Andy Warhol once said, “I went to church, it was so pretty.” Steve Martin once said “Comedy is not pretty.” A few years ago I invited readers to express what they wanted out of a church service and a church, some said programs, others said inspiring music and still others said “sermons that were more entertaining, and less judgmental.” There was one response that really troubled me:
“The best church service I ever attended had wonderful music, a non-judgmental message and philosophy that made me feel-good and happy when I left.”
I would say that on the surface this sounds like a loving church. But is it really? Is that the churches purpose to say “We love you just the way you are but don’t bring us your problems.” On any corner chapel in any given city I don’t want a church that tickles my ears.” It’s like the guitarist who plays everything in first position, it sounds nice for a song but there’s more to the fretboard than C-Am-F-G7! I want to be challenged, I want to stand corrected and then I want a chance to change! The Word and the liturgy are designed like a guitar, on the surface the entry level player gets to make beautiful music. But once you correct the surface perspective and take the challenging message then it is more than merely experiencing pretty music, but challenging a deeper relationship with the chord structure and Creator Himself! When you get past the Biblical abstract, and start systematically practicing the everyday lab of theology, then you start living it out in your daily life which begins to change you from the inside out. That is hardly pretty- that kind of church is rarely surface it is however the kind of church that corrects your perspective and understanding, challenges your sensibilities and gives you the choice to grow or to stay “just the way you are.”The pretty church becomes the challenging far reaching church that becomes a church filled with believers and followers of Jesus Christ, that reach out beyond the walls.
In advertising and marketing Jean-Marie Dru wrote several books on the practice of disruption. The idea is to take the conventional and turn it upside down and shake it, that take the world by surprise. That’s God’s plan- the world He created, the humanity that He crafted in His own image, His own conventional design is shaken, is re-made, is tempted and has to work through distorted thinking. That’s what we are in church and that’s what is the church. It’s people who have been shaken by the world and who have lived life by rules and regulations and have even practiced “RELIGION!” But that is not God’s plan. He wants us to see differently, to smash the conventions and live life honestly and truthful. No- the church is not pretty, but the Body of Christ can become beautiful.
The church that invites people to an “authentic relationship with God can promise and delver such a commodity and truly work in your life and in mine.
Richard Beattie is a minister of leadership and communications who pastors Friendship Fellowship, a group of churches that reach out to people with intellectual disabilities; their caregivers and families in Denver and in Colorado Springs. Beattie the media representative at Briargate Media and is a columnist for the examiner.