Review of My Church

Well, that’s a lie. It’s not my church. I’ve only been there once. But it was wonderful. And I will be returning every chance I get. The search is over. Finally.

For the record, I am a human. This is worth articulating because, especially when it comes to churches, I want to be treated like a human and not a farm animal. I don’t need to be herded, nor do I want to follow the herd. That said, as I walked into the building I was greeted and I watched as a woman took my name down on some sort of ledger with a pencil. Remember pencils? While there were no children-specific activities that day, I’m certain H- won’t have to be processed and tagged to take part in them next time.

Quickly finding George, I suggested we move closer to the front than where he had chosen and we did. Next thing you know, he and I are standing wide-eyed amidst the seated congregation at the behest of a young women who read off the names of all the guests. Little H- remained seated until our kind neighbors in the pew in front of us urged her to stand when the young woman asked for any guests whom she may have missed to also stand. H- stood proud.

This next part is probably a little too personal, but this is my blog so I’m writing it. It’s been a while since I’ve had much physical contact with anyone but H-. And she’s in that tight spot where I think she does it because she recognizes this. Anyhow, I’ve been thinking this probably needs to change. Touch is important, they say. Well, during an amazing baby dedication that lasted about ten minutes and crowded seemingly an entire extended family at the front, like thirty people, we were asked to stand and next thing I knew my hand was being touched by the lady next to me. I looked down before moving my hand out of her way and noticed that she was simply reaching out to hold my hand during the dedication thing. It was then that I looked around and quickly noticed that everyone was holding their neighbor’s hand. I joined suit and grabbed H-‘s little hand. Next thing I noticed (George too), H- was placing her limp hand in George’s. At the end, my kind neighbor gave my hand a squeeze before she released it.

Did I mention that the three of us were the most under-dressed folks in the entire building. I measured by layers. I had two. All the other men were at least at two, most at three. Probably half the women had hats on. These people dressed with a purpose. And yet they were naked. Can you understand that?

I thought the roof was going to come off at one point during the worship. Talk about Holy Ghost power. A real piano, an un-amplified small drum set, and an organ accompanied a real, though small and old, choir. Though I’m sure no one could hear us, George and I both sang.

Finally, we came to the Word. And here’s where I discovered what I have been looking for all along in a sermon. A sermon shouldn’t be smug. A sermon shouldn’t cause my mind to distractedly go academic on it. A sermon shouldn’t teach beyond its speaker’s–nor audience’s–intelligence, nor should it dumb down that which cannot be in order to meet the audience. We’re talking about a sermon. A sermon shouldn’t be chocked full of witticisms, nor jokes. The preacher needn’t prove “even though I’m a preacher, I can be funny, see?”, nor should he tell some inside joke that requires his giving a politician’s knowing nod to some poor soul who will undoubtedly feel a little too special for the rest of the afternoon and at the same time causes me to wish it had been me. Most important, I realized that I want a sermon which is a sermon. Not a presentation. Not death by powerpoint. Not a motivational speech. And the sermon that day was none of those things. It was more than those things.

Afterward, we lingered. People lingered. We met the pastor. Oh. And did I mention the service’s total duration was over two and half hours? 10:30 start, when it was over I pulled my phone out and it displayed 1:15. And it did this without filler like Broncos mentions, professional videos with floating words, or hollywood movie clips.

Walking to our cars, George said it best, “Pete. This was by far and away the best church yet.”

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43 comments

  1. Healing Road Project

    I discovered recently that a certain denomination in my area actually hires a company to send mystery guests to evaluate their services. I feel like your “review” here describes what many people are seeking (genuine with God and each other), yet the hired evaluation system seems to be trying to find what appeals to the masses in a business marketing model kind of way. Seems so backward to the way of the Spirit.

    Like

    • Pete Deakon

      Mon Père,

      “What we’ve got here is…failure to communicate.” I don’t know how to respond. I feel like my very essence is in this one, and still you seem unclear as to what happened in that church. Or maybe I don’t get the joke.

      Pete

      Like

  2. Bowrag

    So, better than the mega church? Lol. Glad you enjoyed it… I am a mystery shopper for a company that is contracted by Papa Johns. So we get free pizza! Maybe im qualified to shop a church?

