Sunday, February 19, 2012
Mega-Church Person User Guide For When Visiting a Country Church
This article was inspired when I was visiting a great small church today called Antioch, in Watkinsville,GA off highway 15. On this same day a relative was visiting one of the well-known multi-site mega-churches in an old Wal-Mart building in Athens.
This is a user guide for your use, mega-church multi-site person, in how a country church operates when you are visiting coming from a mega-church.
1) Babies- You get a certain look from folks in church when a baby is approaching. The mega-church will wisk the annoyance of the worship service away quickly to get this "precious cargo" out of sight. Do not worry Mom. The staff will give you a buzzer/beeper, like just like at Outback Steakhouse, and they will let you know that they cannot handle precious and you pick it up NOW.
The country church will be well aware of a baby approaching. You will get looked at. Why you ask? The folks want to know when you are going to share and pass the baby for them to hold. Baby Boomers might understand this term "Don't Bogart that baby my friend". Give'em here it's my turn to hold 'em.
If there is a problem with your baby, if you decide to leave your baby in the nursery, at the country church, the lady running the nursery will peek her head out of the door during the service and give you a glance, Mom. You will know her and she will know you. You will do what you feel is the best for the infant there.
2) Music- These things (racks?) in the back of the pew in front of you are holding something. They are called hymn books. The country church I went to also had a screen with the words on them. Neither the hymnbooks or screen were really needed by those in worship. The songs Amazing Grace, Victory In Jesus and When We All Get To Heaven seemed to be known and sung strongly by all.
Victory In Jesus is the Free Bird of this crowd. Beaulah Land is their Stairway To Heaven; to put it in 1970's rock terms. I do not know what popular nasty rap songs they would be equivalent to in today's popular music. What did seem to be a problem was these folks were all too busy worshipping to seem to care if they were not playing the current and latest CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) top 40.
These folks seemed to have a history with this music. No one complained these songs were old or dated. From front row to the back the people were participating in worship. Their "worship team" was long time pianist and song leader Tony who is the music director. He had help from the organist, and no rock band. The congregation of the church was the main choir called up. And it seemed all the congregation participated in song and were involved with singing and worshiping. The congregation was not watching some stranger on stage do worship for them.
The folks seemed very satisfied in not having a rock band or "worship leader".
I think the modern "worship leader" is supposed to be like a front man in a rock band like Mick Jagger used to be. I have never understood really yet what the biblical definition of a "worship leader" is, but be patient. This particular church, Antioch, is around 200 years old, way out in the country and they just might not know any better.
3) Christmas- This is quite a problem in particular when Christmas falls on a Sunday. Many of the Mega-Churches were faced with the problem of having to waste their Sabbath Christmas at church. Cancellation for inconvenience sake is obviously an option now. Nobody knew that at Antioch. You can just decide not to meet now if something else is more important for the whole congregation.
It's not like there is a commandment on keeping your Sabbath. On second thought check number four of the big ten.
But, the country church Antioch had its problem's also concerning Christmas falling on a Sunday this past year. They had to bring in extra chairs. At this inter-generational church with a long history in the community, this family church and local folks and newcomers knew they would be at worship on Christmas without being notified on Facebook or being Tweeted.
If the members had guests over the holidays for some reason they brought them.
4) The Preacher- Do not be alarmed but the man preaching the gospel sermon is real and in studio, I mean sanctuary, to use their terms. This is no video or hologram. He does it every week and it is planned that way.
They say he even visits people in the hospital, nursing homes, at funeral home visitation and that he personally does their weddings and funerals. The folks act like they know him. This guy even shows up at their homes to visit shut-ins and the elderly, new babies and sometimes just to visit.
5) No Generational Segregation- That is right. At this church children and teenagers sat with grandparents and parents. Many of the parents of these kids seemed to even be married. Is this a strange coincidence between families worshiping together and marriage success? I just do not know. George Barna or Ed Stetzer must be notified immediately on this one so we can get their latest research. Here the church did not reflect the world- and that can't be normal for a church right? This is real X-Files stuff I'm telling you.
6) Applause- The small church did seem to be relevant in the modern church scene one time today. Surprisingly this was not when a great electric guitar rift was finished. Applause broke out about something God had done. A woman announced during prayer request time that she was declared cured by her doctor of cancer. The people clapped and clapped. Many of the people in attendance indicated by their response that they actually knew who she, a fellow worshiper, was.
7) Communion- They do it here it seems every week. (Reminder: Communion or the Lord's Supper is observance of the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ for the salvation of us worshipers a.k.a. the Body Of Christ.) Jesus did say "Do this in remembrance of me." in 1st Corinthians 11:25. They did not forget at Antioch.
They acted like it was vital for their congregational to have communion. It did not seem like something to get through with them. No. They do not wait to do it quarterly or at night or at some detached side-service so this thing will not interfere with their service flow.
8) Dress- Yes some were with it and wore jeans at Antioch. Some wore coats and ties and the latest dresses. It seemed whatever the folks wore it was because they were going somewhere important and they were there for a reason. It did not seem like the dress down for work day there.
9) Setting- Stained glass, a pulpit that stayed in the middle of their stage with a Bible on it with a table in front. It seems that with their worship space at Antioch they only had room for preaching, praying, singing, sharing communion and for baptism behind the choir loft. There was no room for mimes, a rock band, interpretative dance, plays or other things not in the Bible we must have in corporate worship today. How have they stumbled through this for over two hundred years way out in the country and have a packed house every week?
10) Prayer Style- The prayer was personal and specific. In the service, several regular folks were mentioned by name. When deacons were called up or other lay leaders of the church, it was not because they were or were not polished speakers. People of the congregation led prayer, but somehow it seemed important and reverent still. The bulletin included prayer concerns as if they expected members to be personally concerned with each other with the unsaid expectation they were somehow were connected outside of the public meeting and were expected to pray at home for these people.
These people in the congregation seemed to just walk up to the front and to lead congregational prayer like they were supposed to do it. Nobody waited for a professional to give a brief general prayer. They had these deacon guys that everyone seemed to know leading prayers for communion.
Hang in there mega-church person. These folks do not know what they've got and don't have. Be patient. Remember churches like Antioch will insist on community, authenticity and a sense of membership and responsibility in being self-declared baptized members of the Body of Christ. Be patient with them.
They have been doing this for over two hundred years and do not know about "being relevant" yet.