Oh, where to begin? Okay, how about this… I’m going to put my tongue into my cheek, lean into a little different perspective, and tell you about some of my pet peeves.
First off, I’m not particularly impressed by the churches with pristinely cultivated landscaping or modernized corporate style church signs. These things makes me feel like I’m pulling into a Walgreen’s in Pensacola, Florida, or maybe a chiropractor’s office in downtown Milford, Michigan. On the other hand, a church sign that’s worn and weathered doesn’t bother me. It says, “Hey, we were here before the local Taco Bell was built and we’ll be here long after…” So, pastors, certainly you need to take care of your stuff. Don’t be slobs, but maybe don’t get too tightly wound with your yards or signs. Those don’t make Christians.
I’m peeved by people who are peeved that we don’t have parking attendants. I mean, c’mon, you navigated the highways and byways, stop lights and stop signs to get here, and then you are given a paved surface with comprehendible demarcation, but then not only are you peeved that the parking spaces are too small for your particular vehicle (and what are you driving, by the way, a Panzer?), but you’ve suddenly become frustrated enough with the church-going experience that you are willing to turn around and go home because no one was there to help you figure out how to walk from your car to the same point on the horizon to which everyone else in the parking lot is traveling. Really? I guess in addition to this, I’m peeved by churches that would put their volunteers out into the rain and snow because the community has a nightmarish, almost surrealistic, problem of its citizens visiting churches but wandering aimlessly around the church properties unable to find the front doors. It seems to me that’s the bigger problem. Forget the parking attendants. Get some doctors in here. Or maybe the CDC. The surrounding townships need to get their water tested, for sure. But I digress…
Even further, I’m peeved that some Christian churches have become so impersonally large that they feel as though they need parking lot attendants. I suppose if the church believes that they are the only game in town working to sell an “experience,” like Disney World, or heck, even something a little smaller, like an entertainment complex, then perhaps a huge parking lot is justified – maybe even a trolley that patrols sections marked with images of Bible characters. “Honey, don’t forget that we parked in Melchizedek 3.” But I have to wonder if the spiritual consumers flocking to such places are in need of something that transcends the woes of parking, something they won’t get at the big church, but rather something they’ll find at the little gathering down the street where people are genuinely glad to see them, where the front doors are easy to locate, where the folks inside interact with the Divine in a locale with a yard full of dandelions and marked by a hand painted sign communicating service times. Just sayin’.
I’m not too terribly interested in overly-friendly, outgoing, automaton greeters accosting me at the door of a church. This may have worked in the 1980s, but nowadays it feels fake and it freaks people out. You know what else it does? It tells the visitor that you don’t have friendly people in your church. Whether or not this is true, I don’t know. But it gives the impression that you are programmatically meeting a deficiency by artificially inserting your Stepford members into strategic places because they can’t be trusted to simply greet visitors naturally on their own. One more thing…greeters have the potential for making folks feel like they may be in danger of being called out to introduce themselves to a huge group of strangers in the middle of a room doing something that they, as unchurched visitors, might not even understand. (With a hugely dental smile on his face, the pastor calls out, “Hey folks, I met Bob today on the way in. Say, Bob, would you stand up and tell us a little bit about yourself?” A moment of uncomfortable silence. “Um, yeah. Hi. I’m Bob, and I just thought I was in a Walgreens picking up my prescription.”)
Do you know what else gets on my nerves? Responsive readings that try to relate to individualized life experiences of particular groups of people in the pews. How about we just let the liturgy of the Divine Service lead us as a whole and speak of our sins as the collective gathering born of Adam that guys like the Apostle Paul said we are, and then respond accordingly with the all-encompassing words of the Gospel — the powerful message of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for our redemption, an all-encompassing act that He accomplished which meets all of us wherever and whenever we are in the collective and makes us Christians?
I’m bothered by a worship service that wants me to be comfortable at all times and in every way. There is a tension at work in the Divine Service. And if you know anything about holy worship, then you’ll know it is supposed to be there, and it is working at various levels. Sometimes it’s working through the standing, sitting, and kneeling. Of course we’re not trying to cause a heart attack from overexertion (although Lutheran Service Book is a little heavier than LW and TLH), but most folks can handle standing up right after they sat down right after a motion to stand up. If I come to your service and am pretty much in a stationary seated position – that is, I don’t sit and stand and kneel at various points – well, you’d better be ready to take my dinner order. And just so you know, I’ll have a ribeye, medium rare, with sautéed mushrooms. I’ll take Thousand Island dressing on the side salad, but keep the onions in the kitchen. And bring me a Scotch old enough to vote while you’re at it.
Also, a word to the pedantic. Agreed. The pastor isn’t giving a lecture. He isn’t to be speaking from such a cerebral sphere that no one but the visiting seminary professor can understand him. And yet on the other hand, there had better be a higher bit of lingo sprinkled into the sermon which challenges the listener to grow not only in the faith but in the vernacular of that faith, the language of Christianity. Does not the Word of God tell us by way of Colossians 3:1-4, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”? So, you mean those pastors who love hearing their pew sitters say, “Wow, he really comes down to my level!” are maybe moving in the wrong direction? Yes, maybe they are.
I get uncomfortable in churches where the pastor feels the need to explain the purpose of worship or the day’s theme every single Sunday. Catechesis is great, and there are certain things that pastors need to be communicating to the parish about her life in regularly measured ways, but if you have to offer this particular explanation before every service, then you are probably not following the Lectionary correctly or you are in the middle of a dopey and dislocated sermon series you devised and perhaps you need to understand that you cannot prescribe a course for the church as well as the Lectionary can. But what about the visitors? Well, since I’m of the school which believes that worship is not an evangelism tool (at least not in the sense that most of the post-modern Christians will understand), I don’t really feel the need to begin a thread about that.
I don’t like folks speaking out of two sides of their mouths. Now, I’m not saying I want our clergy to feel free to dress like slobs. Don’t misunderstand me. I just get peeved by folks saying we shouldn’t allow our clergy to dress like biker gang members and yet those same folks are perfectly comfortable with encouraging goofy “specialized” ministries that almost always result in efforts with names like “Bikers for Jesus” where the pastor is a burly, tattooed, unshaven beast who holds a worship service in a bar and is completely and comfortably funded by synodical dollars. Seems a bit inconsistent.
Lastly, I don’t like the word “worshipful.” Stop using it. It’s stupid. What does it even mean? “The service sure was worshipful!” That’s just stupid. That’s like saying that bridge over there is bridgeful. Or our state Governor is governorful. Cut it out. It makes us Missouri Synod Lutherans look not very Lutheranful.
Okay, I’m done. Just a different perspective on pet peeves.