The Church in America, Today
When I was a Christian, I remember having a great deal of respect and fondness for a certain preacher by the name of Paul Washer. There were many Christians who did not like the way he preached, or his message. Many of his topics included rejecting the things of the world that did not necessarily displease god, but simply did not add to the furthering of his kingdom. These things often included enjoying mild things, such as a television program or other inconsequential activities. I, however, could not get enough of his message. Even as an atheist today, I have a great deal of respect for him as a speaker [and not a preacher]. He had a way of conveying ideas. And if ever there were a vividly sincere Christian, it was him.
One of his most blatant criticisms, though, was directed at the church in the United States of America. He believed that the feel good message common throughout the churches, along with ideas such as that of obtaining salvation through a quick prayer, was at the very least mildly heretical. He used his experiences in other countries [mainly a third world country] as the standard. He was correct, however, that the Christian culture in America is different. You won’t find many people in Haiti who treat Christianity like some sort of teen fad.
Circling back to Paul Turner’s book, the author offers us six interesting thing’s he has observed in the mere 50 or so churches he has visited. The list reads…
1. The church in America is beginning to trend towards a lengthier sermon. [I experienced this first hand having to sit through a 1.5-2 hour sermon, on average, most church services. Paul Washer may argue this is a step in the correct direction.]
2. Another growing trend is synchronized dancing. [I experienced this as well, with speeches of how “music and dance do not belong to the devil”. I’m positive Satan couldn’t care less about your silly music and dance moves. Believe me. Also, Paul Washer may argue this is a step in the wrong direction.]
3. The choir being put behind the congregation. [Paul Washer and I don’t necessarily give a damn about this one.]
4. Broadcasted church service, live, via satellite to another location.
5. Pastor’s spewing unexpected and outlandish things in church service. [The author notes a time a preacher decided to recognize the piano player as having a nose ring, smugly telling the congregation “How about that? How about that?]
6. Pastor’s warning their congregation not to treat C-level celebrities any different than any other person in the church. [Of course, the pastor would go on to announce that Billy Ray Cyrus would be playing at the Christmas service.]
The author is also kind enough to give us another list about what to bring if you’re going “church-shopping”.
1. Headache Medicine [I couldn’t agree more.]
2. Tennis Shoes [The amount of jumping around some churches have you do is a form of aerobics.]
4. Sense of Humor [I can’t think of anything clever to say on this one.]
5. Address Book
6. Voice Recorder [The author states it’s good to bring one if you’re ever hoping to write a book about your “church-shopping” experiences.]
The author describes the notion of “church with no church” in America- the very idea of telling the congregation that this was not their father’s religion anymore. That the church service was different from other church services. However, they included the same processes, (such as fellowship, praise, worship, etc] as any other church. That is because the church service is in fact the same as any other.
Perhaps the church in America is going through an identity crisis. I believe it is because the church is trying to remain relevant in the lives of its parishioners, in the lives of Americans. Nevertheless, many American’s are embracing the very thing I have embraced as society advances to a, hopefully, brilliant future.
That is, the practice of having no church.