Church Culture Shock
When Lana and I returned in April 2017 from many months in Africa we landed at JFK Airport in New York where we were picked up by a good friend of ours and were taken to his home in Pennsylvania. That Sunday we were invited to attend church with him, his wife and two kids, which we gladly accepted. (We had attended this church once before with them about 9 months previously). During those nine months, we were motorcycling through several African countries bringing help to children.
After we were seated in the sanctuary I remembered how terribly loud the music was from the last time we were there. I also remembered how good the music was before (at least one of the band members had graduated from Juilliard) but the ear splitting volume was more than I could take. So I excused myself and told Lana and our gracious hosts that I would be in the foyer and that I would come back and listen to the sermon when the music was over.
I found a place to sit at the far end of the foyer, with my back to the wall, so that I could watch the coming and goings. And after sitting there for a few minutes I was struck by what I have come to call “church culture shock”.
The size of the entire church facility was several hundred thousand square feet, with the sanctuary seating well over 3,000 people, and there were three packed services on Sunday and one on Saturday.
I estimated the foyer between 5,000 and 6,000 square feet in size…maybe more. It had a small café/coffee bar, a place to buy books and what I guessed were souvenirs…knick knacks. There were many, many tables and chairs, a temperature controlled environment, restrooms, nice decorating, a great view through floor to ceiling glass to a very nice walled-in court yard which had additional tables and chairs, and the list goes on and on and on……………
In response to some perceived threat to the church, patrolling the foyer was a uniformed security guard that weighed 400+ pounds. He was wearing a bullet proof vest, carrying a handgun, hand cuffs, mace, a radio complete with an ear bud, and a collapsible baton. I seriously doubt that he could have reached around his roll of fat to draw his weapon. There was also at least six (6) other men with concealed carry handguns roaming around. (Please do not get me wrong here…I think that security in all American churches will become more and more of a necessity in the very near future, and in some it is necessary right now. I have even helped train some people to be armed security for a church.)
There was an extremely elaborate sound system that could do anything that you would want to imagine….something like you would see at a rock and roll concert. There were many video cameras and cameramen filming and producing a live video feed of the individual band members playing, all of which was being shown on several huge video screens hanging in the sanctuary and foyer.
There were LOTS of people in this church….a “sold out crowd”…..all dressed very nice, some wearing $1,500 suits and driving $80,000 to $100,000 cars which were parked on acres of paved parking complete with parking attendants……and the vast majority of these people were obese, some terribly obese….and by the looks of things I would guess that many were there just for the entertainment. And they put on quite a show indeed. From my prospective the only thing that set it apart from a rock concert was the lack of a ticket agent.
While I sat there in the extravagant foyer I made a very rough guess that the sound and lighting systems cost more than the entire annual operating budget for the government of the Central African Republic.
The week before that church service, Lana and I were in the Central African Republic. I had spent the last 10 days of that stay deep in Muslim rebel held territory (read completely lawless) in the northern part of that country. One of the many villages that I was at is Bamingui…..and I happened to be there on Sunday.
We were driving through the village……..I was standing in the back of a 4x4 Toyota pickup truck and standing next to me was the Chief Ranger for a counter poaching operation working in that area. He was carrying an AK-47 and wearing a tactical vest…not because of a perceived threat, but rather because of a very real and dangerous threat…..the Muslim rebel extremists that totally control that part of the Central African Republic. (Lana did not accompany me on this part of the trip…it was far too dangerous to take her.)
We drove into a church yard in Bamingui. The church was about 75 feet long and 20 feet wide. It was made of homemade mud bricks painted with some type of whitewash. It had a doorway but no door. It had air vents in the walls made with mud bricks that had holes molded into the bricks. It had a thatched roof (made from dried grass). There was no band, no sound system, no video cameras, no live video feed, no fancy pulsing and flashing light system, and there were no indoor toilets, no running water, no floor in the building, just dirt. There was not even a single light bulb to illuminate the interior of the church…..because there is NO ELECTRICITY in that part of the world.
The church service was being held outside under a big mango tree because of the stifling heat of the day…100+ degrees, and even hotter inside the church building. Remember there is no electricity in this part of the world so there is no air conditioning in the church…not even a small fan to move some air around.
No one was obese. In fact some looked like they had not been eating very well (to put in mildly). No one had a car parked in the sand lot of the church…not even a motor scooter was to be found. Most had worn out clothes….some mere rags….but their clothes were clean because they had washed them in the creek by hand. I did not see anyone who had shoes on…..because they didn’t have any shoes.
And there was no security team keeping these 75 or so Christian people safe from the very real threat of being attacked by the Muslim rebel extremists, who “own” this part of the world~!!!.
The vast majority of the people in that Pennsylvania mega church sacrificed less than five gallons of gas to get there and return home…and maybe a dry cleaning bill when they spilled something from the foyer café on their $1,500 suit.
The people I saw attending church under that mango tree in Bamingui were putting their lives on the line to worship Jesus, and not just that Sunday but everyday of their lives……Why? Because I promise you that it is only a matter of time until the Muslim rebel extremists have had enough of these “infidels” and will kill all of these Christians! It is not if it will happen, but when it will happen.
I wonder if any of the people attending that church in Pennsylvania would be brave enough to attend that church in Bamingui every Sunday……Openly praising Jesus and singing loudly, knowing that this day might very well be your last day…..that this day might be the day that are tortured and killed for your belief…..knowing that the day is coming and just not knowing when…but knowing that it WILL come.
Would any of you reading this be that brave??
And this is the reason why America finds itself in the dire circumstances that it is in. America has become a complacent, politically correct and Godless nation, full of spineless and neutered men. America as a whole, and many of the churches in America, are wallowing it its own moral cesspool.
I didn’t make it back in to the sanctuary for the sermon….I guess the “church culture shock” didn’t wear off soon enough.
Dr. Randy McKinney