Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Underground at the New Marketplace Seeker Sensitive Church

I bit the bullet the other day and went to a funeral at one of those new churches, the type with the fancy positive marketing name, theater seating, stage, light system, sound system, drum set up, soloists, etc. The type of church that offers a "Worship Experience" which they describe as,
"Our experiences are meaningful, creative and spiritually engaging. Each experience kicks off with a time of live worship music - which is often a blend of live energetic rock and soul that has our guests standing. Folks tell us all the time that we are blessed with an amazing worship team—we agree.
Then, our Pastor shares a biblically-centered message that’s always honest and challenging, empowering you to apply Jesus’ words to your daily life. We like to end our teaching time with a few minutes of prayer… nothing awkward, we promise. Then we wrap up the experience with a few closing announcements and an opportunity to give back to God."
Nothing awkward except for the focus on "the experience" of the individual and the fact that there was no cross anywhere on the "stage".

A soloist performing karaoke singing took the place of the "amazing worship team" on this particular day. The theater seating and lack of congregational singing or communal prayer made the whole "experience" seem more like attending a performance, but in spite of all these potential drawbacks, we wound up experiencing a moving funeral service for our friend (although when the kicker bass volume was cranked up and the purple stage lights were on, it did feel a bit like we were riding in a pimp-mobile through one of our town's more exciting neighborhoods).

I can see where this style of "doing church" would appeal to certain types of individuals. It was entertaining in a way, and this particular preacher was skilled at extemporaneous homiletics (although he did bounce around a bit and ran a little long which is always a problem with that style). It was the first funeral I have ever attended where we were all asked to accept Jesus as our Savior and to begin a new life in Christ, and I have to give the guy credit for the way he worked that into his sermon, but I am not sure that it was called for among the mostly gray headed Christians in attendance, nor was the plug for the church that the preacher tossed in something that I would consider to be very helpful to the grieving. Still, it was good to know that my friend had Jesus as his Savior and had the support of his church family.

And I don't believe I have ever heard "How Great Thou Art" sung so well by a first tenor (forgive us George Beverly Shea).

I am afraid that I prefer seeing stained glass windows, a visible cross or two, an altar, sitting on hard pews, fumbling with clumsy kneelers, congregational singing, hymnals, prayer books, and even the old musty smells that can only be found in church buildings where generations have come together for weddings, baptisms, funerals, and to worship God.

As new worship styles experience an upswing in today's church marketplace, I wonder what will become of those old church buildings and the old fashioned Christians who prefer to worship there.

Collapsing Church, Ridgeway, SC in 2012


  1. Pewster,
    Agreed. I have been to this type of service. Many start out as store front churches and then grow into a new building that is theater style. In Fresno we have "The Well" on several campuses with the pastor rotating his preaching between the campuses and on a jumbotron at the remaining campuses. These churches tend to be "Bible churches". I have no real disagreement but don't find being a spectator suited to my Anglican understanding of worship.

  2. And I cannot understand why my son, who was Episcopalion for 30+ years, would now prefer the "Bible" church, but I would prefer to sit on hard pews, kneel, and sing songs with no beat or tune.

  3. I agree with ya'll. Just not my cup of tea, and I wonder what the long term effects on Christianity will be.