Over the course of the next couple of months I am embarking on what I am calling my “Post-Evangelical Pilgrimage.” My goal is to step outside the friendly confines of the evangelical tradition in which my faith began in order to gain an appreciation for what is going on in the larger Church, in its various traditions.
Today, I took a bit of a baby step by going with my youngest son (14 months!) to a small (30-50 people) Church of the Nazarene congregation around the corner from my house. It’s a church in the precarious position of trying to bring in younger members while still ministering to the needs of its older members, who make up the majority of the congregation.
I’ve actually been to one other, much larger, much “hipper” Church of the Nazarene church (which has many things to recommend it), and let’s just say – this was almost nothing like it. And it certainly was nothing like my home church, in all of its young-adult, loud worship, self-service communioning glory (take those as both compliment and critique – they are both).
There are many things that I like about my church, but I really enjoyed my time at the Nazarene church today both because of what was missing and what was present.
What was missing? The noise! One of the things I absolutely love about evangelicalism is the passion of its adherents. But that very passion – loud worship, loud prayer, loud loud loud – is also one of my biggest criticisms. I think modern-day evangelicalism, in its desire to be hip, relevant, and not boring, leaves very little space for God on Sunday. We crowd him out with the noise of our exuberance!
In contrast, I was acutely aware of the presence of God in the quiet of the service this morning. No gut busting praise music here – just classic hymns which expressed theological truths of God beyond “we love you, Lord” – sung by the worship team, the pastor himself. No powerpoint presentations. Just the congregation, the minister, and the word of God. Jesus unplugged.
And what was present? The Holy Eucharist. No self-serve elements. No little plastic cups. But the assembled people of God coming forward to receive the body and blood of Christ together.
I really enjoyed my time there this Sunday. The message was excellent – a reminder of God’s ridiculous grace which would forgive a ten thousand talent debt and command us to do likewise with the much smaller debts owed us. The fellowship was warm. And the service helped focus me more reverently on the Lord this Sunday.