In July, they had me come in and speak at their big, awesome, mod church service-thing in a gym. There were like, 600 people there. They asked, and I was glad to do it. It's one of those sleek stages and double-big-screen-things and cool water pictures that moved and stuff behind the Chris Tomlin lyrics.
(New apparent goal for blog: No entries without words, "Chris" and "Tomlin")
Anyway, there were pictures cool waterfalls and lava flows and stuff and everyone there is young and good-looking and cool and it was dark in there and they had rugs and coffee and stuff. I felt right at home, like I was in, you know, a coffee shop, except darker, and with big spotlights and some giant pictures of volcanic activity, and some basketball goals.
I came up on the stage, in my cool jeans and hip, tucked-in t-shirt, and, in the big spotlight, I spoke. I was not behind a pulpit or music stand. I didn't use notes. I'm too slick for that. The scripture was on the screens, with pictures of spaceships taking off and stuff.
I could tell -- I had their attention, instantly.*
I spoke about some powerful things.* I spoke about some things that really hit home.* I made people laugh*, and then cry*, laugh again*, and then suddenly -- quite suddenly -- stop and consider their lives.*
I drove scripture home with passion.*
I paused at just the right times, and varied my vocal cadence and pitch, to great effect.* Mouths were agape the entire time.* People found my jokes very, very amusing.* They were clearly, noticeably unsettled when I paused in front of them, stage-center, and charismatically spoke in an emotionally-charged, vulnerable way.*
We need, I told them, to be truly honest with God -- truly open.*
I reminded them that I, too, am not perfect. Oh, sure, my hair might be impressive, and my physical fitness level better than most, but I, too, had shortcomings. "No, really," I told them, as I could see their faces of pure shock and disbelief.*
I was told, by many on their way out, how they will never, ever forget my powerful sermon.*
* -- A church elder pointed out, immediately after my sermon, that my fly was unzipped the entire time.
I've said it before: A sexpo is not a "solution" for a church. And it disgusts me that they would be conducting a sexpo, right smack dab in the Phoenix convention center. It's alarming that they would openly advertise an "exhibit hall" for "exhibitors" and "vendors". Sick.
You haven't been trying hard enough. Unfortunately, there remain at least three, maybe four, little children who haven't been traumatized by your Halloween decor yet.
Yes, certainly, you've tried. You've placed the toddler-bee costumes across from, say, this, but I think there's more that you can do. This is a nice touch, and so is this, and this, and that, and I saw a little one visibly shaking at this, so that's a start.
Shamefully, though, you're only employing the visual sense to traumatize. Please consider using Target's P.A. system. Perhaps choking screams...? You can figure it out.
Kids need to confront images from their most horrific nightmares, and they need to do it up close, when mom is making their weekly run for Triscuits. Dangling heads and such will help the kids to lighten up, before they turn six and we can take them to see Saw IV.
I don't know what to say about this whole thing. Other than it strikes me as a little creepy.
It's not creepy that "God wants (me) to have a great sex life": It's creepy that Pastor Wirth in Tampa wants me to have a great sex life.
No -- wait: What's creepy is I don't know Pastor Wirth, and now, I'm thinking about Pastor Wirth's sex life.
You see, I believe 1) There is a God, 2) God may want Pastor Wirth to have a great sex life, and 3) God doesn't really want me thinknig about it, because, 4) God cries when I throw up.
I've heard it before: "Well, God created sex, so, obviously, we can talk about it, in frank terms, during an oration in front of a large crowd of worshipers."
God made our rear-ends, too, but -- thankfully, at least in irrelevant churches -- the pastor keeps his covered. Turns out, God made everything, but there are times, and places, for everything. That's why some of us aren't comfortable with, say, a couple -- even a married one! -- making out in the pew in front of us during the next Tomlin song. Let's agree, sex is the most fun thing to do, ever, but "How Great is Your Bod" may not be appropriate for the worship set just yet.
What's more, if I went to "Relevant Church", I wouldn't want to be looking around the room, wondering who's taking the 30-day challenge, and who isn't. What about Gladys and Myron, in row 14, over there? I've noticed they drive a smokin' Ford Taurus.
Come to think of it, I don't want Myron wondering about me, and I don't want to think about whether Myron is wondering if Gladys is wondering about Pastor Wirth.
And let's admit, having a Pastor say, "God and I want you to have great sex!!!" is tantamount to your uncle, looking in the living room at you and your teen friends, and saying, "You guys are just having too much fun in here!!!"
Yeah. We were. Until you said that.
So, after full consideration regarding this outreach program: Ew. If this is relevance, I'll take ignorance.
Know what stinks? I can't even beat up Joel Osteen.
He was on 60 MInutes last night (watch it here and thanks Paul for tipping me off) and he can bench 300 pounds. Dang it.
Not that I was going to try to beat him up. I do think, sometimes, a person has to use force, though. I'm not like pacifist Stanley Hauerwas, and I think not all use of force, in every possible situation, just has to be evil, no matter what, even if it's motivated by love to save the innocent, and it's just wrong, so there, and net effect never matters, lives rescued never matters, the motive of the heart just never matters,it's just always wrong. I'm not him.
That's because I think thereare rare situations when violence is justified. Like, say, if Joel Osteen was in a bank, holding people hostage with his biceps, and sequentially eliminating them with his bare hands, two at a time, and I was the only SWAT team member available, and I had to fist-fight him. I think Thomas Aquinas would say I was justified in throwing down against Joel Osteen.
Trouble is, I think I'd lose, even in this "just war"-type scenario.
Or, say, there was a nuclear device, ready to take out a major American city, and I knew it was going off in 30 seconds, and Joel Osteen was standing in the doorway, refusing to move. I think I'd be justified in pushing him down, and so does Augustine, but Stanley Hauerwas doesn't, and it doesn't matter now, because Joel can out-bench me. Kaboom.
I guess I could still beat up Stanley Hauerwas. And so can my daughter. Still, there's solace there. Without question, I could thrown down on Augustine, in what would now likely be a grisly spectacle, but that's not my point here.
My point is that this really bugs me. Joel's richer than I am, his teeth are far whiter, his minivan is newer, and his dogs have all four of their legs. And here I work out pretty hard, and can bench probably like 275 or something. And Joel does 300?
CAUTION: Adult-Oriented, Bread-Themed Sermon Material
My good friend Chris, told me this story a couple years ago about his middle-America church, and I've been itching to blog it, but never felt I had permission.
That is, until he commented in a thread a couple items below about trying-not-to-laugh moments:
Our pastor, who is rather distant at times, was doing a teaching on communion, and put a slide up during the teaching, to emphasize the point that 'bread is life'.
Some of the more art-sensitive people noticed something about the slide, and had to look away. Some of the teen-aged boys noticed it too, and the snickering started. The pastor didn't notice.
And some gasping. But it gets worse:
After the teaching, he called the ushers forward to serve communion and instructed the video person to put that slide back up so that we could meditate upon it.
Various subdued reactions from muted laughter to restrained retching as people contemplated the image...then our campus minister went to the back and convinced the video person to go to a black screen.
Because there's nothing more fun than forcing people to look at your own photo albums, here's an online version.
I can't force you to look at it. I can't even force myself to think you'd want to. But here it is.
Oh, the places you'll go!