"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." As a Pastor it was one of the most uncomfortable but illuminating times. As Susan told everyone who follows the blog, a couple of weeks ago we celebrated Christmas early with a trip to the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC. I cannot describe adequately what a wonderful time we had together!
The story I'm sharing happened on Sunday morning before we left Asheville to head home. Susan and I decided not to attend a church service and go eat at a restaurant receiving wonderful reviews. The wait for a table was an hour and a half. It was 10:30 AM when we added our name to the list, realizing we were now eating lunch, not late breakfast.
The restaurant was alive with people. The waiting areas were informal outdoor spots and the there wasn’t a space to be found. People were huddled anywhere you could stand from the parking lot to the store next door- everyone patiently waiting their turn to come to the table and eat the highly acclaimed meals carefully prepared and served with style.
It took 2.2 seconds before I was bored to tears. (Susan had packed a book or magazine… she is always thinking ahead) I looked around for something to fill the time and noticed a church only a block away. I was dressed for breakfast, not church but I leaned over to Susan and asked if she would mind if I walked over and checked out the church. Of course she didn’t.
As I approached the front steps I realized service started at 10:45 AM. It was 10 minutes away. I pulled the door open expecting to be greeted the same way I had been at the restaurant, with warm friendly people excited to see me. It didn’t happen. No one was there. I walked in the sanctuary and said hello to the men who I could only assume were the inattentive front door greeters.
I walked an aisle seeing the sanctuary was very empty, more pews empty than full, & many places to sit. I looked up at the altar, I wondered if anyone was excited to be coming forward to the table here to receive the food that would be offered in a few moments- my impression, no. I exited back out the foyer. I proceeded to make my way through the entire church receiving no help, very few hellos, and never the feeling they were interested in me.
The people I did observe were older, friendly looking and well dressed. I didn’t feel unwelcome, I just felt as if the congregants were consumed with something else other than my presence.
As I left the church, I could see the restaurant crawling with people, people talking in their pockets of space making the best of a long wait for a good meal. The people looked young, successful, interesting, and alive.
My heart sank. I remembered I am a pastor. These people at the restaurant are my generation. They would rather eat at this table then the table across the street. They would rather huddle outside for an hour and a half in the cold then be inside the heated church building with pews to spare.
I didn’t attend church on that Sunday, but I found myself praying as if I was at the altar asking the questions so many pastors seem befuddled by today, “why is this generation choosing breakfast restaurants over churches?”
The Spirit of God moves wherever it chooses and more intelligent women and men than me are looking for ways to connect with this generation. But let me tell you, it was a scary reality seeing so starkly reality on those two street corners.
I place no blame. I point no fingers. I simply hope the Church will find a way to be relevant to this generation. They are creative, they are alive, they are sharp, and right now many of them don’t see any value in the Church.
It was eye opening. And you know, the food was good, fresh, farm raised and unique, but it didn’t hold a candle to what I get each Sunday at church!