Driving by this sign day after day which read “Experience God”, I thought to my self, ‘self, what does that mean?’ I mean it’s a sign that is in front of a building with the word ‘church’ in the name. It’s a good size building being built and so I looked at some of the other messages of what I could find out about this church based on the messages and marketing signs. And that will be the subject of this blog post. Messaging Matters. And before I’m accused of nitpicking, message matters in our Christian testimony. Words matter. So I would like to explore this messaging.
At some point in this post, someone might say, well have you been to this church? How can you judge it based on a few signs? And of course I can’t. It doesn’t matter if I go there or not. But if I did go there, it would not change what we will discuss during this time together. So let’s discuss messaging, and we’ll start first with the big one that was the -rock in my shoe-. “Experience God”
So using the Bible Gateway’s search feature and the phrase, ‘Experience God’, I couldn’t find any scriptures that talk about how to ‘experience God.’ What does that mean?
In Holy Scripture we do find a lot of examples of those who had experiences with God. For example; the Egyptians experienced God as they drowned in the Red Sea. Elijah experienced God as he was carried off in a chariot to the sky. Adam and Eve experienced God’s judgement when He expelled them from the garden. Balaam’s donkey experienced God when his mouth was opened and started to talk. If a donkey can experience God, do I need a donkey experience? What does it mean to ‘experience God’ and how is measured? What is the proof? What is the method?
If people are raising their hands, is that how you experience God? What do we then say about this image at a rock concert?
So what about experience? What are we to say? To be honest, we are emotional creatures. We love our experiences. Some people love roller coasters, some don’t. Some love watching romance movies, some don’t. Some people love to watch Rambo circa 1982 over and over and over again, some don’t.
So let’s answer question #1: What does it mean to experience God.
Answer: No idea. If we say our experience is based on us, then we have experienced us. If we get goosebumps with the music at church, is that how we experience God? When I wrote Emotion Doesn’t Validate Corporate Worship, I still get goosebumps thinking about the title song from Moulin Rouge, ‘Come What May.’ In fact, I’m listening to it as I write. :} My goosebumps are an emotional reaction.
A friend of mine told me how awesome their church is. When I asked what was awesome about it, they said the music is just amazing. I wonder if that is how one experiences God. Is it good music.
If you are profusely angry at me by now, I’ll understand. And while some of this writing is a bit tongue and cheek, the question remains, what does it mean to experience God at these three Sunday experiences (see sign)? I have no idea. Is everyone’s experience the same, is it different, are they experiencing God the same, or is it even the same god? Unsure. How is it all measured?
Let’s talk about the corporate experience. We know that experience is very important in today’s corporate environments. After all, you have to keep people happy. We know that happy people are better workers. We’ve all been to corporate events, they have marketing inside and outside the events, giveaways, maybe live music, door freebies, have greeters who are assigned to different portions of the visitors experience, then you hit the coffee bar, maybe eat a danish, from there it’s off to learn about —insert theme here —. All of this experience is to make your time memorable. It’s important that you have a good time.
1. Focus on Creating Memorable Event Experiences
2. Keep an Eye on the Budget
3. Choose Thoughtful Corporate Entertainment
4. Prioritize Your Audience
Let’s move on.
Using that pesky Bible Gateway tool again, I couldn’t find the phrase ‘Experience Purpose’ in the Bible. I know, I know, it’s a modern term. So let’s chew on the hypothetical. For people who go to these experiences, does someone tell them what their purpose is? Is it like Elevation Church that has massive volunteer recruiting for the purpose of doing tasks at the church? Or is it like that false teaching of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life? I hope not.
Does one have to go to this church to experience purpose? Or could it be as simple as loving our neighbor which Jesus tells us to do. What if the purpose I get during this experiential-church conflicts with some other purposes I have already? Which do I choose? Yes, I’ve gone into silly mode. And that’s ok, because again, messaging matters, and according to this sign, I can ‘experience purpose’ if I go there. What about the people down at the Baptist church, do they have a purpose?…ok, ok. I’ll stop.
Experience Making a Difference
Now this message is great! Anyone who sees this, understands that these people are making a difference for the environment. They are planting stuff and that definitely is making a difference. No plants, no breath ya know. I know a lot of church organizations have become very environmentally aware. And since the millennials generation (who by number is surpassing the Boomer generation) is concerned about making a difference in society; this sign about -making a difference- and it’s push for environmental issues is pretty good messaging. #bravo
Freedom? From what? Unsure. What does that mean? If I were to infer from thin air, I’d say it has something to do with the freedom found in Christ, freedom from sin. At least that’s what I’m hoping. But that requires someone to repent. So freedom through repentance? And yes, I know my implications are running on fumes. I’m just trying to understand this sign. I do wonder if you call the church office if they know what this sign means. Either way, the king in this sign again is ‘experience.’ That word is pretty important as it is repeated over and over.
So what? So what’s the big deal? I’m glad you asked.
No where in Holy Scripture are we taught to ‘experience God.’ And if you go for the experience, you’ll have to go back for it time and time again. Possibly, you’ll start to equate being a Christian with your experience. And that’s narcissism and not Christianity. If we are driven by experience, then anything less than our last experience will just not do. The dopamine highways in our brain always want more, something new , just like video games, porn and other visual experiences that bombard our brains.
-What you win folks with you have to do and more to keep them.- So if people are coming to a building for an experience, then you’ll have to keep switching it up to keep the dopamine rolling on different highways in our brainage. (yes, I know that’s not a word)
But the bigger question is, ‘why is experience the king here?’ Why isn’t Jesus the hero of this marketing? Maybe Jesus is taught here, maybe it’s an ‘almost Jesus’ -experience-. Unsure. And yes, I could attend, but why, the folks at this church seem to think ‘experience’ is the most important if we judge by the marketing. I’m supposed to come for the experience. That’s emotionalism, that’s hype.
Finally, God is everywhere, omnipresent. My purpose is given to me to love on others because of God’s grace to me. My freedom is found in Christ. And making a difference, well we can do that anywhere. No secret sauce can be found on the other side of these road signs, but I’m sure the experience is something else for sure.
So what? What’s your beef? Because message matters. Words matter. With so many ‘churches’ moving away from orthodoxy to experienced based church, it should be a warning to us when a church bases so much on ‘experience’, something so subjective, something that is so focused on us. We should want Christ more than experience. It is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we have all we need. It is the Gospel that we can hope through good experiences and bad experiences in life. It is also in the Gospel that we can judge any experience we have.
Does this church preach the unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ, one of repentance through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross for all of our sins? I dunno. All I know is that based on this marketing, it’s Experience that is the most important message they want us to know. And that’s no reason to go, not when there is so many theme parks around an hour away.
Steven Davis is a well done preacher’s kid, musician, media producer, learning apologetic writer.
#apologetics #experiencegod #experiencepurpose #theheightschurch #experiencefreedom #makingadifference