Church is complicated, everyone has a background, and everyone has a perspective.
The guy walks in and gawks across the room that looks like a concert hall. He thinks to himself that this church has money. He looks around again and a nice looking gentleman approaches him and shakes his hand. “Welcome to church, is this your first visit?” “Well, Yes” trying to get away the man shakes off the small talk and moves off to the right. He finds a seat mostly towards the back and begins to watch. A few more minutes pass and more people fill out the room.
Then at the top of the hour the lights go dark and a man comes out on stage who he assumes is the pastor, but you wouldn’t know it from his casual attire. The guy recognizes this for what it is, a disarming tactic for people who feel distant from anyone called a pastor let alone to God himself. But it has the opposite effect. “Shouldn’t these people have more respect for God?” The guy looks around and realizes he is more dressed up than most of the people in attendance. The man gives his pep talk and then exits stage left as a young attractive man comes out on stage with an acoustic guitar and a big smile. He begins strumming the typical Christian sound that even someone not familiar with church recognizes; a slight pop rock sound but with an overall clean and tamed manner emphasizing the vocals over the music. At first the man was surprised that there was no pipe organ but he decides this will do.
As he then tries to sing some of the words he finds himself distracted by the large face of the attractive young man on the screen being projected behind the words. As distracting as this is he attempts to put this out of his mind. He closes his eyes to focus but when he opens them an equally beautiful girl had appeared on-screen with a light now projected on her as she does her best Mariah Carrie impersonation. The guy finds this distracting in a completely different way. But it eases his mind a bit and he finds himself mouthing the words along with her. Another two songs with pleasant-sounding not imposing music and the guy is starting to enjoy himself.
The show ends and the lights come back on and everyone takes their seat. The host comes back out and then says some things about stuff that the guy has no knowledge about, logistics, he is guessing? Church meeting? Finally the man up front says he will speak out of the book of John and the words are immediately on screen. The guy adjusts himself in the seat and leans a bit forward, this is what he came for, to hear some of the Bible that he has heard so much about. The man starts by reading the passage and then immediate starts talking about his life and how God has done stuff. Then he continues, and then, he continues some more, and the visitor starts to think that the pastor will never come back to explaining what he has just read.
>Minutes slip away and the guy starts to feel a bit disappointed. He came here to hear about God, instead the pastor is selling himself. He looks around and some people are engaged and still others are looking at their phones. The guy wonders how this type of message fills this large a room week after week. As he is thinking he is interrupted by clapping all around and he realized he has missed something, a punch-line perhaps? Many of the jokes already had gone over his head but perhaps this one hit home for everybody. He again tries to concentrate but he starts thinking about how attractive the girl singer was. He quickly stops and reminds himself that his friend will probably ask him what the service was about, but he has little idea.
The guy can tell that the pastor is now circling the last base and the conclusion of the message is coming so he pays attention closely. “God loves you”. He hears. He tries to listen more but he gets very little of substance but once again the people clap and he realizes they are simply agreeing with his points not being told anything they do not know. This makes the guy feel more like an outsider because he does not get it. It wasn’t clap worthy in and of itself so he must assume he has missed something again. He realized he cannot keep up as he can’t relate to all the stories and cannot simply follow along in the text as there isn’t any. The guy resigns himself that he cannot get anything out of this.
Then the services switches to asking for money.
The guy looks around and almost laughs. “What do they need more money for? They seem to be doing just fine.” The girl starts singing again and the guy wishes this was a social setting so he could go talk to her, not that he would have the courage to talk to her, still, she was pretty. The service ends the guy sighs deeply and gets up to leave. This time nobody approaches him so he just walks out the door.
He is new here. Confused. Ignorance isn’t always bliss.
And with that another Guy goes to church…
He reluctantly sits down having walked a long way around the edge of the room to avoid having to be greeted. He sits down and tries to look ahead to not engage anyone accidentally. Unfortunately for him someone notices him and comes over to try to make small talk. “Lovely, sigh…” ” The well dressed man mentions the weather and talks about nothing at all, the visitor somehow navigates the conversation and puts his head down to not draw any attention, but this has the opposite effect. Someone else draws near, “Sigh…I was just noticing the casino like carpeting…”.
The woman who now beside him repeats herself and asks if he is OK. At first he doesn’t respond, but realizes this is a mistake because the woman persists, so he disarms her quickly. ” I am just tired”. He lies. It is already 10:30 am, a very reasonable hour of the morning for anyone to be quite awake enough. No, he is not tired but he is not bothered with conversation. This works and she eventually wonders off and the service succinctly starts.
The lights go dark and the guy is relived because now he can literally not see the people in the row right in front of him. The music begins and the guy thinks that it is just OK. He scrutinizes the words of each song and wonders if Jesus appreciates all the fluff. The band is full on now and he laughs to himself at the missed chords and missed opportunities. The man tries to peer through the darkness to see if anyone is engaging because quite frankly, he can’t hear anyone singing. He spots a few people a couple of aisles over who appear to be mouthing the words but there is a surprising lack of volume. He somehow makes it through the worship and eagerly sits down.
The minister comes on stage wearing a bad tie over a dark shirt with a sport coat and blue jeans. “He looks like he is going out to a bar to meet women.” He thinks. The minister begins by talking about the Bible of which he carries none. And then says that God wants to talk to the people about love, the guy smirks to himself, “So, no substance then? Anyone can talk about love. But it’s hard to do it when using your bible.”
The preacher continues to talk down to the people in the audience while the guy looks around to see if anyone is buying into this. He is surprised to see some people seem to be enjoying themselves. “Simple minded I guess” he muses. As the preacher continues, he starts to pick apart the pastor, piece by piece. After a few minutes of this he notices something. The young people sitting grouped together to the left are not paying attention. The guy smirks again and leans back in his chair which was starting to feel pretty comfortable. As he did he also noted that this chair was much more comfortable than the last churches’ pews. “Well that’s at least something.”
The pastor eventually gets over himself and stops talking. But another man comes up to speak while the worship team starts playing again. This man proceeds to ask for money and the guy smirks again. “Yup this is what it is all about, not a chance.” The man crosses his arms. Then there is a video about some dude going somewhere else who also needs money. “Get a job kid”. As the basket passes the guy’s demeanor hardens as he sees that people are actually dumping their money into the basket. “If only making money was this easy for the poor huh?” The service ends and the guy quickly raises from his seat and leaves the building . “Just as I thought, why did I bother?”
The guy leaves smiling to himself, but another person sees him leave and at noticing the guy smiling he assumed he has enjoyed the service and says a prayer of thanksgiving.
These guys don’t go to church much, but even they need grace. One more visitor next time and some thoughts.