(I wrote about a recent church experience HERE and this post is a continuation of it.)
The service was over and my feet were hurting me. We started to file out and a friend asked me an inevitable question: "What did you think?"
I'd have asked the same question if I had brought a guest with me, so I knew it was coming. But they didn't realize how heavy their question was. I had already begun to feel a little bit guilty about forming all of these reactions to a church service. I certainly hadn't gotten what I hoped out of it. And from that came this deep self-examination - yes, it matters what I thought about church, but that reaction says a whole lot more about me than it does about the church. I hate the thought of me being a church critic.
Such a simple question really didn't require us to jump into a discussion where we'd probe into my cynicism and spiritual guilt. So naturally I told them it was difficult for me because of the Spanish. This wasn't a lie, but it was a cop-out. I told him I'd been to services a little like this in the States.
He said this was a brand new concept in Puerto Rico, that they were changing what people think about church. Kids here, they don't really want to go to church.
Boom. Confirmation that my whole blog-about-how-uncomfortable-and-cynical-I-am-in-church-thing is entirely misdirected. It might be amusing, but it is misdirected. I was humbled. I had thought plenty about how the church was trendy and trying hard, and that churches shouldn't be concerned with trends. But that whole time, it wasn't the church that was concerned with trends. It was me.
Here was a place that was meeting people where they were at, moving with the Holy Spirit, connecting and transforming people in a place where they felt welcomed, comfortable, alive. And I had spent my time there thinking about communion cups and Raisinettes and my sore feet, drawing comparisons between this church and others I'd been to years ago.
My friend painted a picture of a Puerto Rico for me where the kids don't want to go to church. It's boring, it's traditional, it's stuffy, and as a result they don't have any interest in Christianity. But this place was new, fresh, appealing. And not far away from a college. I thought about how youthful the church was. The pastor was young, the band was young, and the majority of the congregants were really young, too. Something good was happening here. Puerto Rico needs more places like this.
As for me, I wonder what I'm supposed to do with myself when I bring my exhaustion into church with me. All I wanted to do was sit down for a while and hear a preacher, but I didn't get it.
On the way home later on, I made a comment about how tired I was and that I never really got to sit down and hear preaching like I had hoped. I sounded like an old man.
"This was a worship service, Jim. The whole point is to pray and worship. There's not supposed to be a lot of preaching anyway."
Yup. I definitely didn't get it.