Most Christians would agree that to some extent the church has suffered a process of McDonaldization over the last generation. A whole host of complex factors have combined so that the default stance of the worshipper on a Sunday tends to actually be that of consumer.
I notice this myself especially when it comes to preaching sermons. There are more ways to screw up in a sermon that I attend than there are verses in the book of Acts. I have made 1346 of those mistakes already but that doesn’t matter. I silently lacerate the idiot who interprets an Old Testament passage through the New Testament in a manner that I, 1st year theology student, consider lazy. If you make lame cultural references, I will inwardly tut-tut. If your powerpoint uses the wrong font I will mentally evacuate the room. I can’t tell you what the wrong fonts are. You have to find that kind of thing out yourself.
Instead of going to church seeking to have our needs met, we should go to church prepared to meet with God. Our needs will ultimately get met of course, but maybe not our wants. Our felt needs are not always our real needs in other words.
I attended a church on Sunday that I didn’t work for and well, it was an underwhelming experience. As a consumer, I wondered why anyone kept buying this crap. As a church leader I took notes on how to do things differently. As a worshipper, I cringed inside so much I could never really get out of myself.
But driving across the country with wife-unit afterwards I got to thinking about an approach to visiting other churches. From now on I will try to treat other churches like other families. If I am invited round to your house for dinner I don’t get to choose the menu. If you are mildly rude to your wife about the gravy, I won’t stand up and walk out. If you talk too much about yourself, I won’t interrupt you and demand you cease your prattling. If your kids are obnoxious little gits who talk with put on baby accents and constantly vie for attention I will still try to engage them. In other words, knowing that all families are dis-functional, wife-unit and I will happily receive your hospitality, your crappy gravy, your self important anecdotes and your less than adorable rugrats and seek to have a great time and be good company.
You do the same when you are around in my house. Even if I burn the meatballs.
The church catholic is entertainingly understood as a kind of mafia; an extended family with branches in every town. We (often) have charity and grace for our beloved cousins that allow us to acknowledge that “yes, that is a turd from a farm animal on the kitchen floor” without being overtaken by an inner monologue judging our hosts.
So what if instead of approaching a new church the way we do a restaurant with our critic engaged, we approach it as a wing of the extended family you’ve never had a chance to meet yet but fully expect to grow to love. If I did that, I think I would have spared a lot of people a lot of hassle last Sunday morning when I broke the door off the pew and smashed it on the ground while calling anathema down on Protestantism.
Your Correspondent, Doesn’t like fried eggs at all and prefers his food spicy