Monday, June 8, 2009

Church of Convenience?

On yesterday's CBS Sunday Morning there was a story about a church in Daytona, FL located in an old drive-in movie theater. I believe it is a Disciples of Christ church, not that denominational labels are relevant to this post. The congregants would drive up in their cars and listen to the service from a speaker. There was an usher who walked around collecting offerings and distributing the elements of Holy Communion. The people there seemed to like it because they didn't have to dress up. They could bring their dogs, snacks, etc, and they didn't have to leave the comfort of their car. It was convenient for them. The pastor even reached in the window and shook their hand as they drove away. They had community because they met for coffee in the snack shop before and after the service. Which makes no sense to me, why get out for coffee and donuts, but not for worship.

People gathered in their cars, isolated from the elements and also from one another. This was not a community; it was an amalgamation of individual bubbles. Community is about joining together without the separation of plastic, steel, and glass. How can the Church be the Church without the ability to touch, to join voices, and to be under one roof or at least in the same proximity to one another? This was a cute story, but I believe that this story is indicative of a deeper problem within the American Church and culture. We want our isolation and our privacy. We don't want the Church to knock on our doors or get involved in our lives. We want our hour of salvation and then go home without anyone talking to us or getting too personal. We don't want people to notice when we skip a Sunday and call to ask if we are OK. That is too personal, it is too nosy. How then can the Church be the Church? That is one reason why, I believe, the mega-churches are so popular. If you are in a congregation of 5,000 or more you can slip in and out without notice. In the small church of 100 or less anonymity is an impossibility.

Also, the Drive-In Church is another example of a gimmick driven Church. The Church in the United States, especially mainline Protestant Churches, have struggled to bring people back into the Church. We try contemporary worship music, causal dress code, and the obligatory Cappuccino and Christ. Churches have tried everything from the clever to the cliche and many attempts at increasing attendance seems more about gimmicks than gospel. In any case, it all seems to no avail. I have no problem with a causal dress code or contemporary music for that matter, but when the worship service becomes more about the gimmick than it does actual worship I think there is a problem.

Perhaps instead of changing the Church, we should work to change the American culture that creates these problems.

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