On Friday night we took my oldest son to see "Hillsong" a contemporary worship group out of Australia who are very popular over here. The group was playing at a "super church" just north of here. On the whole, it was a terrific experience and I'm grateful my son chose to go with his father and I instead of the group of friends who originally made him aware of the concert in the first place.
However I determined a few things from this trip:
1) I am too old to appreciate "loud". By the time we left I had a headache and my ears hurt, even though I spent half the concert with my hands wrapped around both. What is it about our ears as we get older? I have minor difficulty hearing people's words on the phone and the kids give me a hard time about turning my own music up so I can hear it while I clean house (I tell them I like the "be there" experience), but a live concert bothers me?
2) The number of young people in that crowd with their hands raised and their eyes closed in worship, singing and praying (most of them quietly) gave me great hope for the future. I am not the last of my kind. Sometimes I worry I am sending my sons as a minority out into a hostile world over-run with people who will stone them with insults and drive them into rejecting their faith. When I see numbers like that, I know they will not be alone in their struggles.
3)(Skip to #4 if you're not in the mood for a sermon) I've long been curious about super churches like this and have wondered if I was missing something by choosing to attend my smaller local congregation. However it was difficult for me to separate God out from the slick commercial shrink-wrap and I was uncomfortable with the atmosphere. This particular church had a food court and looked more like a theater. I understand what they are doing and why. Young people like to go to theaters, they don't like to to church because it's boring, routine, and often covered in the repetitious ceremonial dust that the older generation refuses to wipe away for fear of change. Frankly, I hate that too and I've sought out contemporary worships for most of my adult life.
However, as I watched the minister amp up the crowd for the upcoming group, I thought a lot about the messages our young people get from churches like this: that walking with God is always EXCITING and should always FEEL GOOD (flashy videos, t-shirt give aways, and join the party messages were constant). This is an untruth told with the best of intentions, but it is potentially damaging. News flash from a forty-year old, been-there-done-that-Christian: Sometimes believing is hard. Sometimes you hang on just because a man died on the cross for your sins (whether you accept his God-hood at that moment or not) and you owe him that much. Generally, it gets better, you find your faith again and you're stronger for it. My concern is that when life gets hard, many of these young people will fall away or settle for something diluted and distant.
4) I really, really like my kid. By the way, he's seventeen today.