Jesse got onto me about loaning him my signed copy of Good Omens (‘It’s the only copy I have! And you had to read it!’—and, I never loan books out to people who won’t take care of them), but just for the record, probably no one but Kelly will ever read my signed, hardcover copy of The Dispossessed (and she is entitled only because she also worships admires UKL and she bought it for me). Fortunately, I have another copy of The Dispossessed with which to loan to friends.
I went to my first ever megachurch today. It didn’t used to be a megachurch; I had gone there a year or so ago when I last visited the Williams’, but over the summer the elders of the church chose to join a larger, nationwide church. The congregation wasn’t much larger than the church I go to at home (‘home’ being Scotland in this sense), but the sermon was a pre-recorded sermon that we watched on a screen. I didn’t like it. I feel like a pastor ought to know the names of as many of his congregants as he can remember. I went to a very large church in San Antonio, and my pastor there is one of the best examples of a pastor I can think of; it’s hard to find other pastors like him and is probably one reason why I hold such a high standard when searching for a church.
Anyhow, there are lots of things I can say about the sermon but I won’t say them here. The main thing I will say is that I saw a need at this church—in the megachurch—that is a need I have seen across the board at the different churches I have visited: what to do with the educated layperson. It seems that churches are geared for evangelism and discipleship for new believers, and, in this particular church, equipping church planters to go out and start new satellite groups, but what does a church do with someone who already studies the Bible regularly, thinks about what they read and believe, and are otherwise a thoughtful and educated believer? I know that the pastor’s job is difficult: in addition to everything else, the sermon must also apply to people in many different levels of their spiritual journeys. More often than not, the church will say, ‘Well, that is what your small group is for’ when it comes to the educated laity. If the church says this, then it must also encourage and, hopefully, provide the materials so that the small groups are able to do this. And where there are no small groups, as is the case with the church I go to in Scotland, perhaps there ought to be.
It was an interesting experience. I said I didn’t like it, but of course I could not say that without examining my conscience and figuring out why I didn’t like it, and doing so allowed the experience to challenge me. If I have such an ecumenical vision, I could not allow myself to be distrustful or contemptuous of this form of worship. I used to enjoy contemporary worship, could connect with it, but it has become harder for me to do so. A service like the one I went to today, it didn’t matter whether I was there or not. Neither is my presence necessary in a liturgical service, but because the liturgy is responsive, I contribute.
While I debated whether to go down for Communion, I looked at the people worshiping around me. It struck me that I had been seeing them as a collective whole of the ‘corporate megachurch’; instead, they were individuals. Each person in that room was seeking God; God was reaching out to each one of them. I may prefer a different worship style, I may disagree about predestination, but neither of these things mean that we do not worship the same Lord, the same Christ who we both claim as the author and means of our salvation.
I am still uncertain as to my thoughts of the megachurch phenomenon. The one I went to today seems to be one of the less-commercialized ones, and, as Sarah pointed out, the Catholic church was the first ‘megachurch’ if we want to consider the similar hierarchical structure. There are virtues and vices to every denomination; that is why, I suppose, we must all consistently and vigorously examine our faith.