The other day I received a “church media catalog” at Central Baptist. This is, essentially, a rebranded theatre catalog with some “church elements” thrown in 1. As I paged though it, I found myself becoming more and more depressed. There were pages and pages of cool tech gadgets, each more expensive and feature-filled than the last, but there was no sign of introspection. No indication the question, “Why do we need this?” is ever entertained. To me, it’s an example of how Christianity in Western Culture has become just one more outlet for consumerism.
I’ve brought similar concerns up to people in the past, and folks are quick to come back with, “But you can’t ask for introspection from a catalog/ad/web-service site! It’s purpose is to sell you stuff!” It’s true, but it’s also a shining example of the problem. We’re so immersed in the consumerist mind-set we’ve lost the ability to even conceive of any theological problems it brings up. And this comes out in our worship.
Worship, in low-Church Protestantism, no longer concerned with leading people to the depths of the faith. It’s concerned with asking how big it can be presented. Follow spots, huge screens, massive sound systems, smoke machines 2, and rock bands fill people’s consciousness.
I’m over it.
I no longer care how “big” we can make worship. Truth be told I never really did, but I’m done feeling guilty about. Central is a little church, and we do utilize technology well. We have many different musical styles and instruments, a decent sound system, and a projection screen for lyrics and liturgy. But my theology of technology has always been to make it disappear. To me, digital projection should be like candles. They’re just there, no one thinks of them as “and now we’ll show off our technology.”
That’s not how worship is seen in the churches for which this catalog is meant. In these churches technology is front and center, and the presentation is meant to feel like a concert. I’ve been to concerts, I like them 3. But a concert is not worship.
Concerts are non-stop euphoria, they are escapes into overwhelming sights and sounds which overwhelm the senses.
Worship is different. There can be, and really should be, moments where euphoria is experienced. But that isn’t the whole of what worship is. Worship is supposed to embrace both the euphoria of being among the communion of all the saints in Heaven and on Earth, and serious introspection. Introspection before God’s throne reminds us we are sinners, ponders our own faithfulness 4, and ponders how Christ’s love can be brought into this world. Introspection in worship is deeply aware of God’s holiness. And concerts, by their design, don’t do introspection well.
So I’m kinda over the whole “big huge awesome Christian event” world. I don’t care what type of mic people use, or how big the screens are, or if the band sounds like someone I’d pay to see. By no means do I believe worship should be slip shod, it should be well thought out and executed. But bigness in itself no longer impresses me. Nor do the catalogs from its cult.