Jesus for the IKEA Worshiper

Jesus for the IKEA Worshiper February 18, 2020

After chatting so freely about Church by the Glades yesterday, and their guacamole themed sermon and church service—for indeed, I don’t know if we said, but there was a huge screen on the stage with a picture of a bowl of guacamole overtaking the whole sacred event—Matt sent me a tweet picturing this fantastic comment and rating from someone who attended a service at this peculiar place:

This is so wonderful, truly. It says in one pithy moment everything that we tried to say for an hour yesterday. First of all, observe that the person is “not religious,” but was willing to stop at a church with his neighbor who wanted to stop “on the way” to Ikea. I mean, I do love Ikea, and given the choice between wandering around Ikea and enduring many church services, I do think it would not be hard to decide. This person hasn’t been to church in 40 years but had a really good time.

Observe what he likes about it—it is “huge,” “beautiful,” “well designed,” and full of “tons of people.” Moreover, the set was “professional,” the singing was “amazing,” like “going to a rock-n-roll concert or a Vegas show,” and finally nobody “asked for money.” This person thinks maybe he will person will visit again if he ever ventures back to Ikea on a Sunday.

I would imagine, also, that Church by the Glades would be delighted to see this comment, rating, and recommendation. This is exactly the sort of person they are hoping to attract. This is a win all around. He is their “demographic.” Or she. I shouldn’t assume anybody’s sex or gender.

So anyway, the pathos of this kind of thing fills me with joy and sadness at the same moment. Truly, I do like it when people are happy. I am what they call a “people pleaser.” I generally bend over backward trying to make other people feel no discomfort at all so that they will like me, even if it means avoiding conflict, or lying, or not saying everything that could be said on a subject, especially one like Jesus. And really, I think that very good human inclination—to make other people feel comfortable and happy—is the driving force behind a lot of stuff like the guacamole church service. Of course, there are theological and philosophical underpinnings to this sort of phenomena, this doesn’t come out of nowhere. But I do think that desire for people to fill the pews, and to please those people so that they will stay, often masquerades as anxiety over the lost, the genuine desire to go after the sheep who has gone astray. The two might look very similar, until you take them both to their logical conclusion, at which point you can see that they are not the same at all.

I wonder, if you were really going to deliberately attract the Sunday Ikea crowd, what you would do to your set? What piece of furniture would Jesus be most like? Is he that little metal tool that comes with every single bed and bookshelf? Can’t succeed without that little thing that goes round and round. Or is he the big beautiful stars that were sold this last Christmas? The ones that light up so beautifully. Or is he that delicious jam?

The kinds of things I want to hear from people who visit Good Shepherd are not that it was big, or beautiful (because, well, we try hard, but it’s an uphill battle), or that there were tons of people (I mean, I do wish there were tons of people, and am grateful for every single person who makes it through the door), or that it was super professional. I like it best when people admit that they “didn’t hate it as much as they thought they would,” and “really appreciated the sermon,” and “really loved the liturgy,” and “had never heard so much scripture read in church,” and “was greeted by some friendly people.” Even better is when people stay for a bit, and open up their hearts and minds both to Jesus and to each other. It is astonishing to see people endure, forebear, work out painful conflict, and give sacrificially out of love and anxiety for the kingdom of God.

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