Great Worship Leaves You Uneasy

Church messed me up today.

We worshiped at The Brook with Jan. It was great to be there. Jan is a pro and I was impressed with how quickly we just dove into worship with only three songs.

The set was short to make space in the service for the 50 min. Fransic Chan video.

The video sermon messed me up.

Seriously, buy a copy of the mp3 from Youth Specialties for 6 bucks or email Jan and asked to borrow the DVD – it’ll mess you up too.

There were two aspects that hit me hard.

1. Sign or No Sign?

As I dream about one day planting a church this question hits me hard. When Rob Bell planted Mars Hill his friends got a sign for the church. He was appalled and made them take it down. I love the kinda guts it takes to have that attitude about church.

The notion is that people have to want to be there.

We beg and plead for people to come to church. We put up billboards, reserve special parking spaces for visitors and make sure there’s coffee and donuts. It’s kinda like we’re saying, “Jesus isn’t enough of a reason for you to be here – we need to add all this extra crap to try and entice you.”

So part of me says, “Sign?! Church can’t have a Sign!”

Chan indirectly hit on this point today. He talked about how as pastors we want to build big churches, but Jesus didn’t do this. When Jesus got a big crowd instead of being “welcoming” he said, “Hate your mother, hate your father, hate your kids, hate your family, pick a cross and follow me.”

We can’t have a sign – people have to want to follow Jesus.

On the other hand I place a super high value on things like signs and websites. I recently saw a business card advertising a sermon series and I commented to Sarah on how intelligent it was to put a map right on the card to make it easy. I have this strong desire to “let my light shine like a City on a hill” But when do we make it so easy for people to follow Jesus they aren’t really following Jesus at all?

Following Jesus is hard.

2. Where’s the Gospel?

Chan spoke about the parable of the good soil – how some people are rocky soil and some have thorns and some is good soil. Chan said that Jesus didn’t waste his time cultivating the rocky soil. He didn’t fertilize the thorns. He only focused on the good soil.

On the one hand this hit me hard – It breaks my heart to see churches bend over backwards trying to appease lukewarm Christians. They make sure the coffee is hot, and the music’s not too loud, and the words have to be on the screen at exactly the right time otherwise it’s too “distracting” to worship God. Gimme a freaking break. If you are so spiritually impoverished that you can’t worship God because you were “distracted” then you need to take a trip to China or Africa where the real Christians live. Where you can get murdered and tortured for your faith. I have no desire to try and appease lukewarm Christians.

It’s just like fertilizing the thorns.

On the other hand I think Chan is misinterpreting the parable. The point of the parable is that the sower is crazy irresponsible!! A smart sower would not only refrain from fertilizing the rocks – he simply wouldn’t sow seed there in the first place!

I thank God that’s He’s so generous and irresponsible. I was once some pretty rocky soil before God cultivated my heart.

Isn’t the Gospel the fact that we are ALL rocky soil? We were all sinners in need of a savior? Isn’t the point that we can’t do it? – that the church isn’t perfect, that we’re all broken, that we need Jesus to save us?

Chan never got there. The whole appeal seemed to say, “Christians – step up and start living better.”

I never heard – “Oh and by the way – you can’t do it. No matter how hard you try you are completely incapable. But don’t worry – God can. He is capable. It is He who wills and works in you. Trust in Him.”

Leave a comment

If you understood a bit of the struggle I rambled about above then drop a comment. Do you wrestle with this too? Have you found any insight?

You can also check out Jan’s take on today’s service.

11 Responses to “Great Worship Leaves You Uneasy”

  1. 1 Christopher December 28, 2008 at 4:27 pm


    This is the very thing that I appreciate about you Billy; God gave you a vision and you won’t let go. You can’t stay at a church that’s not headed in the same direction and you’re left uneasy at the absence of the Gospel.

    Was there no mention whatsoever by anyone else? I can’t say I’m not guilty of the same, but what a perfect opportunity for someone else to step up and ask if anyone feels like the thorny soil.

    I used to attend Mars Hill and I only knew about it because a friend invited me. There is a sign on the door, but you have to be standing there to see it. The point remains that you have to want it to find it. But is it the Gospel that attracts people there or is it the good music and the trendy preacher?

    I hope worship continues to leave you uneasy. Life is to short to settle for anything.

  2. 2 janowen December 28, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Billy, I hope you’ll read the post I will put up tomorrow night – it’s about the convo you and I were having about simplicity in church. I’m just still wondering about some things. Today’s sermon just made me wonder anew! Would love to hear your take.

    And I agree. You’d make a GREAT church planter. As a two time church planter I’d have to say it takes boldness and guts and it helps to be a bit crazy. 🙂 It’s a leap of faith.

    Thanks for dropping by – hope we can worship together again soon.

  3. 3 Randy December 28, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    I wish more church-going people would deeply reflect on what happens on Sunday morning like you do.

