Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Body of Christ, Part II.

As part of my ongoing pilgrimage through Southern California churches (in addition to my home church), I visited an innovative, large church meeting in a converted warehouse last Sunday night. (Full disclosure: I went to college with the "lead pastor".)

Several things struck me:

1. The place was populated with college-aged people, except the greeter at the door, who was probably in his 50s; it seems the "post-modern" generation is hungry for truth and community (common themes of the night);

2. Bibles were omnipresent and would be handed out to anyone requesting one;

3. Except for a revved-up "How Great Thou Art", the songs were mostly unrecognizable to a visitor and spoke largely of personal sacrifice;

4. Folksy pastor came out talking about NFL games that day, and interrupted his remarks at least twice to comment on the highlighting appearing on a woman's Bible sitting towards the front; he didn't appear to have any notes, but he led a vigorous march through OT and NT scriptures about how God builds community and then sends them out;

5. In his remarks, the "teaching pastor" forcefully developed a theme of contrasting the "out there" with the "in here", and observing that those "out there" are not looking for a reproduction of their consumer-driven existence, but a distinctive from those "in here";

6. Even for a Sunday evening service, there was no seating available for anyone showing up at the start time; the "overflow" room, full of screens and odd, mismatched chandeliers (darkened during singing), was nearly packed; and

7. In the overflow room, people were standing to worship via song and applauding those in the other room for no particular reason (since they couldn't hear).

However, the most intriguing aspect of the night was an announcement of the church's vision for the year, involving building a "church of communities" through additional campuses and church planting. The lead pastor asked, "Where would a church plant have the most influence?" "Hollywood" was the correct answer, he said. He described Hollywood as "upstream from culture", and hence, highly influential. He explained that things flow out of Hollywood into the larger culture--a metaphor that could be taken positively and negatively.

In any event, the more I thought about it, the more stunning the announcement became in its unmitigated temerity and strategic vision. Breathtaking audacity, coupled with genius.