I don’t want to be that person. You know the one – the guy who complains about any and every change, who lives in the past, listens to only 70s music and longs for the good old days. I don’t want to be him. But, but, but, I am him. I do miss things about my past – I can’t help myself. Lisa forces me to listen to current music rather than 60’s and 70’s songs on our Sirius radio. And I have to admit I like much of it. But I cannot shake loose from the thought of things I miss. Recently I have thought a lot about things I miss about the church I grew up in. I mean really, really miss. But, before I go any further let me say this: I get it. I know the church and church leaders had to adjust to the new millennium and an ever changing culture. Relevancy I understand and I would not give any of those changes away if it meant alienating my children and their generation from the church and the gospel of Christ. Still, since this is my blog that I pay for – might as well speak honestly and I suspect that one day my children will also long for the church of their past. So here goes: five things I miss about the church that I grew up in.
1. Hymns. Before you say, “Here we go again”, I just need to get this one out of the way. I really do miss singing (at least on occasion) with hymn books. I miss singing the tenor parts of songs and I miss hearing others singing around me. Hymns remind me of my past, my heritage. They remind me of singing with my mom, my grandad and grandmother and they reconnect me to the family I have lost and miss. The polished sound of church music today is fantastic but our modern church acoustics and sound technology has advanced us right out of hearing anything but what comes at us from the stage. I can’t even hear myself sing let alone those around me. It is the reason, I believe, that congregational singing is so diminished today than thirty years ago. We simply cannot hear ourselves. I remember being at a Seventh Day Adventist Church in Loma Linda California and experiencing a classic ” high church” worship. It was not my style, but, I could hear people singing around me. What was most memorable was hearing an older lady behind me singing at the top of her lungs Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”. Her small, somewhat squeaky voice was certainly not performance quality, but was as joyful a noise as scripture could ever call for and when the service ended, I turned to thank her for singing with such gusto. I was somewhat surprised to see it was an African American senior adult. She blessed Lisa and I beyond measure. Here we were living clear across the country at Christmas time and this little voice made us both feel connected to the people of God. That is what hymns do. They connect us to our heritage and each other. I miss that.
2. I miss seeing people worship. Our church has incredible lighting technology. I admire those who have worked to create an ambiance that is designed to be worshipful. However, I cannot see others. Since Lisa and I are typically late for worship, we struggle to find a seat, primarily because we cannot see the seats. The low lighting is great to remain incognito and allow for a worship experience that provides privacy. But, what is “corporate” worship if one cannot see others worship? I need to see others of the faith worshipping. It is both inspiring and motivating. Scripture charges us to “encourage one another” and my faith has been built upon the witness of others that I have seen. Show me your faith, show me your worship, show me the love you have of our Lord. I need to see you.
3. I miss a church with windows. This may seem odd but I actually miss windows in my church. I grew up in a church that had windows that in warm weather would be open to allow the sound of the world outside inside and the message through song and sermon to spill out. I loved that. I miss that. The open windows served as a reminder to me that we were part of a community, even a neighborhood, that we were to influence and impact with the gospel. The design of modern day churches seems to intentionally close off the outside world, even silence it from disrupting the activity within. Most modern sanctuary designs are windowless and so closed off from the world it is charged to influence that it seems practically cloistered. I miss windows.
4. I miss Sunday night services. There was something about Sunday evening services that seemed to glue a congregation together. Typically the Sunday evening crowd was made up of the most dedicated of members and that time together served to galvanize our commitments to our Lord and one another. When numbers became the main focus of the modern church, Sunday night services were dropped faster than a beer can from a baptist deacon. Sunday night services no longer seemed necessary since the numbers did not add up. Why continue an activity of the church that only a hundred people attend when the morning services draw nearly a thousand? What we failed to realize is that those Sunday nights pulled the core membership into a close fellowship that bricked the foundation of future growth. I miss gathering in a circle on Sunday nights, holding hands and singing, “Blessed Be The Tie That Binds”. That felt like not just church – but family. I miss that.
5. I miss fellowship. What happened to laughter and joy? In our haste to save the world we seem to have forgotten how to be free in the Lord and happy. There is a seriousness that has overshadowed the life of the church to the extent that having fun, being joyful and enjoying life seems practically sinful. There was a time when people laughed in church, when the church designed events to cause laughter and fun in its people. I miss that. I suspect heaven will be a happy place and today’s church is not ready for it. We have forgotten how to laugh together. Bring back the silly fellowships with crazy music, silly costumes, funny skits. Let me hear the church laugh again. I miss that.
So, there you go. My list of five things I miss about church. Who cares? I have no idea. I love the church – I love my church and I doubt what I say or write will have much bearing on the direction the church will take in the future. I only know that I am determined to go with it. I may not always like where it takes me – and I’m not giving up my seat just yet. But, you may notice me looking over my shoulder on occasion to see where we have been.
I can’t help myself.