breaking down stained-glass traditions in search of the presence of God
August 19, 2011
Emily B. Cummins
I was practically born inside the church walls. Some of my earliest memories involve waiting for my parents for hours after church services ended and playing massive hide & seek games in the worship center. Yes, much of this is due to the fact that my Dad is a pastor; but, throughout the past twenty years of my life, I’ve come to see church as more than a pretty building filled with stained-glass windows and a permeating silence that deemed it as “holy.” I believe that the church has the potential to change the world…but only if she is willing to change herself.
Church can be…well…predictable. You show up, sing two or three songs, pass the offering plate, listen to some announcements, hear teaching from a catchy series, sing a final song, and head out for the rest of your day. Then you wait 6 days to do it all over again. You dress to impress, raise your hands during songs, and plaster a smile on your face–all in the name of “worship.” Life moves fast Monday through Saturday and the routine continues. Over and over. And over. And if all that isn’t enough, if you aren’t happy with an aspect of that “worship,” you can just hop to a different church and start the process over. But my question is, what is all of that really doing–and is that even really “worship”? The news around me seems to be getting darker daily and hope is vanishing from the faces around me. Is the routine of church helping or hindering?
The most Biblical question to ask about a church is not whether you like the music or if they have a cool twenty-somethings Bible study. The most Biblical question to ask is what is their discipleship process? How are we trusting God? How are we loving people? How are we investing our lives? You can have all the flair in the world, yet miss the whole point entirely. As far as I’m convinced, if I have the cutest outfit on, look like I’m worshipping whole-heartedly, and am involved in every ministry possible, yet am not living what I’m learning, I’ve missed it.
I’m over stained-glass windows and pretty decor. I’m done with nifty little slogans and perfect church signs. I want something real; something raw and imperfect. I want to walk into an environment where I can be completely imperfect & have my flaws exposed and just worship my God. And I don’t think I’m the only one searching for organic community.
I believe the church has the potential–and the opportunity–to change the world, we just need to break a few stained-glass windows (don’t worry, I don’t mean literally). I believe it is time to break the traditions we have held so tightly and leverage everything we have to partner with people to discover in Christ we have Hope! Could you imagine what would happen in your community if your church did everything short of sin to reach people with the truth about Jesus Christ?
In his post, “Jesus is for Quitters,” Max Dubinsky asks a great question: If we removed the lights and sounds, the performances, the videos, the special presentations, would you still go to church? He goes on to say, Why is God simply not enough to draw an attendance? The creator of the Universe. The God that halts the waves, designed the veins that run to your heart, the blood cells that clot to keep you alive, and breathed every flaming violent star in the sky into existence? Because the church is not making enough room for God.
Ouch. That statement is tough, but so deeply and utterly true. And that truth is why I’m choosing to invest in the church. If we choose to break down our stained-glass traditions to make room for the presence of God, our world would look completely different. Church has so easily become a stadium filled with fans, rather than a gathering of followers.
My prayer is that God will raise up leaders who are willing to uproot what we’ve known in search of creating an organic community of Christ followers–followers willing to share their weaknesses, failures, and victories in an environment where fake perfection is no longer the normality, and peeling back the layers of our Sunday “best” is encouraged. God, grant us the courage to be real and the authenticity to change.