Last Sunday I visited two churches on the same Sunday morning. The first church I attended was rather "traditional." The architecture of the building was splendid and immediately gave me a sense of the sovereignty and majesty of God. The sanctuary had a capacity of about four to five hundred, and it was full. It was evident to me, as the service began, that the congregation had a strong sense of community and deeply cared for one another. Moreover, as the liturgy unfolded, there seemed to be a clear connection with the worldwide church and an understanding of its historic character as a Reformation body. Yet, through all this it lacked one thing: relevance. It was just plain boring. Despite the fact that it recognized and affirmed the confessions and creeds of the church, they were presented as wooden and disconnected from contemporary experience as if they were some sort of relics on display in a museum. The gentleman sitting next to me simply fell asleep, and for good reason.
Upon leaving this church, from which I sat and looked at my watch most of the service, I drove ten minutes to another church. This was a large non-denominational church with several thousand persons and multiple services. The church clearly existed to remedy the ills of the congregation from which I had just come. The service was simple and straightforward: 45 minutes of singing, and 45 minutes of preaching. Ironically, some of the same hymns I had just sung at the previous church I now stood and sang with a different kind of arrangement and enthusiasm. The preaching was biblically solid and hit me directly where I operate in my day to day spiritual life. There was, however, something missing: the historic creeds and confessions of the church. In the absence of these, I had the sense that the church was somehow adrift with no historical moorings to hold it. The building I entered was nothing more than a warehouse full of people which could not be distinguished from any run of the mill conference I had ever attended, or any concert I had seen. It appeared that in its zeal to distance itself from the musty nature of traditionalism, the church had thrown the baby out with the bathwater. A vast collection of people seemed utterly disconnected from both each other and from history altogether with no real guidance other than the practical.
I tell this tale, not to exhaust you in reading, but to posit: why does it seem that these two kinds of churches are mutually exclusive of each other? In looking for a church, and connecting with a local body of believers, we ought to be able to retain what is good in both churches. It is my prayer that Bridgeway college students will experience church both as a place of relevance and enthusiasm, while maintaining a solid rootedness to our rich history and faithfulness to scripture. Let us worship in both spirit, and in truth.