Tuesday, February 07, 2006

You can't underestimate the value of a caffeine buzz and a good cupholder (longer version)

You can't underestimate the value of a good cupholder.

Have you ever stopped by your favorite coffee shop before church and then had to leave half of it in the car because you can't bring it into church with you? Why can't I bring a cup of my favorite "medium dark roast with half steamed skim with sugar free vanilla" into church? Is there a sign on the door of our church that says I can't? No. I just know that I am there to worship God and walking into worship with a cup of coffee kind of screams that I'm not really focused on worshipping God at the moment.

Besides, where would I put the cup of coffee. I'd surely kick it over when I stood to sing, reached for the hymnal or rose to join in the liturgy. No, coffee wasn't really meant to be brought into church. I'm not even sure that I like five year old munching on Cheerios in church, although I am not opposed to one little piece of gum or a roll of lifesavers. (Once I caught myself munching on my kids' Cheerios in church and then quickly looked around to see if anyone saw.)

That's what is so great about the postmodern movement. They aren't bound by such things as denying yourself a cup of coffee during worship (breakfast is surely the next step). A church in Minnesota has designed itself to be consumer friendly, complete with cupholders in the chairs (no pews, though!) , but without those annoying hymnals or bibles. The pastor even advocates the value of a caffeine buzz during worship. Anything to make worshippers comfortable.

Last night, Pastor Brooks preached a message on how the gospel isn't comfortable to anyone. He used one of Luther's confirmation questions to illustrate his point. It asks, "What is the Gospel?" The confirmand's answer is: The Gospel is the Word of God which reveals the salvation Christ has won for all people." (ELS Catechism, 2001, p. 35) Pastor Brooks went on to give three reasons why this answer is offensive. First of all, it is offensive because it speaks of us needing a savior. The fact is that we are in sin and are headed to hell without our savior. The gospel is also offensive because it implies that we need a savior who is not ourselves. Saving yourself is a popular message today, from modern culture to most churches. Finally, the gospel is offensive because it contains the word "Christ", which is rapidly being removed from our culture and even our churches. While I won't suggest that the gospel is not preached at this new church, I know I won't visit it to find out. I've been there and done that with huge slide shows, bands, no hymnals, no offensive creeds, etc. I left because I couldn't hear the gospel from all the other distractions. Maybe if I have been drinking coffee, I might have been able to stay pumped up for Christ.

By emphasizing 'comfy' on a grand scale, Minnesota's newest megachurch building attracts record-setting numbers of worshippers.


featured on Pioneer Press.com on 2-7-06

Inside, the sanctuary looks like a large theater, with comfortable movie-style seats with armrests. The razzle-dazzle services include comedy sketches, rock music from an 11-piece band and staging that would fit right in at the Guthrie Theater. There are no pews, no Bibles, no hymnals, no stained-glass windows.

The church is designed to feel homey. Which brings us to the cup holders.

"Our little coffee shop is humming on Sunday mornings," Anderson said. "It's a huge hit."

But church leaders figured it was difficult to stand, sit or praise the Lord with your hands in the air while worrying about dumping a hot latte onto fellow Christians. So they decided to add cup holders — anything to boost their reputation for putting people at ease.

"You can't underestimate the value of energy and buzz," Anderson said. "Those things bring people through the door."

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