Before I moved, I went to a contemporary church that took place inside a movie theater. The church was associated with Assemblies of God, but if you asked anyone in the congregation, they’d likely tell you it was non-denominational. And each Sunday morning, church members and volunteers would arrive to set the stage, place food in its proper place, and ready the projector for a PowerPoint presentation with music slides and bulleted lines from our pastor’s sermon.
The goal of our church was always to focus on the people attending and not on the building where people attended. Hence the reason no one minded going to church at the movie theater. It was about people, not a steeple.
I can’t tell you how many agnostic or athiest people I met while going to this church. At one point, there was a fairly large Buddhist family who came regularly, but I think the majority of them became Christian after a year or so. Often times, our pastor would invite one of the non-believing members of the church to speak on their behalf and tell the rest of the body why they continued showing up every week. Whenever we heard about how our church had changed the ideas of people and made them think twice about what God is all about, we would get so excited about what God was doing.
My own brother-in-law, who wasn’t always a Christian, was invited to tell his story and I bawled like a baby when he did. I remember him specifically saying, “Never in my life had I left a church feeling better about my life than I did before entering.” In my mind, his statement was incredibly profound. Shouldn’t it be that way for every church? Not every church is going to be the same, but that feeling one gets upon leaving – shouldn’t that be a good feeling? A fresh, new, rejuvinated feeling that only God can provide?
So I’ve been asking myself for a long time, “Why aren’t there more churches like that?”
I haven’t been to too many services since moving to Tennessee. But I’ve talked to Andy about it a lot. When I talk to him about my church, he laughs but shakes his head and says, “It’s not like that here.”
The thought of starting my own church has actually crossed my mind. I’ve never gone further than “I wonder if…” because I don’t know anything about how to start a church. But I have daydreamed of the reactions of starting one, and it amazes me how differently people would respond here than they would in Seattle. When my parents told me about a church that took place in the movie theater, I said, “Wow! That’s awesome!” and that seemed to be the way everyone felt about it. However, if there was a new church in this area that took place in a movie theater, I imagine the community (most of which attend church) would be in an uproar. Local news reporters would interview angry church deacons, with their heated faces and angry proclaimations, “A movie theater is not a church! It is not a holy place! Ungodly movies are shown in the same building, so how can God dwell there? This is wrong and we will be praying for the people who believe that this is okay with God.”
My personal belief is that it is not a building that makes a church, but the body of people, which is the body of Christ. If every church building in the world collapsed, would people stop going to church? Of course not. They’d congregate in a local field somewhere, or anywhere else they could get permission, and worship there. Do people love God or a building? Do they pursue God or a building? Do they seek God or seek a building? Do they talk to God or talk to a building?
God is not locked exclusively inside church buildings and that is not how everyone finds Him, although it is a way.
My search for a church continues. While I appreciate the church’s here and believe their intentions are pure and wonderful, they simply do not suit me. I do not know how long it will be before I find a church that lines up better with my spiritual type. I have always been sensitive and any sermon that gives me an aftertaste of hellfire will likely make it difficult for me to sleep that night. Unfortunately, hellfire is quite popular in a lot of the sermons around here.
Please keep me and Andy in your prayers as we both search for a church that suits us both. Andy is like me and would like a more contemporary, feel-good type of place to go. But even he has no idea where to find that and he’s lived here his whole life.
But God will show us the way.