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Friday, March 18, 2005

So, how do you do church?

When I was in Perth, Western Australia, I called this church "home." My family and I still miss the church in many ways.

Some of the things this poster wrote about the church may still be true about it although I didn't think it was too engrossed what he called the "prosperity doctrine" even when we were attending.

I was especially intrigued by his take on some of the things that he was critical about the church and thought that we Christians seem to be guilty of them universally.

One is "clique-ism." I remember as the young people at a smaller church we used to deal with this problem. Our youth leaders used to urge the regulars at the youth group to go out of our way to reach out to those who are new and not stick to those we like to hang out with all the time.

I also remember that the first time I attended the church I go to now, I stood after the Sunday service merely a few feet from some others who gathered around greeting, chatting, smiling, hi-fiving each other.

All seemed oblivious to me standing there. I don't remember even having eye contact with anyone throughout the entire time.

After about 10 to 15 minutes of standing around, I recalled that the Buffalo Bills were playing on TV (for a die hard Bills fan in Southern California, that is a real treat!).

So I headed towards the parking lot, walking past more folks who were busily greeting and catching up with old friends, got in my car and left. No one seemed to have noticed that I came that morning, and no one seemingly cared that I left not having met anyone else.

It took me a while to return for a visit, even though in my hunt for a suitable church all around Southern California, and in speaking with various Christians, quite a number recommended that I "check out" this church. Already did I would tell them. Crossed them off my list. I would say. A couple of times I was urged to reconsider and check them out again. That was why I came back, bringing my family along. This time, I came to stay though. But, what if these friends of mine didn't persist in their recommendations?

Another thing this guy criticized was the way the worship leader called the congregation to "celebrate." In the comments the poster suggested that it was better if worship leaders invited the congregation to worship only if they were comfortable.

I suppose nowadays, public worship services are no longer the gathering of a community of like-minded people who are linked by a shared faith, a shared custom and a shared passion. Different people at various point in their spiritual walk come into our midst. How then shall we serve them?

It might be interesting to observe our own gatherings from an outsider perspective, and see how "attractive" we are to first time visitors, or seekers who are not too used to what we normally do during our services.

How does your congregation or gathering measure up?