Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sad Sabbath Experience

While traveling for business I attended a Messianic Congregation in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. I drove 2 hours to get there and found it one of the most enthusiastic yet self-absorbed churchs I have ever been to.

Never, until today, have I visited a church were a pastor or staff member did not make a point of trying to talk to me. And it's not like they did not have time. The senior rabbi walked right past where I was sitting to greet some former members sitting in the row behind me. Most church greeters make it a point to identify visitors, make them feel welcome and bring their presence to the attention of a staff member; not there.

Many people wished me a Shabbat Shalom but only three people actually introduced themselves. Clearly "Shabbat Shalom" had become a greeting as meaningful as the perfunctory "How ya doing" most of us give and get every day.

Every row had one or two visitor cards. I filled one out, but no one actually came to collect it. There was an oneg (pot-luck lunch) after the service, but I did not stay. I did not have any food to contribute and no one asked me stay. In fact, not a single person spoke to me after service.

The praise and worship part of the service was exciting and well done. People really got into the worship and dance. The Torah procession was like a conga line. Yet in some ways it seemed more like performance than worship. Half of the songs were canned music with words projected overhead and no worship leader. The other half were lead by a small praise band. The three ladies who fronted it were very good but did not really lead the congregation in singing. Some people clearly were singing, but nearly as much as I would have expected given the size of the congregation.

There was guest speaker who gave a short teaching from Jeremiah the main point of which was to call on the members of the congregation to share the hope they have in Jesus. It was a good teaching, but I'm not sure it really applied to that congregation. Had I been an unbeliever I would not have any interest in associating with those I saw today or sharing any "hope" they might have.

All that said, I did find a sense of the presence of the Lord: Obviously there were 2 or 3 gathered to really praise Him. I enjoyed the music for what it was and sang my praises to the Lord regardless the lack of leadership. I also found the teaching meaningful to me.

God Bless and Good Sabbath.

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