Jan and I went to three worship services at three different churches this past weekend. Not that I needed to go three times (maybe Jan did), but we did have reasons for going to each one.
The churches and their services were all dramatically different. One had less than 20 in attendance, one had a few hundred present, and one had thousands worshipping. The music in one was almost like a concert, one somewhat contemporary, and one used a piano and organ.
One of the pastors read his sermon, one used notes, and one spoke without notes except when reading the Bible. One preached for 40 or more minutes, one around 30 minutes, and one about 25 minutes. Two of the preachers stayed with one Bible passage and the third used multiple passages.
One church building was quite old and traditional, one was an older building with a somewhat traditional set up, and one was new and contemporary. We were warmly greeted at all three, and we participated and worshipped at all three churches. Was going to three different churches and services too much church? I don’t know, but I was reminded of some important things.
Churches are different—no two churches are exactly alike—and that is a good thing. People have different preferences when it comes to style or philosophy of worship. Pastors and preachers are also different—and that too is a good thing. Not every church is suited for every person. The church and style of worship you like is not necessarily right and best; nor is the style of worship and church you do not prefer necessarily wrong or bad.
The church universal is incredibly diverse in terms of local congregations and believers who make up those churches. The three churches we attended are all in one city within a 10 mile radius; how much more interesting it would be to go to three or more worship services in churches in three or more different cultures. Some readers have probably had that experience, but I have not. But even within the same city, circle of friends, or family there is a great diversity of “tastes” among followers of Jesus. I wish we all would be more open to the differences and less critical of that which is not exactly suited to our taste.
While I was writing down these thoughts I received and read an article by Karl Vaters on this very subject. I especially like his observation: “There are at least as many ‘right’ ways to do church as there are congregations.” Later he challenges, “Let’s stop looking for a one-size-fits-all way to do church. And stop insisting on it for others.” He rightly acknowledges “There are definitely some wrong ways to do church.” But I would add that just because we don’t particularly like something doesn’t make it wrong.
I think the two most important things I was reminded of this weekend by going to three different churches and worship services are these: the Church is God’s idea and we need it. And while I’m not interested in doing it every week, I don’t think there can be too much church. Disregard the photo at the top–its purpose was to get your attention; while I too have my preferences, I wasn’t bored in any of the services.
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photo credit: cseeman <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/7702423@N04/27846427391″>Flappy on a Lazy Saturday in Saline</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>