I went to church for the first time in a very long time yesterday (Sunday March 3, 2019) because I felt like it. I have difficulty going to church in the last few years because something always feels "off" and it drives me nuts.
Yesterday I decided that I wanted to try again but this time I would do an analysis on the church to constructively channel any negative energy. Here is my report.
The Crossing Church is a very small congregation without a dedicated space. The church used to meet at Deep Park Cinema on Sundays but that changed and I don't know why.
The people seem nice enough. New faces at small churches seem to elicit a response but my experience was not bad.
There is a kid's program so I was able to leave my kids with someone.
The service was split into a worship segment and a sermon with a short break for announcements. I never got asked to tithe during the service which was nice.
The worship portion of 99% of my church experiences is my personal tribulation and it has given me much incentive to think.
I am not a big fan of music. If music stopped existing tomorrow, I would eventually notice but not right away because music doesn't really do that much for me. For that reason, the music does not really factor into my worship experience which I think might improve my analysis of everything except the artistic quality of the music.
My first impression of the worship at the Crossing Church was the decibel level which immediately put me in a bad mood. Why have the music so loud? I couldn't barely hear the words and I certainly could't hear the members of the congregation. It was an auditory assault.
What is the purpose of super loud music at worship? Is the purpose to give the audience the impression that the room is full of sound? Does that somehow trigger the feeling that God is in the music?
For that matter, what is the purpose of music at worship. I get that the Bible says to make music as part of worship, but why was that written?
An American Church in America is often a business that exists for the sole purpose of delivering "Christianity" in return for money. Americans want to feel like good people. They want to feel like they are not going to Hell. They want to be able to tell people that they go to church. The most successful churches make millions of nontaxable income for the groups of very wealthy people who own them. When trying to understand the motivations for church decisions in America, it is often a best practice to treat those churches like businesses.
I did not get that impression from the Crossing Church. However, I suspect that this church took its practices from other churches which are run like profit generating organizations.
I think the purpose of music in American churches is to deliver a feeling by musically manipulating emotions.
In the case of the Crossing Church I think the worship service was just going through the same motions as other, more successful, churches. It followed the same pattern of worship, (space), sermon that I see everywhere else.
As I mentioned, I experienced the worship portion of the service at the Crossing Church as simply waves of noise that were too loud for my ears.
Because of my inability to appreciate the art of most music, I tend to pay attention to the words of the worship songs sung at churches. The words of the songs sung at the Crossing Church seemed more empty and vapid than most. I don't remember anything specific because every song was supremely forgettable, but I remember thinking about the purpose of worship a lot and thinking about the fact that much can be learned about how not to do a thing from a negative example.
In my opinion, the purpose of Worship has something to do with God. In fact, the reason for just about everything involving church should have something to do with God if the members of the church are honest.
Of course, the members are not always honest and I imagine a great many churches exist for the sole purpose of socialization and networking.
However, when I attend church it feels like a waste of time most of the time and I find myself thinking, "What does this have to do with God?" I do not go to church hoping to develop my social networks which is, perhaps, why I am so bad at normal church.
In my opinion, the purpose of worship is summed up in Psalms 100: 4:
"Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise . . ."
In other words, the purpose of worship seems to be to force an encounter with the creator. However, for this to happen the activity should be focused on the creator. Songs that sing about off-topic subjects and talk about the characteristics of the singer seem pointless.
Furthermore, I think worship can be done on an individual or corporate scale. Worship as a group seems a corporate activity but some songs seem to individualize the group by singing the "I" pronoun instead of "we", Furthermore, if the "music" is overemphasized then the lead singer's voice is the focus rather than the Creator. Additionally, if the noise is too loud then each member is isolated into a cocoon of noise rather than adding their voice to the group.
When I go to Church, I am hoping for an encounter with the creator. If you go to church for other reasons, then this review will probably have no value to you.
As a final note, though I found no redeeming qualities in the worship portion of the service, I do think that attending a service like this with a discerning attitude is better than staying at home watching youtube unless you start to like it.
My greatest pet peeve at church is sermons that teach the congregation to make their flesh more "christian." There are loads of sermons out there that tell people to "be more gooder" when the message of Christianity has nothing to do with improving one's "goodness" and everything to do with dying to the flesh and living through the spirit.
That being said, I really enjoyed the message at the Crossing Church. The subject was legalism specifically in the context of food. The primary text of the sermon was 1 Timothy chapter 4 and the message was delivered well enough to beat most of the other other sermons I have endured in the last 10 years. It was thought provoking and I could easily write a sermon on the same subject with my notes but I don't have time now.
I think every sermon should have the thoughts and emotions of God as their primary subject because that is the main thing that matters. I would have liked the sermon to be far more focused on that context, but it was still not too bad.
Furthermore, the final point of the sermon was great. The speaker said that Jesus is the antidote to legalism because the example of Jesus is one which, if emulated, does not allow for legalism.
Overall, I would say that the sermon was in the top 95% of all sermons that I can remember.
The Crossing Church is extremely small but that might be a point in its favor because more "successful" churches might resort to more manipulative techniques.
The worship service, in my opinion, needs a complete overhaul just like every other church in America.
The sermon was shockingly good. I don't know what is going on with this little church to make it so small, but I hope it grows.
I will go back again sometime, though I would like to check out some other churches too.