    Like

  3. bendixon89

    Sounds like that place has the Holy spirit pouring out of it! I really enjoyed your description of what a sermon “should” be, because you’re spot on. I know a church like this in Kill devil hills, NC. The pastor is humble and naturally humorous, the assistant pastor (youth and discipleship) is passionate and definitely has the gift of teaching. You can feel the anointing of the Lord pour out of the worship team over the congregation. I love to hear about congregations like this, its good to see the Lord moving – especially in such dark times. Thanks again Pete!

    Ben

    Like

    • Pete Deakon

      I feel like enchanted is a great thing to be. So I’ll take it. 🙂 I called Disney once for some work thing and when they hang up with you they say, “Have a magical day.” And they mean it. That’s what your use of “enchanted” reminded me of. Thank you.

      Pete

      Like

  4. wxxifan

    Pete, it is very difficult, in my experience, to find a synagogue or a church where you feel comfortable and uplifted. I have not found one yet. In my 67 years, I have only met two rabbis that I really connected to. So, count yourself lucky to have found a place, a church, to call your own! Very well written!!!

    Like

  5. Elouise

    Pete, Great writing style and great content to describe–including your own humanity (the only thing we need to take to church, as I see it). Outstanding. If only there were more sermons like the one you heard… Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a like! Come back often!
    Elouise

    Like

      • Karen Campbell

        I decided there was no point in saying more, it was beginning to sound like a hopeless argument. But, if you insist…

        In my previous replies I tried to convince you (apparently in vain) that there may be thousands of God-honoring, Bible-teaching churches, big and small, that likely would not fit your personal preferences, at least in this season of your life. However, that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love them just as much as he loves you and your new congregation, or that their ministry isn’t part of His church proclaiming the gospel – maybe even to someone who would not settle in your church because they don’t share your opinion of what a church should look like.

        Acts 15:36-41 tells of a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas that caused them to split up and continue their ministries in different directions. I guess that’s what you and I will have to do, Pete. The good news is that at the end of Paul’s life, in his final letter, he asked Timothy to come to him and bring Mark with him (2 Timothy 4:9-11). Mark had been the object of the disagreement that split Paul and Barnabas in ministry. In the end we’ll forget all our petty differences and embrace the unity of Christ.

        Actually, I don’t see us parting ways – we both seem to like to have the last word! Hahaha

        Liked by 1 person

        • Pete Deakon

          Hey Karen,

          So I think I mentioned somewhere on my site that I’ve been reading NT Wright. He’s slowly winning me over to a lot of things that I wasn’t sure I could come to terms with. (I’m not sure if this depth of study interests you or not, but I love it.) One thing that is foundational in this whole discussion, according to him, is “What do we do with Jesus?” and I guess thing two is “What do we do with the Gospels?” Out of these two questions, if we take the gospel line of thought, the question becomes just exactly what kind of books are these? They’re not letters. They’re not non-fiction historical records. They’re not novels. They’re not short stories. Their writers did not intend them to be read by everyone (though their message is for everyone…at least that’s the hope). Are you still with me? So my stance on sermons is the same. A sermon is a very tricky thing. Just like the gospels. It’s easier to outline what it isn’t, than say what it is. But obviously you do your thing. I’m doing mine. I just write to answer the question we all have at times, “Am I the only one who thinks this?”

          It really does mean a lot to me that you’ve taken the time to write to me. Thank you.

          Pete

          Liked by 1 person

  6. dragons4me3

    I’m the Sunday School director and song leader of my very small, rural South Texas church. We’re mostly white – not by choice, but because most of the non-white people around here have some rocking churches and do their own thing. We’re not especially solemn (especially not with me up there) but we’re not shouting “Amen!” a lot either. Our membership dropped extremely low for a while, but now is strong and thriving and continually growing. One thing we do that seemed to help the growth along was when we started hugging. Not the polite air brush either, but full body squeezes. When somebody joins the church, they get hugged by all but the most introverted. Another thing that started growing when our growth did was mission work. We’re not physically involved in a lot of things because everybody here works long hard hours, but if a mission says they need something, we do our best to make sure they get it. Our Wednesday nights are devoted to long prayer lists, and we go over each name on it to get as many updates as possible, because we care. They are not just names to us. One of the most common things we hear from people who decide to join is that they could feel the love here. It seems to be that, more than sermons, music, programs, or anything else, is making us grow, closer to each other, and closer to God.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pete Deakon

      Again, an unforced smile and chuckle make their way to the surface. Oh to think that we have to talk ourselves into hugging each other. I can picture the powerpoint slide somewhere that reads, “Talking Points: Hugs.” lol. Your church sounds just great. Thank you for sharing.

      Pete

      Liked by 1 person

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