At retreats, revivals, megachurches, and your average Sunday service, there is always someone in the back who has lost sense of it all. The music blaring, people hollering, lights piercing, front row hopping, lead singer strutting, fog machine fogging, and bass drum beating the guts out of your bowels. Right in the middle of it, you get detached and distracted and disillusioned and you see it for what it really is. Whether you’ve been in church for ten minutes or ten years, this whole stageshow can wear you down instantly. One Sunday you’re enveloped in bliss; the next Sunday you’re watching with arms crossed, a migraine setting in, every riff on the electric guitar an assault on your brain. Everyone else is singing triumphantly but you don’t get it anymore.
While we can chalk this up to an anti-institutional mind of a younger, skeptical generation, we do suspect that praise and worship in the local church has strayed from something pure, raw, real. We’ve flooded the congregation with so many artificial devices and cues that it’s hard to tell if the Spirit is actually working.
I’ve heard, “What you win them with is what you win them to.” When you show a funny video every Sunday with high-caliber production values, it creates a strange appetite for slick perfection. No need for the Spirit. No room for reliance. It’s scary to think that an entire church service full of thousands can be built without one move of the Holy Spirit himself.
The church should certainly be excellent at all it does; as D.C. Talk once said, “If it’s Christian, it oughta be better.” I am not a hipster advocating outdoor church with hemp-made chairs and a bearded surfer with a banjo. Yet when I read the Bible and look at today’s church, something is lost in translation. Most of all, that guy in the back with his arms crossed has lost intimacy with the King. He only sees the crude plastic scaffolding of desperate entertainers and pragmatic preachers, but none of it fully reveals God on His sovereign throne.