Yesterday in one of my classes at Vanderbilt, the question was asked, “What do you need in order for there to be church?” We began answering the question, mostly focusing on personal preferences that we have about worship. Some people “need” liturgy and a structured order of worship and some people “need” a more relaxed, free-form order of worship; some people “need” music that is contemporary with a full band and some people “need” organ voluntaries, hymns, and choirs; some people “need” a biblically-based sermon that digs into scripture and some people “need” a topical sermon that helps them make sense of some issue they’re facing.
On one side, I see the importance of figuring out what people “need” in church. It’s important to meet people’s needs, to meet them where they are, to help them have a positive church experience. But on the other side, as a pastor, it can be EXHAUSTING to feel the pressure to meet everyone’s needs all the time. It feels consumeristic, as if the church is simply a business providing people a service, and if they don’t like the way you provide the service, they’ll go somewhere else. The problem is, there’s no such thing as a perfect church that will always meet your needs.
So, what’s the balance? I believe the church has the potential to meet people’s deepest needs, and does, more often than not, meet those needs. But what’s the balance between trying to meet those needs and trying to meet the needs of a consumer-minded, church shopping culture?
And who is church for anyway? Does it exist for us? Does it exist for God? Does it exist to be God’s instrument in the world or just to help us feel happy and contented?
I wish I had the answer…