Sunday, March 23, 2008

A view from the pew

As I go to our church on Sundays I am amazed. I am amazed by many things, the intimacy of it all, the talent before me, the way God speaks through our pastor and penetrates deeply into my heart...meeting with me, comforting me, and challenging me each and every Sunday. I am also amazed by the difference in the church I grew up in and the church I am in now. Please know I love my home church in Mississippi....but the differences are so vast it is almost comical. So, I thought that I would take some time to compare the two.

There are so many points to compare from....but I've decided to describe my own view from the pew....or auditorium chair.

Let's begin with a view from the church I grew up in..in Mississippi. First...I sit next to people I have known probably for several years....and I am on a pew...a pew with the wooden slightly sloped backs and velvet 3 inch thick cushion. In front of me, on the back of the pew before me is are Baptist Hymnals and a King James Version of the Bible...just in case you forgot yours. As I look around me at all the people....I see mostly middle aged and older adults. The women are dressed in nice dress pants or dresses, men in khakis, button up shirts, and some in wranglers. They are all white, middle class, conservative people. Their faces clean shaven, their hair well groomed. They are good people...most of them have watched me grow up. The service begins...we stand, grab our hymnals and sing songs whose page numbers were already printed in the bulletin. While standing and sometimes singing we sing things such as Blessed Assurance, Holy Holy Holy, etc. The choir director leads us while being accompanied by an organ and a piano.We sing and we sit. We then have childrens church....which was one of my vary favorite parts...all of the children go down while the most amazing children's minister leads them in a clever....really neat mini lesson...and then the children return the pew with their parents. The offering takes place...and the wooden circular plate with the reddish velvet bottom is passed from pew to pew....person to person. Then the pastor stands..sometimes at the big wooden podium but usually dressed in a suit...there he stands and delivers his message. There is an alter call at the end of the service. Sometimes people go down to pray, to join the church, and sometimes to give their lives to Christ....but the majority of people in the church have been going for years...and are already believers.

Now, the contrast....sit with me through a few moments in Mosaic. I am not sitting in a pew this time...nor am I even in a church building. I am at the Beverly Hills high school auditorium. No hymnals or Bibles in front of me...afterall this is a high school in California and that might just be a tad bit illegal. As I look around now, I cannot help but think of heaven....because the diversity within this one room is amazing. I am sitting beside an African American man whom has come to become one of dearest friends. In front of me I see Asians, Hispanics, Filipinos, Caucasians, Middle Easterners, and the list could go on and on and on. They are dressed...well....no one is dressed the same. There are men and women with shorts on, flip flops, dresses of all lengths, clothes of all sorts.....all colors....all styles...many pairs of jeans (unfortunately, not so many wranglers). They are mostly young adults.....20's and 30's would be the majority. It's like playing where's waldo to find an elderly person (i miss the the elderly). Some not so clean shaven...many not even what some would say well groomed. I see mohawks, red streaked hair, blue streaked hair....bleach blonde hair....and ofcourse your normal shades too. I don't know very many of these people....probably have real relationships with only about 20 of them. The service begins ...sometimes with drama, other times with improv, or even a dance. Then we worship...and boy do we worship. On stage we have 2 vocalists, a drummer, a keyboard player, a violinist, some electric guitarist, and occasionally someone spinning records! The neat thing is....it is never a performance....it is true worship of everyone on the stage and most of us in our seats. The songs are great...many written by our own staff, people are actively participating and loving singing to our Lord...many raised hands, joyful dancing, etc. No children's church, in fact I have never really seen a child in the actual service part. The offering is not passed until the end...and no offering plates....rather paint buckets are passed! When are pastor comes to share....he is not wearing a suit....quite the contrary....he is in jeans...sometimes a tshirt (my favorite is a gray one with pink machine guns and a guitar on it)...other times in a button up...but always untucked and comfortable. And...there is no podium. He does not even stand alot of the time. He has a stool and he sits and just talks....like he is in a conversation...many times just with me it seems. There is rarely an official alter call....but the neat thing is the majority of the people in this service have not been in church their whole life...going to church is not the common thing to do in LA. Most of these people are here because they crave this, they want this....they are seeking Christ. And...that is so neat.

I think one of the only common factors between the two churches is that they are both Southern Baptist.

Now, I am not saying one way of church is right and the other is wrong. There are so many different things about every church. Alot of it is because of the culture and location that the church is in. Some people desire the traditional way of church....some people would never be able to stay awake in the traditional way. And....I am only comparing the view from the pew...not the mission of the church or the core values....just my little view and the differences! I will say both blessed my life....but I will also say that for me personally, now that I have experienced worship so intimate and so full of Christ and fun at the same time...I never want anything less!

If you are still reading this....sorry, it was long...and it was just something that I have been thinking about for a while, and decided to put it into words. Feel free to check out our amazing church at www.mosaic.org .

46 comments:

West By East: said...

I'll agree with you - Mosaic is a pretty neat church. Expect the unexpected is all I can say. I loved reading your "view from the pew" as it helps reconcile my very conservative upbringing.

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