Saturday, May 08, 2010
constructing an experience
My friend Jon posted this on his blog the other day and I had to put it here for all of you as well... I laughed... but as Jon's wife said, "it is too close." BTW, Jon's blog is great! Do check it out.
First, I'll confess. My church doesn't look like this, but if we could, we likely would. We don't have the staff, expertise, equipment, etc. to pull this kind of a production off but if we did, we likely would head in more or less that direction (albeit with a different theology than most such churches).
As a pastor, every week I am charged with constructing an experience. In the best of weeks, the folk in the congregation have an encounter with the very presence of God. The problem is, I have no control over that. It depends upon the openness of their hearts and most of all, it depends upon God. I can do some things in the service that hopefully contribute a bit to their openness. I can do my best to put together a service that is consistent, centered, and has positive movement and a theme that is relevant to the lives of the members but beyond that I have no power. Some people will experience the presence of God and some will not and that will happen regardless of how well I have done my part. Hopefully, I can construct an experience that will help more people to find that experience than not... or I can manipulate their emotions into something that isn't quite right but sure feels good. and there is the problem. What is the line between manipulating folk and opening a door for them to enter through?
So what the video satirizes is just doing what we can, trying to construct an experience... but the more resources a church has, the more effective it can be at manipulation, at pushing people in a direction that may in fact, impede any real experience of God's presence by forcing an emotional experience on them. If we have the resources, that is actually the easy route. We know how to do that as per the video. Worse yet, in a consumer culture so centered around entertainment, it is all too easy to confuse the slickly produced mega-church worship service with a genuine experience of the presence of God. So for me, the video is a serious warning. We won't ever have a service like that one, but I still need to beware of manipulating my congregation and taking the easy way out - a slick experience vs. the very presence of God.