it's good to be back. i spent the early part of this week in southern california, about 25 minutes north of san diego. the weather was incredible. it was in the high 70's and low 80's during the day, and in the mid to high 50's at night. the scenery was absolutely incredible. just seeing palm trees and birds of paradise at this time of the year was wonderful. it was my first time to put my fingers in the waters of the pacific. it was my first time to california. it was my first time to fly a red-eye (and hopefully my last). i had a really nice trip.
i was in san diego (carlsbad, really, as pictured above) for a conference on churches that worship in multiple sites. our church here in clinton, nj, worships in two different sites, and has had some trouble making this work, so we thought it would be good to attend this conference to see how other churches have done it successfully (and otherwise).
the conference was really led by three different churches (huge churches) from around the country who are using multiple sites to grow at incredible levels (one church has experienced something like 600% growth over the past two years). these churches are using video in their services rather than a live preacher. that is, they provide many sites for worship (sometimes in different geographical areas and sometimes on the same campus) with many different styles of worship (and by styles they mostly mean musical styles), but when it comes time for the sermon, it is beamed in via video.
well, we thought this was strange, and we left the conference still thinking that it was strange. but, we did learn some things about what we DON'T want to do! i really felt that so much of this conference was about numbers. that we somehow have to get as many people to church as possible. verses were quoted and often misquoted to say that our main objective was to get as many people as possible to worship Jesus.
now, don't get me wrong: i want people to hear the good news, and as many people as possible. but i think we have to look at both the ends AND the means. i really felt that, for many of the leaders of these churches, the ends had become more important than the means. it has become about filling up churches and then reproducing that again and again until you are absolutely huge.
maybe i just have big-church-envy.
but, i just got the feeling that i need to be about relationships, first and foremost. for me, sharing the good news doesn't mean only inviting people to some really cool and trendy worship that looks just like a concert. for me, sharing good news means journeying with people, and engaging them in a relationship. maybe i am just in left-field here, and maybe my methodism has gotten the better of me, but this is how i feel about it.
bigger isn't always better. right?
so, it was a good trip to california. i feel reaffirmed in the work i am doing; the work i feel called to do. i enjoyed the warmth. i enjoyed the food (mexican one night, seafood the second night, on a deck over the pacific). i enjoyed the company (my senior pastor and two of our laypeople went). and i enjoyed the adventure. but i am glad to be back.