KEEPING THE FAITH: Get Out!!!

Published: Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 09:50 AM.

Churches are peculiar places. I’ve had the opportunity to serve a few of them. Some of my pastoral experiences have been overwhelmingly rewarding: Baptisms, weddings, the transformation of individuals and families. Some other experiences have been about as much fun as a sharp stick in the eye.

And the churches which I have served have met in a diverse number of places: In the hollow of a school gymnasium; in a leaky storefront on the wrong side of the tracks; in a multi-million dollar sanctuary with all the technological bells and whistles; in an old redbrick church so old it barely escaped the fires of General Sherman’s army (some of the deacons in that old redbrick church building may have served in Sherman’s army; but I digress).

Here is one of the many things that make churches peculiar: The most heated arguments in the church were not over our location or theology or future plans. No, the worst controversies I ever endured were over our style of worship.

Should we use hymnals or modern worship music? Should drums be allowed in the sanctuary? Is it blasphemy to move the pulpit to accommodate the children’s choir? What would happen if someone clapped or raised their hands during the solo? These are the questions that send the ulcerated pastor scurrying to his or her gastrologist.

See, with all these exotic locales came an equally exotic variety of worship styles. I’ve preached after a stately anthem performed by robed choir members and pipe organs. I’ve tapped my foot and clapped my hands to the cranking riffs of old hippies with electric guitars. I’ve listened closely to the tight four-part harmony of southern gospel.

I’ve worn a suit and tie to church; I’ve worn shorts and sandals. I’ve delivered time-honored three point sermons with a poem and a prayer; and I’ve preached with the technological assistance of multimedia, projectors, videos and fog machines. I’ve witnessed the traditional Easter cantata; and I’ve even seen a few interpretive dance steps across the church podium.

And all this worship diversity is in a single strain of the Protestant tradition! This doesn’t account for the truly wild multiplicity of worship expression that stretches across the Christian biosphere from the Pentecostals to the Presbyterians.



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