Forewarning, this might step on some toes. And that's ok. Put your big girl panties or big boy britches on and read, think on it, pray about it, and try not to be so offended. :-)
In the first chapter of my book, Just Be!, I discuss the importance of finding a local church to be plugged into. Over the past several weeks it seems to have been the topic of discussion everywhere I turn. These questions keep coming up: What do you look for in a church? How do you know you've found the right church? What is important in a church? Why even be plugged in to a local church at all?
Excerpt from the book, Just Be! answers several of these questions but the rest is up to you: "Visit several. Pray about each one. Start attending regularly. Get to know the others that attend. Measure what is being taught and preached with the Word of God for accuracy. Once you find the church you feel most comfortable in you will find that the people you attend church with are like your very own brothers and sisters. They will become like family to you."
But I'd like to expand on this.
Acts 5:14 says: Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their numbers.
This is from the NIV Life Application Study Bible. The footnotes to this reads as follows: "What makes Christianity attractive? It is easy to be drawn to churches because of programs, good speakers, size, beautiful facilities, or fellowship. People were attracted to the early church, however, by expressions of God's power at work, the generosity, sincerity, honesty, and unity of the members, and the character of the leaders. Have our standards slipped? God wants to add believers to his church, not just newer and better programs or larger and fancier facilities."
So in reading this, I see that this is directly in-line with many conversations I've not only had, but have read online and heard others talking about. There will always be folks who are attracted to the "entertainment" value in a church. There will always be folks who are attracted to the fancy and expensive buildings. There will always be folks who are attracted to the "programs" and the technology a church has. But is this really what church is all about?
I think in all the excitement of building new buildings, adding new technology, creating new programs for every group of people you can imagine, we've lost sight of what church is really about. It's about Jesus. HE is the heart of the church. HE is the foundation of the church. HE is what it's all about. HE set the example and it was not with flash and show and a group of backup singers, smoke, fog and lights. I couldn't care at all about the technology a church has, the size of its membership, or how fancy the building may or may not be. And I certainly do not care about the entertainment provided. We all should be seeking out a church that teaches and preaches the Word of God. A church that puts Jesus as the center of it all, not a building or a program or the size of a worship team or the amount of technology used. A church that is more focused on what Jesus started than it is on what the next piece of technology will be is what we all should be seeking.
(another topic in the book, Just Be!) I remember very well going to church with my great grandmother when I was a little girl. I remember Sunday School. I remember the lessons. I even remember the smell (and yes, taste LOL) of the paste we used to make our little Bible story pictures. I remember the songs we sang. And then I am so disheartened to see that in todays churches we don't have any of this anymore. We have videos. We have contemporary songs that the kids don't really care to learn or hear. I'm "old school". I still believe in teaching the kids using an actual, real, printed Bible where they learn to actually use it (what the Bible is, how it is divided, how to use the concordance, how to look up passages). I'm all for not having electronic Bibles in the children's church program. I'm all for having the children take turns reading passages from the Bible for the lesson. I'm all for having real live discussions about the passages we just read. I'm all for actually bringing the Bible to life for our young kids so that they can actually see and hear and feel and know that the Bible is real and relevant today. I cannot describe to you the pure joy and excitement that you get when having a conversation with a child and see and know that they get it....that they actually understood the lesson you've just taught ("old school" style). I cannot describe the pure joy you feel when a child has come to know and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Without these real teachings, without these real conversations....how are we actually teaching our children about Jesus? How are we leading them to Him? How are we discipling them?
Now, so that you don't think that I am totally against "mega churches"...I began reading a book called Radical by David Platt. He is a preacher of what would be considered a "mega church". And he talks extensively about how our focus in church has shifted from Jesus to big fancy buildings, the lifestyles that we live and other things of this world including how we measure "success" in the church. Great read that I think many can relate to.