John and Chris moved away and we kept in touch through e-mail, but more and more there were things that started to make me wonder. One of them was a conversation with a Lutheran lady about baptism. I tried to be careful in what I said so as not to offend her, but since we didn’t believe in infant baptism, it was sort of awkward. When she left, I thought on it more and started to wonder how we could both be Christians, but believe so differently on something so fundamental. Was there more to baptism than just an outward testimony to an inward change?
That question came back to me when Nolan was preparing candidates for baptism at our church. A lady approached him, not from our congregation, and asked if she could be baptized. She had been baptized before, but was wanting to renew her commitment to Christ and the pastor at the church she went to, on occasion, wouldn’t baptize her again. Nolan agreed and met with her as he did the others. That summer he baptized her and the others in the river. She never came to church again after that. I had to wonder, what did baptism mean to her? Didn’t she realize that faithfulness to corporate worship was foundational to the Christian life? What was the point of being baptized if she wasn’t going to go to church? Or did she return to her other church? If so, why would she come here for baptism if her church didn’t agree with our teaching? It was very puzzling.
Another wonderment was music. Thankfully, our church was very open-minded about the whole hymns vs. choruses discussion (or “argument” as had happened in a lot of churches). When we came to Rudyard one man told us, “I don’t care what we sing as long as the young people keep coming.” That was the sentiment of most of the people. Nolan worked to keep a balance of both so that people’s wishes could be met. However, we’d certainly run into those in our lives who got angry at this “new, modern music” invading their own churches. What about having a band? Nolan had played in the worship band at his own church growing up, so it wasn’t a big deal to him. My pop was infuriated by such things being introduced into my home church. Was there a balance to be achieved or did it have to be either-or? There were churches that had (and still do have) the “traditional” service and the “contemporary” service. How traditional should traditional be? Was there a limit to acceptability in contemporary?
While in college Nolan and I had taken a trip to Chicago to tour the art museum for a class of his. We took the opportunity to go to church at WillowCreek while we were there. This was when the megachurch movement was just gaining momentum and WillowCreek was at the front of the pack.
The first thing we noticed as we walked in was the no one was carrying a Bible but us. Then there was the walk through the food court until we got to the sanctuary (“church proper” for you Catholics ;-)). We stepped into an auditorium set up like a theater; theater chairs and all. Well, okay, it was very different, but y’know, it was Chicago!
The service was pretty good, but not real deep in its teaching. We found out afterward that was because Sunday morning was for “seekers”–people seeking God, not established Christians; that service was on Saturday evening. That also explained why folks kept interacting like this was a sporting event, including the two guys behind us who chatted about “the game” through most of the service.
I think that, although I wasn’t over impressed, I’d have been okay with the whole experience except for the food court thing. This wasn’t food for fellowship time, this was a food court doing regular business in the church building, right outside the doors leading into the sanctuary. All I could think of was Jesus and those money changers turning God’s temple into a place of commerce. Never have gotten that out of my head.
So, the question began to be, “How does God want to be worshiped?” As I considered that question, I realized I was sort of jealous of those Old Testament Jews who knew what God wanted because He’d spelled it out for them. I wished I could have some assurance that God was pleased. “Feeling” His spirit has always seemed a very shaky concept to me. I wanted to know.