Disclaimer: This is written purely on my opinions and experiences alone and may or may not apply to all people, all traditional churches.
In the heart of the city I live in, you’ll find a church with traditional Gothic architecture. Towers that reach to the sky, stained glass everywhere, heavy wooden doorways within arched doorways. Inside, the smell of beeswax and wood soothes the senses, the altar sits East, golden and shining in it’s splendor. If it is quiet, every sound echoes in the sanctuary and if there are people, a quiet chatter abounds. Anglican custom decrees silence before service but many women enjoy church gossip instead while the men watch after the children and sit in silence awaiting the choir procession. Five minutes before service starts, the bell in the bell tower is rung, silencing all. The organ starts, the choir enters from the back of the sanctuary singing the appointed hymn. Behind them, the altar guild carries the cross high for all to bow as it passes their pew, both priests sing along with the choir dressed in their vestibules, and the four Franciscan brothers follow before all take their appointed seats at the altar.
If you have ever attended an Anglican/Episcopalian service, you know the worship exercise you do. Stand, sit, kneel, sit, stand. There is no raising of hands in worship, there is only holding the Book of Common Prayer, clasping your hands in confession of sin, and accepting the Bread/crossing your arms at Communion. Everything is routine, if the service is light-hearted or solemn the people reflect that. If you’re lucky, your priest who gives the sermon understands how to make you laugh before preaching the truth, otherwise they are blunt and unemotional.
This is my church, it is where you can find me Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. If you see me, you’ll see me trying to hold back tears because I love God or maybe I’m too tired and I worship by rote, mentally forgiving God for the lack of emotional that is due Him. I love my church, I love the people as I ought to, but I do not love it’s community.
Compare this with the other church I attend online Sundays; The worship leaders openly cry during singing-whether joyful or melancholic. They express their heartfelt love to the laity, their bottomless love for God. The Pastor is always light-hearted and humorous- even when the sermon is otherwise. He doesn’t use tough love unless he has to. The pastor’s name is John Burke, author of “Mud and the Masterpiece” and many other books. Even the leader for the online chat is easily understood to be extremely welcoming and happy. I love the church, the people because I want to, and it’s community.
So what is the difference?
The difference is this: the church I attend in person is traditional, the online is not. Granted, the traditional church is Episcopalian and the other Non-Denominational but that is no matter. In this day and age, especially millennials (post coming soon on millennials and the church), we all want “come as you are” churches. We want churches that will accept us in all our brokenness, that will still support us and love us. After all, isn’t that what Jesus did? I’m sure worship is important, but I strongly believe that when it comes down to it, He wants us to “love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus loves us despite our sins, despite our wrongdoings and our faults, this is what He wants us to do and so, when I say traditional liturgy and traditional churches is a “come as we want you space,” I mean the people expect us to be ready to worship. They expect us to come in pretending we are perfect and without sin. The community does not love us still with our brokenness, they do not support us. In fact, I would go so far as to say that at least 1 out of every 10th person is there not because they have to, but because they want to and they worship with their heart.
I encourage churches to create a “come as you are” space. Make this more known, service the people as Jesus would. If we would call ourselves Christian, we ought to intend to be more like Christ in love than following every Christian rule and assuming that’s what Jesus would do.
Are you more like Christ or are you more like Christianity?