Those of us who have long left the nest of parents, who like mine, mandated church in lieu of other forms of punishment, find ourselves dealing with the dilemma of if, and more importantly where, to worship on Sunday mornings. Churches are far from created equal. Every small brick structure with requisite steeple may appear like a nice place to spend a Sunday morning. That is until you show up at 11:00 a.m. only to be offered a rattlesnake as a gateway to your salvation. Past approaches to preaching are not fully appreciated by a growing generation of faithless. Influenced more by their closest friends, the Internet and Facebook, persons searching for soul saving rarely see a Reverend as the source of greater understanding.
Not to mention, today’s churches have some major issues. Being a Church member often times is rarely about saving souls and helping people who are genuinely hurting. When a place of worship is more concerned with putting their pastor on a billboard than ministering to the broken communities in their own backyard, you have to wonder, what does this church really believe in? Where do their priorities lie? Is there really something here that I can take away from these folks that will enrich me at a spiritual level? Committing to a church beyond the level of a casual attendee is work, and sometimes once embroiled in the inner workings, folks find it’s a rung-by-rung climb to see who can get closest to the pastor and his cronies. Church folks are – many times – the worst folks and anyone who has grown up in a church can attest to it. The Lord’s business becomes secondary to personal business, gossip, and self-serving interests, as wrong-intentioned people seek to use the church to inflate their own self-importance.
It’s a level of toxicity found rampant amongst traditional worship centers that have led to newer or progressive churches popping up everywhere from middle school cafeterias to abandoned homes converted in to a space useful for a growing congregation. Massive discontent among traditional church members, who honestly want to do some good, has led to an upsurge in non-denominational off spring. Churches steeped in history and pageantry are at best aloof to what is happening at a social level outside of their doors; at worst not interested in getting involved. Younger, fresher churches are able to lure away the flocks by presenting themselves as an alternative to “old-time religion” by offering frank discussions about AIDS, domestic violence, incest, and drug abuse, hosting prison ministries and taking the word out of the church and to the people. Progressive churches rarely require you be glammed up for God, come as you are, be it some jeans, a hoodie or your favorite kicks. In a society gone crazy for casual, this aspect of progressive churches is sometimes the greatest draw to new comers. Yet, neither of these options addresses spirituality that supersedes rote or random roles and looks more at who we are as beings.
Spirituality has become a pop culture antithesis to the idea of organized religion. Proponents of spirituality argue they don’t need church to know God. Modern lives revolve around the instant and the customizable, so why should matters of faith be any different? If I want God, I can go to him directly. If there is something I don’t know about the world around me, I can find it on Wikipedia.
God is a lot of things, but the most important of them all, is personal. Your own relationship with the most High exists on whether or not you choose to exercise your faith outside the doors of the church.
Progressive churches often times aren’t all that progressive. Storefront preachers are as widespread as they have ever been, and it’s easy to mask cult like ideas by calling yourself a church. If you still feel compelled to find a church home, be careful about where you settle your roots. Keep an open mind and recognize God resides in the ultimate temple, in you at all times.