Stained Glass Masquerade
My journey with churches... Lets just start off by saying, it is hard to find a great church, even in Texas, in the crux of the "Bible Belt". I crave a pastor that does not care what his congregation thinks as long as he is feeding them with the word of God. Chances are if your going to church on a regular basis and your over the age of 18, you know that Christ died for you, and he does not want you to sin. We know the basics of forgiveness and the Easter story or the story of the Virgin birth. In a world where there is a growing number of adults taking anti-depressants, we need pastors who look at the world around them and preach to the needs of the people. Even though we want easy to digest messages that make us feel good, that will not make you grow as a person. We need to grow in church not just play church on Sundays as filler time till the football game later.
What to Watch Out For
Back when I was younger, we don't need to go into how long ago this was, I was going to a church my mother introduced my wife and I to. I was a small church and we liked the size of it, it allowed for a more personal touch. I also felt the church would push us to grow and we could learn a lot. I started helping out with the sound system and I was running the "board" for most services. I loved picking the music to play during the tithing time of the service. I liked playing songs that inspired the people, got that fire burning and woke them up before the message. I remember one night on a Friday I was there early, picking my songs. The pastor came over and said, "hey Wes, don't play that one song tonight, when you play that song, the congregation gets too fired up in signing and they don't tithe as much". I was blown away, ironically, the pastors message that night was "putting your trust in God". His message was to tithe when you don't have the money to give and believe God will bring those funds to you, because you gave on faith. I think sometimes God gives words to pastors for them to grow and the pastor is so caught up in his own world, he just thinks, great message God, I will give that to them on Sunday! Hello, that message might be for you! It wasn't a few more weeks when that same pastor got up to preach and started things off with "I had a message fully prepared for you this week and on the drive up here God changed everything and gave me a new message". He went on to preach a message I had heard so many times, I turned to the other person in the sound booth and said, watch here comes his joke on dogs at a pastors convention. Sure enough in a few moments, he broke out into the joke I had heard at least three other times in that message, verbatim. The last time I went to that church the pastor and I were talking about the church budget. I asked if the money information was available to the congregation? He said no thats not really any of our business. Really, this is our church, your a steward to us for God. Where we spend money should be visible to us. Anyway, we moved on from that church. Before this, we were talking to the pastor of the church where we got married. It was a Baptist church and my wife and I had both grown up Baptist. I had nothing but respect for the pastor, he was a great guy. While he was counseling us for marriage, we got talking about the church. He asked where we went. We told him we preferred to go to a church where we were able to hear more traditional music on Sunday :). He asked if we raised our hands, "sometimes" we responded. He said yeah, we have a older bunch here that feels that is not appropriate. "They account for about 80% of our tithe base so we cant really rock the boat". I did not say anything to him but I just felt so bad, here again was a pastor afraid that people would leave the church if they tried to grow outside the box they lived so comfortably in. Also, he had a fear that if he offended the older crowd he would loose that money as opposed to believing God would grow his church if he did what God wanted.
Please, please, please do not take this as me being judgmental towards these pastors and churches. If it were not for these experiences I would not have learned from these life lessons and would not be the person I am today for it. God used these experiences to help me grow. Everyone is on their own timeline with God. It is truly a roller-coaster and I do not like the ride down, it makes me grow, but I do not like it. The purpose of talking about this is to convey the difficulty you may face in finding a church that fits your needs, not just your needs but one that will make you grow. You have to also understand that the messages may at times upset you as they may hit a little close to home. God will speak directly to your heart. Don't shoot the messenger, listen, grow and try to learn from them. On the flip side, I was visiting a church in Dallas, Watermark, and had an amazing experience. It was a Christmas service and the pastor choose to use this time to have people from families in the church come on to the stage and tell their stories of real life struggles and how God had made them whole. The pastor got up before the event and said, this may offend some of you, but this is what God wants to show you today. I was totally impressed! These were not just candy coated messages, some of them dealt with pornography and adultery. I found the video recording on YouTube, check it out below.
Video of Watermark Church, Dallas TX.
There is a great song by Casting Crowns that addresses this issue. You see just like our public educational system the burden of teaching us does not just fall on the teachers. You have to make an effort as well. I love this song, hence this section is entitled the Stained Glass Masquerade. The song talks about the plague of pride and judgmental attitudes affecting churches today. I know in the past I have looked around the church to see who was having more issues than me, like this made me feel better about myself and what I was going though. Watch the video below it will cover this area much better than I can.
Stained Glass Masquerade by Casting Crowns