress up – you wear your best clothes, and if you go to a liturgical church, the choir, altar party, and minister put on robes. You wear clothes you don’t wear any other time or in any other place. You can’t dress like you normally do. This furthers the idea that what happens in church stays in church, and that God doesn’t show up at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday while you are at work.
It is like God is a special toy. God is pulled out to play with once a week, and not even for a full day. Then God is put back into the box, to be forgotten for another week.
You get a snack too – communion. It isn’t a meal – just a sip of wine (or grape juice) and a wafer or a cracker. It isn’t a meal by any stretch of the imagination. It is just a little tiny thing, a symbol.