Sunday, July 08, 2012

My Visit to a Mega-Church

I'm not often in a position to visit other churches on a Sunday morning, being a pastor and all. To be honest, I'm not even sure what the actual definition of a mega-church is, but, I'd assume that what we attended this morning was in the vein of a bona fide mega-church.

We've been "on vacation" for the better part of this week. We all needed a little time away.

We arrived for the early service, and was "greeted" by a man in an orange vest who, I assume, was supposed to  show us where to park. He waved enthusiastically to us.

We parked close to the door and walked in with several regulars, some wearing casual clothes, some looking like they just came in from the lake.  I'm not judging; just reporting.

I snapped this pic during one of the songs I didn't know.

The man who held the door open for us wished us a "good morning."  The man who handed us the printed announcement sheet also said, "hello", but the woman who handed Sally hers, was talking to someone else and didn't greet her.

We walked into the cavernous foyer, past the coffee shop and bookstore into the auditorium. I would call it a sanctuary, except that it looked and felt more like a concert theater than a sanctuary.  Looking around, I regret not stopping at the coffee shop for a grande latte, you know, to blend in with everyone else.

We watched their video presentation and waited for the countdown clock to signal the beginning of service.

I've been in church my entire life. I listen to Christian radio almost exclusively.  I did not know, nor did I recognize any music presented during their worship service.

They had, what I would call, a full concert setup.  Lights, fog, the whole shebang.  One thing I certainly DID NOT like was the rotating stage lights that shone from the stage into the eyes of the people in the audience.  Again, I couldn't tell if I was at church or at a concert.

My kids said they LOVED the worship, even though THEY didn't even know any of the songs that were sung. They loved how it made them feel like they were at a concert....

The regular pastor wasn't there, but the fill-in guy was excellent. Very clear presentation of the Gospel.  The invitation was for people to fill out a card if they made a decision and put it in the offering plate. A man behind us and a man in front of us raised their hands to indicate they had received Jesus' salvation. Neither filled out a card.

We left without ever having anyone introduce themselves, give us a personal welcome, or even have my hand shook.

We debriefed ourselves at IHOP after the service.  The kids said they liked the worship but didn't really care for how they didn't "connect" with the service, as a whole. They wished our church had a better praise and worship time and wasn't so "fancy" and looked more like a theater. 

I certainly am not opposed to what people wear to attend church, well, for the most part...  I didn't see anything objectionable this morning.  I don't like not being welcomed in a personal way; this is Oklahoma after all.

* * *

This is the first time I've attended a mega-church in a couple of years. I'm really not trying to be overly-critical of my visit. I think that leaving without having shook anyone hand was the tipping point for me. I understand the differing of opinion about music/worship/praise. I understand that not everyone does it like us. I understand that some people feel a need to be coaxed into worship. I understand that some people only want to be entertained.

I understand that a mega-church reaches a lot of people that my "more traditional church" will never reach; of course a lot of that has to do with the fact we are a small town church.  I understand that many of the people attending this church are the typical "un-churched" people and that this church is doing a fantastic job of actually connecting with these people.

This entire post is based on an hour and a half visit to a church while on vacation. I haven't named the church on purpose.  I know that many, many people love this church and it has a huge ministry in its community. I know that God is using this church for His kingdom, and when all is said and done, that is all that really matters.
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