A red-faced, vein-popping man once approached me after our Classic Worship Service to let me know how he felt. I remember thinking that if he doesn't have a stroke then he's missing a marvelous opportunity. He told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to remove the drums and guitars from the platform during the Classic Service, because he could not worship with them in his view. Instead of explaining the logistics of not moving the drums, I told him that I might be able to move the instruments as long as he was willing to move the organ during the Casual Service since that might hinder their worship. The look I received from him was not "special." He huffed and said that he knew I would never do anything for the older people. Then my veins enlarged and my face turned red, and I said … oh, never mind, you probably know what I said. It was not one of my greater spiritual moments.
When I was a pastor, we had an early Classic Service and the later service was Casual. The personality of the two services became a lesson in contrasts. The Classic Service was for people who had been in church most of their lives. They came, they saw, they griped. It was too hot or too cold, too loud or they couldn't hear a thing. It was Flag Day, and the flag was too small. Or they wondered why Brother Josh did not sing solos.
The later service was designed for younger, non-traditional attendees. They did not know if we were doing it right or wrong, they were just glad to be there. Many were now happily married and had replaced their alcohol or other addictions with a home full of furniture. They did not know what to say, but they were usually positive. Many times they told me, "Father Lowery, that was a great mass." Not knowing what to say, I just responded, "Bless you."
A thought kept crossing my mind: I better tell that Casual crowd that they've been in church long enough, and if they keep coming, they'll end up like the Classic crowd. The moment I thought that, I realized there's something wrong with the way we do church. What do we do to people in our churches that, after years of attendance, they turn into such a negative crowd? Let me illustrate with another story.
We developed an event called "Burgers and Baptism." We had many Catholics come to Christ whose families would not attend a worship service. We searched for a way to include their families in a baptismal service. Our philosophy was that the saints should march out instead of in. We thought that early baptism services were more like a cookout by the river. So we developed Burgers and Baptism, which was a great success.
I explained to the families why their family members were being baptized, and often a family member received Christ at one of these events. We had a new staff member whose first assignment was Burgers and Baptism, and he was so excited that seventy-three people were being baptized that afternoon. As we were leaving, he was cornered by a church lady whose religious bun had just come unwound. The joy was being sucked right out of his countenance. I asked if he was OK. He said that he didn't get it. She was upset that seventy-three people were baptized. She said it wasn't "holy" enough. He wondered what to say to such people. I said, in the flesh, I would probably tell him to take a stained glass window and hit her over the head with it and ask her if that was holy enough. Then I put my hand on his shoulder and told him to say nothing. She would never understand.
I believe many times we may be wasting our breath, because some people just don't understand how it works.
A monastery had a different monk preach in chapel each week. One particular monk was extremely shy and was very hesitant to take his turn. As the day loomed closer, his superior told him that tomorrow was the day. Scared and shaking, he addressed the other monks by asking them if any of them knew what he was going to say. After all shook their heads in the negative, he responded that he didn't either and blessed them all with a "Go in peace. Amen."
The abbott was furious and told the frightened monk that he had to preach a sermon, and he would preach it the next day. Again, he asked if anyone knew what he would say, but this time the monks wanted to be encouraging and all said, "Yes." The enterprising monk then told them all that since they knew what he would say, there was no need for a sermon.
The livid abbott told the monk that the next day was his last chance, and he would again preach in chapel. The following day, he again asked, "Does anyone know what I'm going to say?" Some shook their heads "yes" and some shook their heads "no," thinking that they now had him trapped. He looked at the expectant monks and said, "Those of you who know, tell those who don't."
As a matter of fact, he summarized how it works. It is simply this: those of you who know, tell those who don't. It's simple, but in today's churches, it's often not easy.