(The fonts are doing that weird bipolar thing again. I don’t know why or how it happens. Don’t hate me for it.)
One of the hardest parts of moving to a new place is doing the “church search.” And we started it this past Sunday with a visit to #1 on our list, Odyssey Church, not The Osyssey Church. Just Odyssey Church, as if the word “the” might be too stifling and formal, thus repelling the target audience of twenty-somethings.
In an effort to rebrand Christianity from pipe organs and polyester, new breeds of churches have sprouted across the country. Some of them seem as if they’re trying a little too hard to demonstrate that you can be a Christian and still be hip. Odyssey Church fell into this category. Not that there’s anything wrong with “trying-too-hard-to-be-hip” churches.
(I’m already getting paranoid, assuming that someone reading this is growing more irately offended by the second. Settle down, Nancy, I’m just making an observation. God loves and appreciates all churches that honor his Word and accept the saving grace of his son’s work on the cross.)
First, the name of said church can’t be too, well…churchy. We’re seeing fewer “First Baptist Churches of Anytown while more houses of worship are popping up with names like Mercy House, Suffered Enough, Vinyard and Three Nails. Many of these names would also be appropriate for an addiction rehab facility.
In order to attract the “unchurched,” sanctuaries across the country are taking on the ambiance of small night clubs. Black walls and folding chairs replace grainy wood alters and cushioned pews.
At Odyssey Church, a small stage adorned with a single microphone offered a sort of Last Comic Standing appeal.
The walls had Interesting stripes that looked like the deacons had wadded up yards of wax paper, flattened them back out and then stapled them to the crown molding. I contemplated reproducing the decor in my living room and then posting on Pinterest.
Oh, and there was a coffee bar. There MUST be a coffee bar with shelves of books for sale, in a Barnes & Noble type setting. You can’t not have a coffee bar if you’re going to be a “hey, we’re cool, hip, caffeinated AND Christian” sort of church.
I thoroughly enjoyed the pastor’s message while sipping a double-skinny-tall-half-caff-whipped-salted-caramel-Venezuelan-fair trade-latte.
Odyssey Church’s website was written to sound like your best friend telling you about a great new club while craftily taking away all your excuses for not attending… like having nothing to wear.
“And there’s NOTHING formal about us. Heck, Pastor Mick hasn’t worn a suit since his last parole hearing. And the praise band goes shirtless every fourth Sunday. Unlike your grandma’s church, we’re more interested in what’s on the inside than the outside.” (Good point. I like the whole “don’t focus on appearance” message.)
True to the website’s word, Pastor Mick was dressed in the uniform of today’s modern, hip clergy.
-worn out jeans
–untucked shirt with rolled-up sleeves
-longish goatee cut into rectangular box shape.
-spiky hair that could alternately be used in self defense.
-tattoo of an obscure, seldom referenced Hebrew symbol, peaking out from under rolled up sleeve.
The congregation followed suit (no pun intended) trying a little too hard to look as if they didn’t care about appearance.
It’s a fascinating testament to the nature of human lemmings that people seem to miss the point of “come as you are” in favor of “dresses are out, skinny jeans, vintage concert t-shirts, piercings, etc are in. Yes, there is still a dress code and we cool, hip, don’t care Christians must get it right.
WIFE: “Honey, you shaved tonight? Why would you do such a thing? You know we have church tomorrow!!! And that shirt you have laid out…well, in my opinion, it’s a little too ironed for Sunday services.”
Sitting with my family at Odyssey Church’s 11 am service, I had an acute insecure feeling of not fitting in. When I feel insecure, I bite my cuticles and subconsciously start to judge those around me in an effort to feel superior.
I hadnt been homesick all week, but I longed for the familiarity of my home church, to hug one of my friends and not feel like a constant stranger in a new place. As tears began to stream down my face, the rest of my family was having a great time, jamming out to the over-amplified praise music.
James gave me a look that said “what’s the matter with you NOW?”
By the time Pastor Mick took the mic, I’d probably made Odyssey Church’s prayer list, not by name, but as the over-dressed, emotionally unstable mom on the back row.
For all of my mocking the “new, hip church” persona, I was blown away by Pastor Mick’s message. Wow! That guy has a gift! And in God’s perfect way, it was what I needed to hear…about looking for your similarities, rather than differences. Ya know, don’t judge those who are different. God works in all of us, in his own way.
I’m glad that Christian churches of all brands exist as long as they’re true to the Word. In today’s confusing, identity crisissed world, people need all the help they can get in connecting to God.
In two weeks, we’ll check out Parkway Baptist. I’ll feel comfortable wearing heels there. This Sunday, however, I’ll be back home at Dudley Baptist, feeling comfortable in my own skin. Maybe a newcomer will visit and poke fun at all of our stereotypes. They’re more than welcome because every church has them. And we’re still okay.