Last weekend, a baby started crying in church, like, right in the middle of the sermon.
After about 4 seconds, I turned back to peer over my shoulder, so the baby’s Mom would know that I could hear her baby crying. I gave her a look that said, “Um. Your baby is kind of a jerk.”
Finally, she got up and left, and the sermon continued in pin drop silence. Thank goodness. I was able to really take it in… (I can’t remember what it was about, but give me a minute. I’ll think of it! Maybe.)
Sorry if I sound judgmental, but I’m so tired of people messing up my church experience. It’s just that I used to live in Central America where they almost always do church wrong.
My family and I sometimes went to a little church in the city, built in what I believe was an old mechanic shop. The walls were cinderblock and the roof was corrugated steel. So when it rained, which it quite often did, the noise was unbearably loud. I really shouldn’t complain, because it did drown out the singing and the fact that 1/3 of the room would clap on 1 and 3, and the rest on 2 and 4, except for a few rogue old people who just clapped all over the place.
The children’s program was for younger kids, held in an open loft above the back of the room. The chatter and stomping of grade schoolers was only a mild annoyance in comparison to the match box cars and broken crayons flying over the balcony’s half wall to ping church goers in the head. Parents with babies or teenagers were forced to sit with them during the service, though the toddlers were allowed to free range, like wild turkeys, in and out and around the rows of seats, up onto the stage, under the communion table; eating, babbling, pooping their pants. Just whatever.
Often, the pastor would arrive well after the announcements had been made and the music started. Every once in awhile, he’d come running up the aisle as the last song was wrapping up, tossing his keys onto a metal folding chair with a crash, and scooping up the mic, out of breath, tie twisted, hair tussled – but showered, always showered.
Oh. And they would break for coffee in the middle, like, the part where you’re just supposed to “say hello to your neighbor”? They would actually make us leave our seats and mingle with coffee and little cookies or dry cake. Pshhh, like we actually want to get to know the people we go to church with, or something.
Don’t even get me started on the sermons. Long. That’s the best word for them. Our pastor would have random people read passages of scripture out loud. Can’t read good? No teeth? Teeny tiny voice? No problemo! Go ahead and read anyway!! He also asked non-rhetorical questions and let people answer them. Crazy. This one time? He brought in a camp stove and propane tank and started cooking a big fat steak right there in an enclosed space! The grease from the steak caught fire, and for once I was glad I had to sit with my kids because I could grab them if we needed to run to escape the deathtrap of smoke and flame building in front of the stage. He had to turn the propane off before the steak was anywhere near safely cooked. The sermon illustration was supposed to be right out of 1st Corinthians 3, where Paul admonishes the church of Corinth to quit acting like a bunch of milk drunk babies, bickering and bad mouthing, and grow the heck up. The pastor’s plan was to cook and cut the steak and offer it up, asking the congregation, “Hey, are we ready for meat, or are we still babies? What does our behavior say about us as a church?” But no one really wanted to eat the meat because the meat was… bleeding. So the whole illustration backfired. He asked some lady, “Are you ready for meat?” and she was like, “Uh…No, thank you.”, and the whole place roared with laughter!
Ok. It was actually a pretty great message. I’ll probably never forget it.
But, I’m telling you, they did it so wrong.
They did it so wrong, it felt more like a big, whacky family than a church. They did it so wrong, they treated their pastor like a human being. They did it so wrong, they let everyone (and I mean everyone) participate. They did it so wrong, they left room for error and chaos and laughter and silliness. They did is so wrong that sometimes it actually went wrong, and when it did, well, then they just rolled with it until it felt… right.