Friday, October 19, 2012

What I Wish the Church Would Change Part 2

So much has changed in the world since I went to my first church service as an infant in the 50's. I'm pretty sure that I could recreate every Sunday from the subsequent memories I had growing up as a pastor's kid: prelude, three or four hymns, prayer, announcements, offering, special music, sermon, closing hymn, postlude.

Half of a typical church service involves music and related art forms. I maintain that the art itself might inform the worship experience in ways that are non traditional.

A typical church service in 2012 would be along these lines: piped-in pre-music, several worship songs, announcements, offering,  sermon, closing song, piped-in closing music. The only real variable is the musical style.

To look at a  church service from the previous century you'd think God inhabited only praise of the organ and chordal hymnody. Enter cultural revolution. A look at the modern church might make one think God's favor rests on the guitar, drum set and syncopated crooning. God, of course, isn't the one with the preferences. We are. And sure we've changed from the 50's, but we're still in a rut of another kind. Must we be limited to an era-correct group of composers? My apologies to Hillsong, but they are not the end-all answer to corporate worship.  Are we limited to "christian music" ? Doesn't God own all song, all melody, all rhythm? Have I lost any of you here?

After centuries of musical revolution, millions of choices present themselves. What if churches were open to all forms AND styles of music? What if they sung or performed something from Les Miserables or Rent, *gasp* in order to illustrate a point in a way that most Americans are going to experience at least once in their lives outside a church setting. What if the congregation brought their personal forms of art to share publicly? Some of these ideas have been implemented in some of the mega-churches but they are still considered somewhat avant guard. It's not the way we've always done it. We might be able to integrate contemporary music but don't mess with the song and sermon template.

What if a church Christmas program consisted of Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol in it's original form? Stravinsky's Rite of Spring just before Easter, and Handel's Messiah after? What if the organ and the guitar could lie down together? Kneeling benches AND hand raising?

What if we turned off the amps every now and then? What if the singers sang without a microphones, or we sat while we sang and stood up while the preacher spoke, like they did in Shakespeare's plays. For that matter, how about a Shakespearean play at church? There's some pretty pithy stuff in the The Merchant of Venice, for example, that still resonates. Isn't all wisdom God's too? Or, a simpler solution might be encouraging members to attend a local theater production and then host a discussion time at a local coffee shop about the concepts the performance explored. Most Americans spend time and money at Starbucks and the Cinema. Why doesn't the church join them there, spreading the fragrance of Christ intentionally in everyday places as the main focus of their ministry? It would also save a lot of time and money by cutting the number of corporate services.

Can you tell I'm feeling restless? I confess I'm more than a little bored of songs, message, go home,  and come back on Sunday and do it all over again. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for meeting together as believers. I just think a little 'pull focus' could revitalize our mission.

If God is God, He is bigger than life. It's time we began integrating our real lives and our worship experience.  Who's ready to stop trying to pretend that we're satisfied with worshiping Him through a pinhole when the universe itself cannot contain Him? Christians, of all the people on earth should be the ones presenting the vastness of God and His creativity to the world.

Monday, October 15, 2012

How To Win a Customer Back - Ask Mimi's

I'd like to be sitting down with you in my favorite restaurant to really give you the flavor of this post. But, since there's only one of me and I can only be in one place, I'll settle for imagining I'm tasting a Mimi's Carrot Raisin Muffin as I type. You can too!

In case you didn't catch on, I'm promoting Mimi's Cafe today! But they almost lost my business after one bad night. Let me tell you what happened and why I'm still devoted to Mimi's!

My mother and sister and I have been patronizing Mimi's for years. Not only is the food excellent but the service is always great! This summer when they gave out the promotional codes to win a trip to Paris, we sent in a lot. Which means we had eaten there a lot. So when my friend visited from Michigan I went in to Mimi's to get some take-out muffins to go.

The hour was late. It must have been after dinnertime, but well before closing. The restaurant was not very full of patrons. I asked the girl behind the corner for a dozen muffins. She seemed flustered as she looked under the counter, and then popped up, saying they must be out of containers. 

She walked behind a walled area, and I mindlessly watched the baseball game on a flat screen in front of me. Serveral employees filed in and out of that area, about six in all. One asked me if I'd been helped. I said yes. After a few more minutes, a young man in an apron came out and without speaking to me began to watch the game as well, his back to me.

At this point, I wondered if the waitress who'd taken my order had forgotten me. I waited some more.

Finally, she came back with a dozen muffins in two separate clamshell containers. (I'd been expecting them in the lovely cardboard and plastic wrapped box that I'd gotten before)

I paid and left, feeling it was a very "un-Mimi's-like" experience. I had been spoiled by my previous excellent service. So after coming home, I filled out the survey on the receipt essentially telling them what I just wrote here. Someone wrote back immediately, and apologized  and within days I had a Mimi's gift certificate in my hands.

My faith in the chain was restored and I was so impressed that I wanted to share what I think is an excellent example of customer service in the 'teeth' of a bad experience.

I took a picture of our waitress, Debbie. She has served us many times and was not involved in the incident above. I told her I'd put her picture on my blog and she reluctantly agreed.

Have you had an experience with good or bad customer service? I'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What I Wish the Church Would Change Part I

This is part one of a three part gentle rant regarding the wish list I have for a more perfect church. I am not speaking of a particular church, but rather the church in general as I have observed it.

What if there weren't seats in rows, so that you didn't have to spend the service staring at the back of someone's head? What if the place you went to worship looked like one big living room, with casual seating and a coffee bar? What if the time was spent, rather than one person doing the talking lecture-style, in groups discussing relevant issues in the light of God's truth? What if when you went as a newb, you didn't feel like you just walked in as a delivery person on 'The Office' but rather the people in charge facilitated everyone getting acquainted in a non-threatening way? What if you didn't get the impression that everyone else has  money, power and spirituality? What if, instead, the first impression you had was one of humility and selflessness? What if, when you walked in, the overwhelming feeling was one of belonging, instead of trying to feel like you fit in somewhere?

I sometimes feel like the modern church is a club that not everyone is welcome to join.