Our family lives in one of the biggest cities in the United States–so we are surrounded by mega churches and the coolest, newest things when it comes to not only fashion and the latest trends–but even when it comes to worship. The musicians that lead on Sunday morning you pass in Target with their shades on…and without thinking about it I smile and say hey just the same as I do for the random stranger I pass on the cereal aisle. I always want to encourage them when I pass them to smile back…we might have worshipped together on Sunday–remember? People to me–are people. Now–if you were Jesus…that’s something else. But if you are not Jesus–you are just people. Just like…me.
For years I thought something was wrong with me walking in or out of a mega-church–because of how I felt in the middle of so many strangers or leaving having a personal experience–with…just–well maybe me and God. That’s the way it’s supposed to be they might tell you–and you get together with a smaller community–your cell group, small group, community group or something like that later in the week. But if you leave feeling alone–do not be discouraged…you aren’t alone and there’s nothing wrong with you. You were made to be known not only by God–but by the body of Christ…to walk together day in and day out…especially at church where you worship.
I’d walk in and want to turn and walk right out. The energy no doubt gravitating–but the community…in order to really be community would have to meet online or at another time to really know one another but never see one another on a Sunday. I mean–we could go completely incognito for months and our absence would totally go unnoticed.
For some–I think this is really okay? I mean–for the introvert that is going to run in and out–you almost WANT this Mega-church type thing where no one will ever know your name or ask you where you’ve been the last few months…and how are things REALLY–like REALLY? But for me–(this is just my confession why you won’t see me there)–it just doesn’t feel like the body.
And it makes me worry–that we are creating the need for entertainment, more lights, more fog, more of an outrageous experience for our kids, new believers and maybe even ourselves–and all of this could cover up the beauty of the missing body of Christ.
I knew the moment my first son started crawling–we needed to leave the mega-church we were attending. Not the church as “the church” but rather the mega-church that we were going to for all the wrong reasons. Now let me confess why we went there for the few years we did…It was comfortable. And entertaining. And famous people leading worship–that’s just pretty cool. We heard the new song before anyone else did. Okay–so those are NOT the reasons we went. But that was pretty exciting and cool. If you asked me 15 years ago why we were there–I would have told you the teaching truly was good. The pastor was captivating. The skits were hilarious. The worship was amazing–like a Christian rock concert.
But…raising my babies there and my own need for the body of Christ–it made me worry.
Because I had once experienced real corporate worship…where you knew your neighbor. You know your neighbor’s raising his hands beside you and you also know the battle he was fighting–and seeing him raise his hands during that battle–did something to me…because I knew my brother. The Holy Spirit did something in me as I could look around the room and know the stories of His power in lives all around me. I would look around and in this mega-church, really knew–like deeply knew–NO ONE. Except my spouse…and maybe another family or three in the west or east wing…who even knew unless I texted where they were. This is okay–except…it didn’t feel at all like a body should feel. Where the parts all know each other. Where the parts all work together. Where when one falls–the other is there to pick it up.
What would I teach my kids about His holy church–the one He died for? How we know each other deeply. How we walk together. How we know and see who is missing–because we can look around and see and know if they are there…and check on them…and serve them…and bring them back to worship alongside us…because we are one body–and this is how the body works.
And when the music or fog or Who’s Who worship team fades…because for a time my kids would think that is pretty stinkin’ cool–and all is striped away? Would they know how to come? Come to their Savior? When they go to college or get transferred to a small town–would they know how to find the body of Christ and how it’s supposed to work together or need more entertainment and fog machines? I see the fog and the dancing and beautiful hype–really…I see the beautiful in it. But. Is it overflowing into the lives and hearts and carrying over into every faucet of our lives with the body of Christ and all it’s glory going with us as we worship together and leave together into the world?
Then–I find myself leaving these concert churches–feeling so alone. And I wonder how many leave feeling the same–and never go back. Because it’s almost impossible to be known there–and that is our hearts desire…to be known…which overflows into our walk with the Lord–leading us to be known and to know Him.
When you go through things–the body is there. You might not have experienced that yet–but the body of Christ is alive and amazing when you find it. They surround you…they know you…they walk the trial with you…they celebrate the blessings by your side. But while we attended a big…as in BIG…church—we walked often alone in and out of the church through the hard things because really–we were unseen. If this is you. Maybe someone reading this who has come and gone…and never gone back for this reason–but please don’t give up on His church. I have to tell you. There are many churches out there that feel good–that are pretty entertaining and awesome like a party–but if you left feeling more unknown and unseen…you are not crazy and you are not alone.
Before I got married, I lived in China for a year. It was a sweet year doing crazy things for the gospel with other believers. I experienced the church in deep, real ways in a country where the church couldn’t legally exist and moved to Atlanta. I walked in to the church where every single in my area said I had to go–to come home to fog-machine worship that really threw me off and took awhile to get used to–until I realized I didn’t have to get used to it…because maybe I wasn’t supposed to. Sure you can worship with fog–you can worship with bubbles and kites and anything for that matter;)–but don’t be discouraged if the concert and who’s who leading worship isn’t for your heart. Because–it wasn’t for mine either. I want to be able to know the one worshipping beside me–or to be able to tell the one leading worship what the Lord did in my heart during that song they chose to sing…without needing a VIP pass or feeling silly because Elvis left the building before I could get there. I just love knowing my people and being known by them–and for me…my heart and family need to know the parts of the body and work together in smallness to do big things with them.
It takes awhile some times to know what your heart needs. My heart longs to just worship beside brothers and sisters who love Jesus…who are surrendered to Him…and who know my name and whose name I know because I believe that’s how we were made to worship and made to do life. Together. To hear and know one another’s needs–and consider how the Lord might want to use US to meet them. Together. To know your loss and know how He has been faithful to you–to see your hands rise during the trial and to go stand with you in worship. Together.
And to bring my children with me. And to allow this to overflow into their lives. To teach them you don’t need that guy on the radio leading worship with a fog machine and lights…that’s pretty cool and I’ll take you to a concert if you think that’s cool…but really–you just need a heart surrendered to Him–and if you have other brothers and sisters you love beside you…well, that’s golden and a blessing–and the body of Christ in one of it’s sweetest forms. To be comfortable without the fog and the lights–and just with that song you have practiced over and over with your guitar teacher to lead us in the living room as we sing together…and see what the body of Christ is. With no separation on Sunday or a special need to gather again just to know your name–because we know and see each other on Sunday or throughout the week when you have a need or you know I might or just to be together doing life together. I want my children to not need the all the noise and amazing entertainment to worship…but to just need a few brothers and sisters in Christ beside them–or even to be alone with just as much awe in the quiet.
Thankful how the Lord has led us from the big…to the small, sweet community where I have met the body of Christ in a real way. May you find Him where ever He leads and experience Him deeply through the body of Christ beside you.