Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Where Is The Church?

So they do church different (sic) on Sundays at 10:30 AM. But Growth Hour begins at 9:15. What's a growth hour? Should I come wearing my sweats and expect to be on the treadmill, the elliptical or doing step aerobics? If the clientele resembles that of typical America, it would probably do more to lower health care costs than anything else if Growth Hour were just that--a physical workout.

Who knows? This church may indeed be starting a second Reformation. If it helped fix our unfit bodies, who knows what it could do for our minds? We could use that, too.

But it all seems like a product. There seems to be a niche market for every age group and ethnicity. Is it a Slavic Service or a worship service? Is it God-centered or product-centered?
How do all the niche market offerings of the warehouse church actually help make of us the "one in Christ" envisioned by Jesus in the high-priestly prayer or by Apostle Paul in Gal. 3:28?

Is making disciples per the Great Commission a matter of finding a program tailored to everyone's needs?

Or is it a matter of having us finally come into contact with our neighbors so that Christ can live in the midst of us rather than finding a product that makes us feel different for an hour? Is following Christ more than getting our "church fix" for the week?

I haven't found any Jesus quotes about a growth hour yet. Maybe I haven't looked diligently enough.

One thing's for sure, though. Christian churches in the past overbuilt. And they over-competed. See that odd T-shaped flagpole? It's actually a decapitated cross. The upwardly soaring roofline did not start out to be a Buddhist temple.

No, you're looking at the site of the former Epiphany Lutheran Church at NE 165th & Glisan. When Jean and I first moved here, we took mid-week childbirth classes here. That was before we bought a house only a short walk away.

We went to worship here a time or two. It was being led by a member of the congregation. They were without a pastor. We didn't join, and the congregation soon closed. But the same soon happened to the one we did join at NE 133rd and Sandy Blvd. Well, we didn't actually close the congregation but married (or moved in with) another larger Lutheran congregation in the area. That former Gloria Dei Lutheran Church where our newborn daughter was baptized? It's now a Buddhist temple also.

So what happens when the neighborhood changes but the church doesn't? Did the two Lutheran churches close because they lacked a growth hour?

I can honestly say that I've never been even slightly motivated to cross the threshold of a building that advertised a growth hour. I guess it's because I think true growth in Christ happens "out there" somewhere in the messy world in the messiness of people's lives. Not in the "in there" comfort of bookstores, cafe's and air conditioning. With gated parking.
Somdeday, the neighborhood around the warehouse church will change, too. Right now, nobody lives around it. Everybody drives there. The little churches that aren't churches today? Lots of people lived around them--and still do. Maybe the walls of the building were thicker than we thought. Maybe we do a better job of keeping people out than bringing them in. Maybe to folks on the outside, even our friendly (to us) little neighborhood churches looked more like warehouses than we inside could see.
Maybe we need to get out of storage more.

No comments: