This morning I attended one of those “Community” churches that is out of the mainstream and not denominational. I was accompanied by my spouse, R, and another friend. Being very interested in the emerging/emergent church movement, I thought maybe this was one of those kind of churches. I’m not sure if they are emerging or not, but I know that our experience sparked a lively discussion on the car in the way home!
For a liturgical person like myself, the service was well, not really a service and it was not in what I would consider a church. The setting was more like a high school auditorium with two small crosses on the side, no altar, and the stage was primarily for the band which consisted of four guitarists, a keyboard, a drummer, and a soloist. The format was three songs (projected on two screens) which entailed 20 minutes of standing, the offering and another song, and, finally sitting, a forty-minute talk by the pastor sitting on a high chair at one of those tall cocktail type round tables in the middle of the stage. Since the topic was on healing, which I did like, there was also anointing and healing prayer for those who wanted it when the talk was over. Then a three sentence blessing prayer and a “Thanks for coming folks, see you next week.” No vestments, no processions, no scripture readings, no communion, no creed, not much of what I am used to seeing in a worship service. The good news was that about 400 people attended this service and hopefully were spiritually fed in some way. Most of them were most assuredly under 40.
One of the conversations this service sparked was a comment that the song lyrics and sermon message seemed to be “all about me.” Some call it the “feel good” theology about how God loves us and how Jesus will take care of us and how happy we would be if we only trust in the Lord. My friend was concerned about this “all about me” focus and said it should be all about all of humanity and the good of the entire creation, not just “all about me.” I commented that maybe it was “all about me” for we are all God’s creatures and in order for humanity to be whole in a collective sense perhaps it starts with each one of us. We ended the conversation as it was evident we didn’t completely agree.
As I thought about “all about me” during the rest of the afternoon I thought about the people who were at that service. What brought them there? Why did they stay? Why did they come back? What fed them? Was it really “all about me?” And, then, I thought about our busy hectic lives, our fear of harm, our fear for our children’s safety, our fear of losing our jobs, our caring for elderly parents while trying to raise a family, our fears of losing our homes, the pressure of working, making deadlines and schedules, and much, much more. No wonder it is “all about me.” It truly is “all about me” in the sense that every once in a while it is really good to hear that God does love us and that in our darkest hours God will be there to comfort and care for us and to calm our fears. Maybe those people have no one else to lean on for strength and wholeness and this message feeds them from one week to the next.
Sometimes it is really difficult to see the all inclusive message of the Gospels calling us to be concerned for all of humanity, for taking care of our neighbors, for praying for, or working for, world peace, or universal love, or the end of poverty and hunger, or any of those really big ticket items. Sometimes, we just need some personal love and reassurance. And maybe, in the greater scheme of life, that is okay for one hour once a week. And maybe, if God takes care of me, I’ll have the time, strength, and the motivation to think about others in a bigger more blessed way. I do know for a fact that this particular church has a “Corporate” project each year where, in the name of Jesus, they all come together to do good for the community. One year they paid for and built a Habitat house and supplied some 240 volunteers.
Sometimes, I wish my liturgical church would make me feel whole and loved rather than always focusing on the big picture and what I should be doing to help others. Sometimes that big picture is just too overwhelming. Sometimes, I think it’s okay to be “all about me” one hour once a week.