One of my better Grapevine articles on "how to do church"... and, as a bonus, you get to read me yammering on about John Denver & 8-track tapes.
I promise that there's a point to all this rambling today - but you'll need to read the whole thing to get there. It's not like you have anything else to do, right?
Growing up in L.A./Orange County in the 70's with parents who didn't listen to rock'n'roll, I was pretty musically sheltered. Dad loved jazz (Dave Brubeck, Al Hirt, Pete Fountain), Mom liked easy listening (Johnny Mathis, Jim Nabors, Roger Williams) and show tunes (Unsinkable Molly Brown, Mary Poppins, Sound of Music). Both of them thought it was important my sister & I "get" classical music, so there was tons of that in the house, too. Not to mention a high-end Marantz turntable, a JVC amp & very big speakers, thanks to my dad, the technology nut.
My first exposure to most rock music came from friends and/or friends with older siblings. The guy across the street (who was at that point was a high school loser and now is an excellent husband/dad & productive member of society) was majorly into three bands: Led Zepplin, Kiss & The Beach Boys. One of the guys who worked
for my dad would give me old singles he didn't listen to much anymore - so I had doses of Steve Miller Band and Lynrd Skynrd. My best friend got turned onto Rick Wakeman and Yes by his sister, so one of the first rock'n'roll albums I purchased was Rick Wakeman's Journey To The Center of The Earth. My first "girlfriend" loved the Beatles, so I ended up getting the two greatest hits 8-tracks and The White Album... some 10 years after it was released. (Some of you reading this don't remember 8-tracks... just imagine big, clunky cassettes that made a "ka-chunk" noise between each of the four sections of the tape.)
Which brings me back to my point. I wasn't into the Beatles because they were cool... "cool" in junior high was the soundtracks from Saturday Night Fever & Grease. "Cool" was disco and punk and, weirdly enough, the Urban Cowboy fad. I got to listen to the music AS MUSIC and appreciated it not because it was cutting edge or hip or what everyone else was listening to... but because it was good music. (I realize that some of you reading this don't begin to identify with what I'm calling "good music" - that's OK. Just take it on faith that it is good and I can get on with my rambling story.)
Being out of the cultural loop (the only non-Christian rock'n'roll concert - and I use the phrase rock'n'roll loosely - that I attended prior to leaving home was Dan Fogelberg) allowed me to choose my music because I liked it. I didn't care that liking John Denver was the equivalent of branding "dorky nerd" on my forehead, I really enjoyed his music (especially the song "Forest Lawn".) ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) wasn't ever really "in", but I loved then (and still love now) the odd blending of orchestral wildness and 4/4 rock'n'roll.
The first band I was into at the same time as everyone else was Styx. (And, though we were all johnny-come-lately's to Pink Floyd, The Wall seemed like the deepest thing we'd ever heard as sophomores in high school... but, while still an amazing work, it's not nearly as "awesome" as we thought it was when we were 15 & "deep". Ah, the hubris of youth.)
My only claim to being an early adopter was U2... thanks to a Christian teen magazine called Campus Life, who was talking about Bono & the boys back in the Boy/October/War days. I still love that music.
So what does all of this have to do with church? Or my walk with God?
In pursuing God as a church, the ONLY thing that matters is "Is it Biblical? Is it 'good'?" Even if every other church is doing it (whether that's 40 Days of Purpose or WMU or small groups or Sunday School), we can not choose to do something because it "works" or it "sounds cool" or it's "the happening thing." We have to choose who we are and what we do on the basis of what God has called the church to do: to share the faith, to serve others, to join together as a church family, to grow deeper with God, and to worship Him with passionate love. If a program that's "hip" in church circles can help us do that, great. But we will never choose to do something "because other churches are doing it".
In pursuing God as individuals, the same thing is true. Your Christian walk does NOT have to look like anyone else's walk with God - it just has to look like Jesus.
And, if we as individuals and as a church are going to make our life decisions based on chasing the good/chasing God, then we're going to have to do just that. We're going to have to pray, expecting Him to lead us. We're going to have to read the Bible, expecting to hear from Him. We're going to have to spend time with each other, expecting God to move in amazing ways through the teaching & advice of others.
As long as we let other people dictate the nature of our beliefs... as long as we choose to "do church" like everyone else, we are going to miss out on some great stuff. We are going to miss out on the work of God in our lives.
And sad as it would be if I hadn't learned to enjoy the Beatles, it would be so much worse to miss Jesus.