Going to the movies is easy for me.
I pick the movie and the time (um, after checking with my wife).
Then I buy the tickets online.
Then I go to the movie theater with the printed tickets.
I get the tickets torn and go to the appropriate theater.
Then I sit there for 2 hours.
Then I get up and leave.
I’ve gone to the movies in a sleeveless shirt before (much to my wife’s chagrin). I’ve gone there in flip flops. I’ve gone there after a workout when I stink. I’ve gone there when I’m upset and when I’m happy. And when I just want to be lazy.
It’s very easy. I can complete the entire experience without really checking in emotionally or intellectually, depending on the movie. I can do the whole thing without saying one word to another human being. And I can be entertained while I’m there.
So I wonder – should going to church be that easy?
We have tried to make it so, in all sorts of ways. You’d be hard pressed to find a church with a dress code any longer. It doesn’t cost anything (at least at most churches), but if you want to give, you can do so from a kiosk in the lobby or through your computer at home. You can sit in a large crowd of people of which you really don’t know anyone. You can sing songs that require very little emotional or intellectual engagement, songs that sound remarkably similar to anything you’d find on the radio. You can listen to a message with entertaining stories and stirring statements. And then you can go home.
So I’m wondering – should going to church be that easy?
Maybe so in some ways. I want to believe that dress, or lifestyle, or smell, or skin color, or intelligence level – that none of these things should be prohibitive when entering a church. They shouldn’t. You shouldn’t be wringing your hands becasue your suit hasn’t been dry cleaned for Sunday services.
But in other ways, I think church shouldn’t be that easy. We shouldn’t have the option of not being engaged at a deep level by the songs of worship. We should have to think about the implications of what we are singing. We should be afflicted and comforted at the same time by the strong preaching of God’s word. And we should leave different than when we came in.
The church service, as the corporate gathering of the people of God, should be both easy and hard. We’ve erred in the past in accentuating one over the other. We need balance.
Maybe the balance is this: It’s easy to come to; it’s hard when you’re there; it’s even harder to get away from it.