    The sign issue: you’ve seen our sign, dude, and it stinks. I often think that it would be better for us to not have a sign at all than to have the 40 year old rotting sign that we do have which doesn’t even have the right worship times on it. My take on it: signs get outdated fast. So, if you put up a sign, be prepared to change it out a lot. Otherwise, don’t do it. To be honest, people in our community know our church by the cross streets (it’s on a major road) and by the architecture. But, they don’t know our church in the sense that we are here for them. We have a lot of work to do to show our community that this church serves to point them to Jesus, and isn’t just a sign by the road pointing them to do the churchy thing.

    Chan: I like Chan; read his book and subscribe to his podcast. I agree: he tends to lean on “live better guys”. But honestly: he’s dealing with Christians that say they’re Christians but they don’t do anything to show it. I love preaching the Gospel, but I think my tribe needs to hear more of the “this is how we should then live” because of the Gospel.

    Parables: I love parables because there’s no one way to interpret them. They are beautiful and full of punch…there’s no way to distill them down to one truth. I love your interpretation of it! Right on bro! I would challenge you to find other ways of applying that parable too.

  4. 4 Billy Chia December 28, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    Good call on stepping up. Actually The Brook’s youth pastor stepped on stage after the video and gave a great invitation to enter into relationship with Jesus and offered to meet with any who’d desire more conversation.

    Yeah I’ll check it out.

    Thanks for the honesty.

    I use “sign” as an analogy for “marketing.” Basically, “Is it flyers, signs, and websites that get people to your church or is it Christ?” I’m a marketing phreak and sometimes to my detriment. Your broken sign proves the point that you don’t need fancy marketing.

    I appreciate your point about parables. There’s room enough in the Word for multiple views and applications of the story.

  5. 5 janowen December 29, 2008 at 10:20 am

    I thought I’d add a funny thing about the sign. We had a “temporary” sign for almost 10 years. It did not say “church” on it although it had service times. It just said “The Brook”. Well, because of our unique architecture 🙂 we finally invested in a real sign. People kept calling and they would think we were a) a water bottling plant b) a skating rink or c) an indoor golf facility (obviously a northern thought as we do NOT need those here!)

    So we got this new sign and put it up and guess what – the scrolling part keeps messing up and presently does not work at all.

    So I’m not sure people still can tell if we are a church……

    we are known around Madison as the “hershey kiss” building.

  6. 6 James December 29, 2008 at 10:39 am

    “Hate your mother, hate your father, hate your kids, hate your family”

    Jesus preached about hating people?



    There are many metaphysical, philosophical questions in this post, none of which I’m qualified to answer, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask them and seek answers.

  7. 7 Peter Park December 29, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    I think we need to get back to the basics and talk to people. The internet has been a great way to connect with people but we cannot discount the importance of a face to face contact to engage people.

  8. 8 Billy Chia December 29, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    hahahahahahahaha – “hershey kiss” that’s awesome.

    Actually I’m a huge fan of simple and loved the building. It’s also a pretty cool story to hear someone say “I was up on a lift tightening bolts up there.”

    My Bible must be weird or something 🙂

    (I updated my blogroll to your new site.)

    Rock on – that’s the point, relationships are key.

  9. 9 Bill Rainey December 29, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Billy, it was great having you with us Sunday morning! I must admit you hit the nail on the head with your blog comments regarding Chan’s video… I felt the same way about it!

    If you do a church plant, keep me in mind as I’d love to be involved somehow, even if only in a small administrative way.

  10. 10 worshipcity December 29, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Love the discussion!
    I love Chan. I’ve heard him ask the question if Jesus had a church today would his church be bigger than his? Chan says things a bit different about parables. I always heard they were used in order to convey clarity however Jesus’ tended to confuse people 🙂 Take the one you referenced here. A huge crowd gathers to hear Jesus and he tosses out this illustration that nobody gets and when the disciples question him about it he tells them you either get it or you don’t!

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “marketing your church.” I mean there’s a church on every corner down here in the South. If someone wanted the Gospel they could go to a church a week and not hit them all. I think though you ask the right question however, does our church stop with fancy marketing and engaging culturally? Or is there something substantial and is the Gospel presented? And do we cater to the masses rather than preach the word of God?

    In regards to James, not hatred but commitment and exclusivity. And why not? Christ calls us to love him and offers us his love. Shouldn’t the love of your life cost you everything? I think so 🙂

    Good stuff here Billy, I love your blog!

  11. 11 fmckinnon December 31, 2008 at 9:08 am

    Great thoughts, my friend. I love hearing what someone “takes away” from their time of worship.

    Funny, I had someone the other day make a comment about how people at my church don’t “worship”. I know what they were talking about. Like me, they come from a Charismatic background, and assume if people are raising their hands, shouting, swaying, and singing really loud, they aren’t “worshiping”.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see more expression … but I think you really have “true” worship when people are uneasy .. when they are changed … when they are stirred to action because of their response to God’s Presence. That type of “response” is measurable … and in so many cases, those who we assume were really “worshiping” by what we can “see” don’t exhibit that response. Go figure.

    Umm .. I feel a New Year’s blog coming on this one.

    Happy New Year

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