I'm on the email list for a really interesting church in the North Texas area- the Village Church, pastored by a guy named Matt Chandler. I visited there once on the recommendation of a friend, and couldn't help but like the place. And yet, I was a little put off by how much I couldn't help but like the place. It was a bit like a theological Disney World- by which I mean, it's a church that's (subconsciously or otherwise) designed to be attractive. The pastor is young and dynamic, and reminds me uncannily of the itinerant on-leave-from-seminary wannabe preachers who used to visit my high school youth group, usually to much acclaim.
When I visited, there was a tremendous emphasis on having a genuine experience. The unspoken implication was that at other churches, people sang songs and read the Bible and worshipped God, but at the Village Church, they really meant it. And you could tell the really meant it, because they mentioned it every five minutes.
I don't really want to be too hard on them, since virtually everyone I met there was incredibly nice and friendly, and I could sense a real level of sincerity that, if it didn't impress Jesus, would at least win over the Great Pumpkin. Plus, a friend goes there, so it can't be all bad, right?
On my way out, I noticed a stack of flyers advertising some kind of seminar coming up in the next couple weeks. Peering past the design elements and the catchy phrases, I could make out that it was a subtly-euphamized gay-deprogramming seminar.
Gah. Just when I'm starting to like the place, they mention that they like helping people get rid of their gay. It's that inevitable disappointment hiding behind some obscure Bible passage, just waiting to trip me up as I'm walking past the pews.
I received another reminder of this in my email inbox today- a request for people to go to Myanmar in support of a charity that provides drinking water for those in need. Yeah! All right! Good humanitarian efforts for a good cause at the right time! This is a church!
But then, the inevitable disappointment:
The country has recently been one of the most closed off countries in the world to the gospel, and the humanitarian crises there had been escalating as the government continued oppressing its people. In light of the natural disaster, the doors to Myanmar are opening as the level of need is beyond anything we can imagine. Please keep this country and its people in your prayers.
I suppose there are worse excuses to evangelize, but damned if a part of me didn't shrivel up after reading that.