Before leaving Colorado I decided to attend Sunday service at Springs Church, headed by Gary Wilkerson, who is the son of the famous David Wilkerson. David Wilkerson was one of the few Christian voices I truly trusted before he passed away, but I believed his son was equally as passionate and would continue giving out the red meat of the Word that I was looking for.
I have to say, I’m so incredibly disappointed in Gary Wilkerson. He’s nothing like his father at all, in fact you’d be more likely to think he was the son of Rick Warren than he is of David Wilkerson. There’s nothing about his church or method of preaching that resembles Times Square Church in New York at all. All of it seems to be influenced by the typical “seeker-sensitive” mentality that has plagued most Christian churches today.
I walked into the former auto mall that housed the church to find a few booths here and there, one offering plant sales, another offering coffee, and a few more offering signups for community outreaches and the like. At least I think they did, as I wasn’t really paying attention.
I continued inside the auditorium and sat down just as the contemporary worship music began, led by a group of teenagers basking in the ambiance of glowing lights and smoke (there may or may not have been a smoke machine.) Instead of feeling compelled to worship, I kept getting the urge to find a cigarette lighter and lift it over my head.
Maybe I’m getting old, but I didn’t like the idea of following the lead of teenagers with a worshiping style that was so obviously designed to cater to their generation (while ignoring everyone else.) Ah well. With worship a bust, I sat back to pretty much observe how the rest of the service would play out.
After the loop of songs ended, a woman got on stage and started talking about community circles (an updated spin on cell groups common to large churches.) She was the “communities pastor,” and while she was talking the only thing that sprang to my mind was wondering whether her skirt was too short or her legs too long. I’m typically used to seeing more modest attire in church, so this was another disappointment.
Anyway, she says a prayer, gets off stage, and the jumbo-tron comes to life, with a bouncy looking youth pastor (yet another woman) reminding the congregation of a few events that would be taking place in the next few weeks, and don’t forget about the youth group meeting every Thursday night too! (She says, in an especially blonde sounding voice.) Apparently everyone’s a pastor here, and half of them are women. Awesome.
Finally the sermon began, and I was disappointed to see it wasn’t Gary Wilkerson giving the sermon, but some jeans sporting guy I didn’t know from Adam. Because of my hearing difficulties I could barely follow along, but what little I did hear sounded like cotton candy fluff to me. Something about beautiful stories and hidden stories and not to share every detail of your life to the world, or some such thing. It might have a been a good sermon really, to be fair, but a combination of fatigue in trying to follow what he was saying, along with the urge to get out of there finally had me tuning out before long.
After the sermon was over and the service concluded, people RAN to their own little social circles to yak it up, and I took a few minutes to continue sitting back to watch people as they clumped together into cliques, with the thought that this was all very much starting to look like high school to me.
The social barriers here were beyond silly. I wanted to consider this church (or any church I visited really) as my extended family, and within that family I would not only find true believers to fellowship with, but also eventually meet the girl I could someday call my wife. After all, it’s not like I’m gonna find a devout Christian girl sitting in a hotel bar (except possibly by divine intervention.)
The one saving grace was the men’s prayer group I attended a few days before, where it was much easier to break the ice and talk directly to others as well as making prayer requests. Sad that despite this being a church of over 1,000 members, only 3 MEN showed up for this weekly meeting. Figures.
As small as it was, their prayers on my behalf were still enough to give me the good news I was hoping for regarding a close friend of mine. It occurred to me that I’d be better off bypassing the usual Sunday services altogether, and just showing up for the smaller meetings instead, whether it was a men’s prayer group or a “communities” circle, or an outreach ministry, or whatever.
That’s probably wishful thinking though, as I rather suspect if I had stuck around on a regular basis, I’d be banging heads before long, questioning the structure of the church, the hierarchy, the endless splintering of small community circles that I think actually hurts the church body more than helps it, the improper exegesis of Scripture, the corporate worship style that shamelessly panders to the youth, the fact that women should not be taking on pastoral titles or most other leadership roles, and on and on. There are elements about modern churches today that have become so predictable in tone and format that any Christian today who watches this parody is probably going to understand exactly why it’s so hilarious (and sad at the same time.)
I can’t be a part of that, and if I tried, I would still feel the disconnect, the ovewhelming sense that I don’t really belong. For now, the wilderness will continue to be my home.
Update: I tried to give this church a few more tries since then. At my last encounter with their men’s prayer group, I conveyed my concerns with one of the pastors of the church, and he said every church has its culture, and wished me good luck in finding one with a culture that was more palatable for me. That comment angered me so much: I thought Jesus was supposed to be our culture? This idolatrous emphasis on culture rather than God is precisely what perpetuates all this segregation and cliques in churches today, making it impossible for people of diverse backgrounds to all be ONE in Christ. His whole thinking was wrong, and I could see he was saying in Christian-ese Speak not to bother coming back again. What a shame.