Church Shopping Adventures Continues

Long Beach Cafe. 9/4/2005 12:10 shoppingcart03Admittedly when I went to church this morning my heart was not exactly in a "spiritual" place (ever present relationship distractions and ruminations). The other thing on my mind is a continued discomfort at feeling like I'm "auditioning" churches. But I have to find some place to call my church home so I'm back to visiting churches I'd visited two years ago when I decided to get back to going to church. Today's "victim" was Calvary Chapel Long Beach.

doveI think when I visited them two years ago their pastor was on vacation and I got a guest speaker, thus attendance at the service was probably a bit down. It was also my first time going to a Calvary Chapel in over 15-years and that was a bit of a culture shock to be transported back twenty years (I did the worship music, often solo, at various Calvary Chapels off and on from 1978 to 1982, before moving on to various other churches and then "falling off the planet" following my divorce in 1987). As with all decision built off a cursory surface impression, I remember feeling like I needed something more "concrete" than a fellowship that met in a Middle School auditorium.

I think I felt like I'd already had that experience. Some Calvary pastors I worked with in the past were famous for feeling like owning church property and having buildings was a waste of God's money... besides Jesus was coming back soon and money spent on a nice building would then be totally wasted. Whatever. Little did I know that most of the other churches that I would visit would feel even more "temporary" given their temporary meeting spaces and living room sized attendance. Ack.

So today's church, especially after last week's church, felt much better attended and much more "stable." Given my emotional and mental distractions coming into the service I did have some trouble "getting into" the worship. Well, add to that that I only recognized one song out of the six or seven they played. Then when the worship leader kind of butchered the song I had to grin because when I played that song for the homeless meeting I had a hard time with that song also.

The message (Luke 18 - The parable of the persistent widow) was about prayer and Paul's admonition in 1 Thess. 5:17 to continually pray. The pastor's message felt a bit more structured and obviously I was able to follow his biblical leap-frogging, but it still had that "read the bible, find the message" feel to it (versus the traditional polished church sermon that tends to feel like the pastor came up with a theme and then ran it through his concordance to come up with supporting verses). Either way, the message hit home and *I felt determined not to let my relationship preoccupations with distract me from my relationship with God. That felt good.

choir01When they played the concluding song it hit me, the reason why things didn't quite click for me. Calvary Chapels are very big on "everything Bible," meaning, for example, bible studies from the pulpit versus polished sermons. And that would normally seem like a good thing in terms of the content of their worship music. The problem, however, was one of "audience," who was the intended listener or audience of the song. In many ways what I was feeling was that the songs were sung to God but were meant to be heard by the gathered saved and unsaved. They were more statements of faith instead of expressions of faith. music_staffAgain, I was not in the best place to be open to the worship when I first arrived and the band's performance might have contributed to my state-of-mind, but the songs seemed to "wordy" and a bit "wooden" compared to the sense of spiritual passion I knew from my time at the Vineyard.

So... I guess I'm still on the market. The message was a good message and the community felt much more stable than my last experience, but the music doesn't quite click with me. Granted, most are not going to have my experience with teaching or music and might find my observations overly critical. I'm okay with that. I guess I've just been very fortunate to have found places where I felt so at home at very important times during my renewal of Faith. I just have to continue to be persistent, like the widow in Jesus' parable (Luke 18). JBB

music: I Can Only Imagine - MercyMe - iWorship - Vol. 1 (Disc 1)