Here’s what a typical conversation sounds like when I meet someone for the first time and they find out what I do for a living.
Person: “So what exactly is it that you do?”
Me: “Well, I’m a Communicator and an Experience Architect.”
Person: “So what exactly is it that you do?”
Me: (Insert friendly laugh) “Basically, for the last 15 years I’ve been traveling all over the world working with churches, entertainers, speakers, and all sorts of other live entertainment, creating awesome experiences.”
Person: “OH, WOW! That sounds so exciting.”
Me: “Thanks, I consider myself extremely blessed.”
Person: “So like, who have you worked for? Anyone famous?”
Me: (Responds with a kind laugh and smile) “Sure, I’ve worked with (drops a name like Snoop drops a mic) and (someone else for good measure) and tons of other people.”
From here it just gets weird, but I think you get the point.
Now all that may come off like I think I’m a big deal or something like that, but trust me, I’m not. I’m the farthest thing from it. To be honest with you, I’m a guy with more burned bridges and failures in my past than most.
But I am a man who’s experienced the gospel firsthand, and has no hope but to rely on it daily if not minute by minute. In addition to that, it’s my passion to create opportunities to lead others in experiencing this great gospel for themselves. And I gain no more joy than doing that inside the church.
Except there is only one problem these days. Rarely is the church interested in creating awesome experiences.
Of course there are some exceptions, I’ve worked with them and actually been on staff at one of them as well, but for the most part, churches in America are telling a story that says they really aren’t interested in creating better experiences. They have created a narrative that says mediocrity is ok, somehow having disconnected from the pleasure God receives from the excellence we bring (worship).
If you don’t buy into that or believe that, you’re being a little naive, just look at some simple statistics.
You do know a “National Back to Church Sunday” has been created, right? Why would such a thing need to exist if not to address a larger issue? But I digress.
Obviously this subject is too big to completely cover in a single post, but I do want to shine a light on 3 of the biggest things the church needs to learn here.
1. The church misunderstands what worship truly is. I believe the one thing the church would agree on, would be that worship is much more than any weekend gathering. But this is obviously the case because the church continues to create weekend environments based solely on tradition, using language that doesn’t fit with what the bible describes as authentic worship.
“God’s heart is not touched by tradition in worship, but by passion and commitment.” – Rick Warren
I’m not saying tradition is bad, not at all, many times tradition is what leads us to create sacred spaces where by we can experience the gospel. But when tradition becomes more important and is the vehicle that silences input from the body, then clearly we miss the point.
“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” Isaiah 29:13
2. Experiences are what shape our reality, and create lasting impact in our lives. Having been created in the image of our Creator, our brains are wired to process life through our felt experiences. Neuroplasticity explains how our brains make connections, storing and recalling memories through our experiences.
“We need to experience God rather than fill in the blanks about God.” – Chris McAlister
Relevant Magazine recently did a story on Louie Giglio and Passion. If you’re not familiar with the Passion movement, you’re missing out on something that has dramatically shaped the church’s culture over the last 17 years. Passion has a very strong reputation for always producing some of the most excellent, awesome experiences the modern church has ever witnessed. In the article, they specifically talk about Passion ’99 as still to this day being one of the best and most talked about events. I happened to be there, and can tell you firsthand, that I’ve never been the same since that experience.
“I have learned by experience that the Lord hath blessed me for thy sake.” Genesis 30:27
3. Emotions aren’t everything but they are more than nothing. Many times the spiritually elite relegate emotion as being something to shove aside, but the beauty of our emotions and how we experience them is often times the primer for how the Father is drawing us and wooing us unto Him. By pressing in to these divinely created emotions, we can find comfort and healing through our felt experiences.
“Our problem…..is that we do not realize that there is no genuine worship where feelings for God are not quickened. There is not true worship where the heart is far from God. But the heart’s approach to God happens in the quickening of our feelings for God. Therefore, where feelings are dead, so is worship.” – John Piper
This of course doesn’t give license to manipulate emotion in a vain attempt to provoke the Spirit, but rather by coming alongside it when creating atmospheres of sacred space, the church can come to know more of who God is.
“Because of his love God had already decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his children — this was his pleasure and purpose.” Ephesians 1:5
Regardless of what flavor (denomination) church you attend or cling to, there’s no doubt we could all agree that if the studies and surveys prove anything to be true, then the church needs to take a long hard look at how it’s gathering are created and executed.
I firmly believe that if you’re not actively looking at how to create better experiences in your church, then you’re missing out on fulfilling the mission of the church.
Have you ever had a bad experience attending church or visiting a church?
Share in the comments below!
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