Here is a real, completely true question I got from a reader. Remember, I am not making this up.
Dear Ponder Anew,
Man, I’ve got this problem, and I’m too embarrassed to even tell my mom and dad about it.
I’m 21, a college senior, and I’ll graduate next Spring with a Sacred Music degree. So, I’m planning to do, you know, real church music and stuff.
Okay, so there’s this girl I really like, and I told her I’d start going to church with her. But I just found out she goes to one of those freaking contemporary megachurches my mom always warned me about.
This is awful. I had no idea. I mean, she has that Thris Comlin guy as her ringtone for me, but I just figured she thought we looked alike.
I’m desperate! I don’t know where to turn!
Oh, wow. This is just terrible. This might be worse than being stuck in a car with K-LOVe blaring your brains out. But I do have one piece of advice that I think might help.
Run. Run away from this girl as fast as you can.
That’s what I would do if I were you. In fact, I did run from such a relationship once. She was kind, attractive, and was a fantastic violist, but things were never the same after I said I’d rather go watch the Braves than go to hear Andy Stanley over at North Point Church.
But only you can make this decision. People can change for the better. Never underestimate the power of good psychological counseling.
If you’re unwilling or unable to get out now, I can give you some advice. And this can work for all you other readers out there, too. I bet most of us have found ourselves in a similar undesireable situation, and barely lived to tell about it. I’ve heard so many stories.
“My niece was being baptized, and they lured me with the promise of Mexican food after church.”
“I figured their traditional service would be at 11am, because, you know, that’s the usual real church time. Then I got locked in.”
“I spent Saturday night with a friend, and in the morning they decided to ‘just visit.'”
“I thought it was some kind of club!”
“I got a postcard in the mail, inviting me to the Christmas Eve candlelight service. And I didn’t look them up first.”
“My grandparents make me go.” (This is actually quite common, because no matter how much people say “it’s all about the kids,” contemporary megachurches are being kept afloat by baby boomers.)
Whatever your reason, there is hope.
Here are 14 strategies to survive a Sunday service at a jesusy megachurch.
1. You’re 21, right? Okay, good. Buy a flask, and fill it with something tasty. Ordinarily, self-medicating isn’t healthy, but just this once… Try to keep it hidden, but if someone catches you, quote Ecclesiastes 9:7:
Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.Always quote it in King James. Trust me.
2. Take a couple laxatives before a big Sunday breakfast. Then you’ll have a real excuse for a nice, long bathroom break. Make sure you get an aisle seat, though.
3. One word: earplugs.
4. If you know any of the commercial jesusy songs the house cover band is playing in their “worship set,” sing them in your most glorious, full, Robert Merrill-ish operatic style. If you don’t know who that is, it doesn’t matter. Just sing really loud with lots of squillo. If you don’t know any of the songs, just listen through one repetition. It won’t take long, I promise.
5. Stuff your pockets full of ping pong balls. Lots and lots of ping pong balls. Then as soon as someone assumes a historically-inaccurate Orans posture, hurl one in their direction. If you hit ’em, you get 5 points for each row that separates you. My personal record is 680.
6. Bring a violin with you, and run up onto the stage, that’s what they call the chancel, and join in. If someone stops you, tell them it’s not you, it’s the Spirit, so stop hating.
7. Bring a teenager with you. Rehearse this scene from the classic FOX animated sitcom, “King of the Hill.” After the closing “worship” song, make this happen.
8. There will probably be some people who take their shoes off. I don’t know why, it just usually happens at this sort of thing. Get a bottle of Triple Action Gold Bond Medicated Soothing No-Mess Foot Powder Spray, and see how many bare toes you can spray before security pummels you. (Yes, they have to have security at these things, you know, because the pastor thinks he’s some sort of celebrity.) My personal record is 722. One guy had six toes on each foot.
9. Okay, same idea, but bring a bottle of spray deodorant. There will be people who need it, and those are always the ones who throw their paws up in the air from the first strum on the six-string Ovation. You’ll be performing a service, really.
10. Serve the drummer with fake divorce papers.
11. No matter which song the cover band plays, sing “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees. When people around you complain, just say, “It’s cuz I’m a believer, man!”
12. When the pastor is preaching, go forward and try to get him to autograph your Bible.
13. This church probably trashed their organ 25 years ago, because “progress,” but if they happen to still have one around, see if you can pull off this classic Bart Simpson gag.
14. Three words: crowdsurfing for Jesus.
I wish you well, Ratt. Call me when you get home so I know you’re safe.