Mea culpa, mea culpa. I've been going crazy between comps and teaching, but I've been mulling over some things, even so!
Last weekend on NPR's Weekend America (you can listen to it there), an Austin church was featured–the Church of Brunch. Hosted in a home, its main principle is that it is non-God based. The members meet together and participate in their liturgy of singing a song or two (by Johnny Cash on the day NPR attended), having a reading of some kind (on that day from The Devil in the White City, which Amy highly recommends as an interesting, fun read), there's a moment of quiet meditation for whatever usage the attendees see fit, and then, of course, brunch.
So, noticeably absent are hymns/other praise songs, Scripture reading, prayer, and, especially, God. The founders said that they had attended many churches and synagogues looking for a sense of community, but were upset because eventually it would come out that you need to do "this, this, and this," or you are going to hell. What shocked me about that statement was that the Unitarians were listed in the places they had tried—what Unitarian church told someone they were going to hell?
But, as John pointed out, I suppose that people come in to church hearing what they expect to hear. Which, perhaps, means we should be all the more bold in gospel-proclaiming, since people who'd be offended by it seem to be offended no matter what. And, it's offensive by its very nature. But, I digress.
What I was most interested in was this group's search for a sense of community. Maybe the statement that their main principle is being non-God based is incorrect—more correctly, they seem to be seeking community. I'm glad that people are doing so, in a time when community seems to be increasingly absent. I do wish they had found it in a local church in Austin, where I'm sure there are churches on every corner (it is SBC land, at least).
I am glad that some are seeking community and human contact, because many are not, evidenced by LifeChurch.tv, a church which began in Oklahoma City, and which my brother, as well as many others I know, attends. It now has 9 campuses, in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Arizona, Fort Worth, a new one in Tennessee, and the "internet campus." Realizing that this is not that new (internet church—although it still grates on me), what I am surprised at now is the internet confessional. Yes, the internet confessional.
At MySecret.tv, you can give your confession to the familiar space of your own computer screen, as well as anyone else's who cares to read it. It's interesting to me, the idea of anonymous confession to the internet. The pastor, Craig, gives a video explaining that only confession to God will truly mean something, but, it seems almost empty when you can go right over to the sidebar and either read lurid tales of sin or write your own.
Interestingly, I saw this last Sunday on the Today show (or perhaps Saturday). Lester Holt interviewed Craig Groechel about the site and its purpose. Craig said that it is advertised as a first step in a repenting process. Lester really took him to task, though, asking if it weren't true that the Bible and the early church taught that we should confess to God and to one another—which really shocked me on the Today show, but for which I was glad. Craig said that this first step would hopefully lead someone to do just that.
I'm quite skeptical. The anonymity of the internet, IP addresses aside, leads me to think that most who would post to a site like that would never confess to a fellow believer, although whether God is involved is between that person and God. Churches should be addressing the internet, of course. For many people, it is the first point of contact with a local church. It probably should not be the only contact, however. I don't think that's what was intended in instructions about "fellowshipping with one another."
Maybe I should go confess that I haven't blogged in weeks.