If we never step out of our comfort zone, we run the risk of falling behind, even losing touch.
And in my case last weekend, I'm pretty sure I scored some points with the man upstairs by leaving mine, if only for a couple hours. That's what I call a win-win.
Last Sunday, I learned everything I need to know about what a contemporary church service is. After a lifetime of attending traditional churches - the last 15 years in the smallest, most humble of settings surrounded by 20 or so faithful Lutherans who practice their faith in stealth-like fashion from a middle or back row - I was invited to GracePoint Wesleyan Church in Brookings, S.D., for my niece's baptism.
It took me all of about four seconds inside to realize I wasn't in Lake Sarah Township anymore.
Once inside a spacious concourse (you could darn near hold a hot-air balloon show in there), I saw an Ikea-like seating area and a coffee shop to one side (proceeds of the shop go to the church and mission trips) and a massive staircase that led to balcony seating in the sanctuary to the other. Directly in front of me were two main doors that led to first floor seating in the sanctuary. Walking the hallways crowded with dozens upon dozens of God's biggest fans, you see bathrooms and day care rooms. Very impressive.
I actually didn't feel like I was in a church. I'm used to churches with old carpeting, dated floor tiles, narrow staircases, walls begging for a fresh coat of paint and pews that creak a little when you sit down on them. And stained-glass windows. What ever happened to stained-glass windows? In other words, I'm used to churches that, while they may be old, have history and character.
I admit I'm a fuddy-duddy - not quite a member of the Old Farts Club yet, but I'll be on their mailing list soon. Everything about me is old school. I prefer white softballs to pink and neon yellow ones. I fancy letters you get in your mailbox as opposed to the ones zipped to you on your computer. I want real journalists breaking down pro football games on TV, not ex-players dressed in purple suits with pinstripes and wearing black-framed glasses because they think they're stylish, not because they need them. I like face-to-face, not Facebook-to-Facebook.
It's the same with churches, and today's new modern ones simply aren't for me. Now don't get all upset. These new, modern churches are wonderful for their communities and they do attract a younger crowd - the more youth we can get to church the better, I say - but bigger and bolder doesn't always mean better. I think it's all in the eye of the beholder. Fair enough?
A couple days after my experience at GracePoint, I got an email from the pastor. I assumed it was a blanket email since I was one of a number of people that day who signed up at the registration desk to get their hands on a CamelBak water bottle. The email said the church hoped I felt "right at home." I wish I could say I did. As I sat there Sunday morning trying to decide which of the two garage door-size monitors I should watch as I followed the sermon, I felt as far away from home as I ever have. I felt like a country mouse.
Still, at the same time I was blown away with the atmosphere, the technology and the music - which was a pyrotechnic or two away from a full-blown concert. Going overboard in the name of Jesus Christ isn't a bad thing if you have the resources, I just don't think we need technology to worship. I don't think we need sound systems and flashing lights and a soundproof room where the drummer of the band sits.
But that's me.
Besides, the main thing is, I walked out of that church feeling good, and I can tell you, GracePoint is welcoming. Very welcoming. And after the service - after we left the parking lot, even after lunch - I remembered the sermon and its message of hope on that Palm Sunday. It stuck with me like a catchy sitcom jingle. And that only further proves my point: It's words, not bells, whistles and electric guitars that really grab us and pull us in.
I wish for nothing but the best for GracePoint's new Marshall campus, which has a preview service at Park Side School on April 27, but as for me, I'll be back in my comfort zone this weekend as I celebrate the resurrection of Jesus in a way most Lutherans this side of 40 choose to - as quietly as a country mouse.