Monday, January 23, 2012

At (A) Crossroads

English: Crossroads
Image via Wikipedia
Ty and I, after five years, have decided it's time to move on from Nexus Church, the progressive start up/experiment we helped launch in Southwest, OH.  It was a difficult decision that took us well over a year to finally face.  I have been out of love with church for over 20 years but decided to go back first for Ty, then for the girls and finally, at Nexus, for the community at large.  Unfortunately, Nexus wasn't working for any of us.  Ty didn't really feel connected with the people there as we had so much churn and, after five years, still only a hand full of families attending. We started taking Shayna and Kayla there when Kayla was 10 and Shayna was 7.  From the very beginning, Kayla was pretty much alone when it came to children her age.  Shayna had a couple of friends who were attending part time which stopped in the last couple of months. So, the girls were bored to tears there. Kayla joined a youth group with another church a couple of years ago and Shayna started attending that church's youth group in the fall.

So, with a heavy heart, we made the decision to move on.  But, Ty has this vision of us all going to church together. So, she and Shayna have been seeking out another church.  A couple of weeks ago I went with them to the satellite "campus" of Crossroads Church- in Mason.  Crossroads is one of those megachurches with the fancy coffee bar, auditorium seating, video productions, slick bands and all the trimmings one needs to be fully entertained on a Sunday morning.  I've been twice now.  Here are my impressions:

The Pros:

  • Coffee bar- if you've visited one of the mega churches, you've probably come to expect the coffee bar and the way you immediately feel welcome in the building.  The Mason Middle School, where the satellite services are held, is transformed on Sunday mornings into a place you would think is a church full times.  There's a countdown until when the doors open, then a countdown until when the service starts.  I felt like I was at Disney World waiting to get into the next showing of one of their "attractions".
  • The Band- the band at Nexus has dwindled to a keyboard and a guitarist.  Crossroads has a full band and they rock out on Sunday mornings.  I wasn't a big fan of their selections.  But, it is nice to have a full band.
  • Children's Services- this is major for Shayna especially.  The junior high and senior high school kids are together at first and they are given the same message (theme) that is being taught in the adult service.  They don't watch the same video (the sermon at the satellite location is taped).  But, they cover the same points. So, we can discuss the lesson of the day on the way home and we know what our kids are being taught.  The kids get the chance to interact with kids their own age.  Shayna already has a good friend who goes there.
  • Anonymity- if you want to get lost in a church, this is the place to go.  First of all, so many people are there that no one knows if you're a visitor or just someone they've never met.  So, you can easily blend in. The auditorium is kept dark during the service.  So you're pretty much a faceless body in a seat during the service.  
  • The Sermon- I was pleasantly surprised by Brian Tome's first sermon about money.  It was practical, entertaining and made me think of money from a perspective I might not have before. I thought it might be a fluke. But, his second sermon I heard was actually even better.  One of the problems I have had with Nexus is we have had two pastors who follow the "lectionary" and try to fit their sermons to a pre-assigned Bible verse.  For me, that leads to a very hit or miss sermon (mostly miss).  I'd rather hear what is on their heart than them being forced to fit a sermon around a verse some committee somewhere chose.
  • Entertainment Value- the production is impeccable.  There are videos, the band is playing.  There's never a dull moment.  Church in the 2010s is playing to our ADHD tendencies.  It's quick, snappy, bright and shiny and in constant motion.


The Cons:

  • Anonymity- it's really easy to just slip in and slip out of one of these churches.  You never have to get involved.  You really wouldn't have to even give any money.  You can just come every week, be entertained and then go about your day.  There are calls to get involved by volunteering (it takes a LOT to run one of these places) and by joining small groups.  But, having attended one for years and been behind the scenes, experience shows that only about 20% of people really get involved.
  • No real "mission"- I wonder what the real mission is of churches like this.  We were always being called to bring people in (at the Vineyard) and I've seen the same thing at Crossroads.  The idea seems to be to introduce our friends to God.  But, what then?  The churches stay full.  But, what I saw at the Vineyard was that as people matured spiritually and wanted more, they tended to drift away from the "seeker sensitive" Sunday morning message and wanted something more substantial.  
  • Videotaped sermon- the Head Pastor of Crossroads runs the services at the main campus.  The video that is show at the satellite campus is taped Saturday evening at the main campus. The rest of the production is live.  There is a "Campus Pastor" who comes on stage to welcome people, make announcements, etc.  When it's time for the sermon, they "roll the tape"
  • Massive effort for what return?- there is a lot of money and time that goes into putting on these productions.  My friend Scott Phillips is where I first heard the idea of having a pastor broadcast his sermon to multiple locations to maximize the utility of the time spent putting together the message and to allow the best speakers to reach the most people and allow people who weren't gifted in that area to run a "campus" and not have to deal with doing the sermon.  It's a great business model.  But, there is still a lot of money and time being spent on these productions and I often wonder if it couldn't be better spent.
  • Zero interactivity- One of the great things about attending a small church is the ability for people to ask for prayer.  It's not something I often took advantage of at Nexus.  But, I know a lot of people really like that.  There are signs up at Crossroads and you can stay after and have someone pray for you.  But, with several hundred people in there for each service there is no raising your hand and asking the congregation (who doesn't even know you) to pray for your situation.  Another thing that I did really enjoy at Nexus was our "talk back" time which was a time where we could comment on the sermon and share thoughts with the other people who had heard it.  You can do that with 50 people in a room.  You can't do it so well with 500 or 1,000.
So, that's my experience with Crossroads. Not unbearable by any stretch.  But, it's definitely not what I envision church should look like. Will we keep attending?  Only time will tell.


6 comments:

Kansas Bob said...

You and I are attending similar churches Brian. I resonate with what you have shared. Yet I love the campus model as it frees up our campus pastor to be very involved with the folks at the church.

brian said...

Thanks for the comment, Bob. This is most definitely NOT where I would choose to attend if it were only me that I had to consider. I can't stand the lack of interactivity or the fact that there is no real community without joining small groups (so why not just go to a small church)? But, the biggest problem with Nexus, the start up I was attending is it can't meet the needs of our kids. The other issue that I found really draining for me was the financial situation. After five years Nexus is still struggling from paycheck to paycheck. Being a leader there for most of that time, the strain got to be more than I could keep facing.

Kansas Bob said...

The church we attend is a United Methodist one - never thought that I would attend one of these. :)

Yet the church is one that you would probably like theologically in that they are welcoming of all people and never speak of hell. Our small group did a study of "Love Wins" last spring and the dialog was pretty stimulating. We talked about Christian Universalism and several in the group seemed to lean that way. Reminded me of our many virtual conversations.

Lastly, I find this expression of Christ's body to be very supportive. During our time in Chicago I talked with the campus pastor many times and when we came home our cabinets were filled by these sweet folks.

I am still not gung ho about church but I have found my discussions in the weekly men's group and small group to be fairly satisfying because I am accepted and can be pretty open in those venues.

I applaud your willingness to be a part of a different style church. Years ago I told my wife that it was her turn to pick the church. And when I see her joy in being a part of church I am so glad that I did.

brian said...

No place is perfect. That sounds pretty good, Bob.

brian said...

Just a minor point, I wouldn't like a church because it doesn't talk about hell. Many "seeker sensitive" churches gloss over hell because they think the topic would turn people away. I prefer a church that takes a stand on hell- or at least openly discusses it.

Kansas Bob said...

I am at the opposite end of that Brian. I am not interested in being a part of a church that divides people with a dogmatic approach to issues. I prefer leaders who approach controversial topics and help folks see the many sides of an issue.