Recently at a church service, someone from the platform hit a sour note during praise and worship. My wife elbowed me and made a sour face, and without thinking I said “Its not a talent show!” I didn’t intend to be rude to my wife, I was thinking the same thing that she was regarding the malformed melody. Blurting out as I did, it seems my comment was directed as much at me as it was to Stephanie. I have often been caught up in the audience / performer mentality. I believe we are in an entertainment seeking culture with television, movies, the Internet, and the many other non-interactive media forms we have heaped upon us in the last several decades. I’ve often found myself deciding on whither a preacher was ‘good’ or not based on how entertaining he was. I have had conversations where I commented that “if they can’t sing, they shouldn’t be on the platform”. The problem is, church as I see it was not designed to be an entertainment outlet – and I repent for treating as such.
A friend of mine recently started a house church, due in part to the condition of the traditional church model as an entertainment venue. He has ‘meetings’ instead of ‘services’, and in a recent post on his blog he pointed out the difference. As I understood him, services are based on an entertainment model with a platform of performers and an audience of spectators but meetings are expected to be participatory (http://www.blog.godfidence.org/2007/10/15/house-church-clarification/). I’m not sure how well the ‘meeting’ model would work in the traditional church service with a few hundred people in the same room, but that’s his point (as I understand it).
Is the traditional church model effective? How does the traditional church affect the world around it? I believe the local church building does have importance in our world today. It can be an anchor in a community in a way that I do not believe a home based church can. Still, the need to connect on a personal level is very real and a home based church makes a greater demand for that connection on its members. By reducing the size of the congregation, the entertainer/entertainee dynamic is almost completely removed.
The problem I see is our ability to affect change on a large scale is reduced when we reduce our mass (pun intended). Ten people in a house church are easily ignored by a politician deciding how to vote on an abortion bill, and while the outreach would be significant to those that did receive it from a small house church, the impact that can be made in the community by a larger congregation is obvious. In either case – we need more churches, traditional, non-traditional, large and small, in homes or in buildings – we need more churches. To quote an entertaining preacher that I once knew, Hell is real and eternality is long – so I again repent for treating the church as another entertainment source. It’s not a talent show.