I don’t do this often, but I would like to step up on my soapbox for a moment.
Have you noticed that at more and more churches today, church doesn’t look like church anymore? The church entryway and fellowship area now resemble a Starbucks. The sanctuary – the inside of the church where we worship – looks like a theater with a stage, video screens and fancy lighting. Worship has become a cross between an easy listening pop concert and a Ted Talk. The pastor tries to look cool and be funny. The band tries to get people pumped up.
Now, some would say that it is a good thing church doesn’t look like church anymore. Many people today feel disconnected from the old stuffy way their churches used to worship. The music was antiquated. The preaching was boring.
The solution many churches have come up with today is to make church more like the world in which we live. People like Starbucks. People like YouTube and Ted Talks. People like good looking, funny, hip speakers.
So let’s make church more like that and people will come.
Please allow me, from my lofty soapbox, to tell you why I don’t think that is the best solution.
First of all, the Christian Church isn’t supposed to look like the world. Becoming a Christian means being markedly different than our world. In fact, being a Christian often means our world and our society won’t like us very much.
It’s not a bad thing when church feels and looks different than our world. Worship is supposed to turn our eyes away from this ever-changing, temporary, fickle world to the divine – to God’s eternal promises and to our home in heaven. Our worship on Sunday should look and feel different than what we do and see in our everyday lives.
My other concern is that without realizing it, many Christians today are becoming disconnected from the historical church. Certain hymns and songs have been sung by Christians in their worship for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years. The Psalms were being sung by believers in their worship a thousand years before Jesus was even born.
I wholeheartedly agree that many of the hymns from previous generations are now antiquated and don’t speak to modern ears. Yet there are hymns and liturgical songs which are timeless. Their words and their melodies have traveled across cultures and generations for centuries. As a Christian Church, we have a treasury of timeless hymns which is over 2,000 years old.
Yet, some churches today have completely stopped singing those timeless hymns and replaced them with modern, top 40 Christian contemporary songs. Don’t get me wrong. Many of those songs are beautiful. Some will join the treasury of timeless hymns and be sung for centuries to come. But many of those songs don’t have the strength of words or staying power.
One pastor once said it this way: “A church which seeks to be a child of its generation will find itself an orphan in the next.”
Allow me one more example. For almost 2,000 years, pastors and priests wore robes in worship. Ours is the first to almost completely abandon the practice.
But robes served a purpose. They helped hide the man. The preacher wasn’t important. He was just the messenger. It shouldn’t matter what he looks like or how hip he dresses. Worship was about pointing people to God and not to a cool or charismatic preacher.
Honestly, I hope I haven’t offended any of my fellow Christians from my lofty soap box. We are free to worship God in many different ways. It is not sinful to have a church that looks like an auditorium or to have a praise band lead you in your worship. (Though I’m still not sure about preachers in skinny jeans.)
My only encouragement is to be careful. Don’t be so quick to look like our world. It’s ok for a church to say, “Being a Christian means we look and act differently.” Don’t be so swift to turn away from time tested traditions or to despise the treasury of precious hymns and songs which have been passed down to us over the centuries. The way we worship connects us to believers throughout history and into eternity.
It’s ok for church to look like church.
That being said, I will now quietly step down from my lofty soapbox.