Winter Break.....that's what we call the 2nd and 3rd weeks of January at my house. It's when Sarah Jane and Sophia return to the routine of school and piano and violin lessons and youth groups, but the college students haven't yet returned. For Todd and I, that means a more focused to-do list, but nice, open days to get things done. We've really enjoyed the last week....a couple of days we've spent several hours at Barnes & Noble or Panera, just reading and talking....we're reading a book together (Visioneering by Andy Stanley), Todd's reading and writing for some upcoming weddings and Bible studies, trying to think ahead to all of the preparations necessary for the new semester.
Another thing we try to do in our "down time" is visit local churches - to build those relationships a little bit, meet people, and just see what God is doing around town. Last night we went to Hope Church (formerly Hope Evangelical Free) on West Wabash. They have a great new building and seem to be growing inside and out. Afterwards, our family went out for dinner and we spent some time talking about what we noticed or appreciated about the different church.
Sophia liked the drama they did about legacy and how we influence people without even knowing it.....
I liked the music they played before and after the service - it wasn't the typical instrumental worship cd - much more of a real rock sound...and they sang a Desperation song (one of my very favorite worship cd's) and NO ONE does Desperation songs!
Todd like the older guy on the worship team who really got into the music, swinging his arms and working to get the congregation involved in worship....
Sarah....well, she was just kind of bored and didn't like having to stand to sing...okay, I guess she isn't used to being in "big church" and shouldn't have to really enjoy it yet!
Hope is a great church.....they're very "contemporary", whatever that means....they do alot of drama and testimonies and creative arts on the stage, they have a great band with an electric sting bass(!!), great preaching, coffee bar in the lobby, very "willow creek-ish"......and I was thinking about this ongoing conversation Christians have about worship styles and church styles and all of that.....and I decided is that what I like most about Hope isn't the music, or the style or the creative worship.....what I like about Hope is that when we visit there, you can tell that they love God. The church is alive with people who are passionate about their faith, about growing, about being real, and about building community.
I've also gone to more "traditional" churches where I've thought the same thing. Cherry Hills isn't like "old school" church, but it's much less contemporary than, say, Hope. Still, when we visit Cherry Hills, what I sense is that even though there isn't a hip band and cool audio visual stuff, you can tell that Pastor Jeff has a heart for God - it oozes from him. And many of the people who are part of that community have that same heart.
And I guess that's the issue. Is a church alive? Do they love God? Because I've been to plenty of churches where that's NOT the feeling I get when I leave.....plenty of churches that go through the motions, that have a routine they stick to....it may be contemporary or traditional....with liturgical worship or a rockin' band....empty.
I love hymns - and CSF uses hymns almost every week.....and I also love creative worship with drama and audio-visual elements....we use those, too. But I hope that when people describe what happens on Friday nights (and at RCC for that matter), it isn't about what kinds of songs we sing or whether we fit into a mold of what they think church should look like. I hope people use terms like "authentic" and "alive" and "real".