Without God, maybe we could improve some things at church. About halfway through Sinclair Lewis’ 1927 classic, Elmer Gantry, Elmer boasts to another minister about all his church programs, how fast his church is growing, and how many new members have joined, etc. After this braggadocio, the other minister asks, ‘Elmer why don’t you believe in God?’ Until recently I completely misunderstood this part of the book. Now I get it. Elmer really was ahead of his time. Belief is overrated. Think of all the possibilities. Without God, worship is much easier.
Without God, we don’t need to take time for spiritual reflection and preparation before worship. We can just air our opinions as they come to us. We don’t need to show up prepared to add to the participation or meaning. We can just sit back, relax, and be entertained.
Without God, we don’t have to question who our real gods are. We’ve always disliked the bashing of our favorite idols mammon and convenience, and without God around, these will be left alone, maybe even be encouraged. And what’s wrong with plurality anyway? Don’t all roads lead to the same end?
Without God, communion is just a snack, no need to reflect. Maybe we can make it a bigger snack, maybe add in some other choices. We’re a little tired of unleavened bread. Maybe some granola bars can be substituted along with a grape Nehigh. Or maybe there’s a calorie free, grape flavored soda available.
The early church missed the point of worship. Identification with Jesus is really not all that important. All that emphasis on who we are in Jesus. Maybe community did arise and come from the identification with Christ, but we moderns know what’s really exciting is rapid growth that comes from all our cool marketing buzz and hip worship. So what if we end with a building full of people with little concern for being disciples? What is genuine community anyway? What’s really important is measurable success and body count. Everyone knows measurable success validates ministry. Springing up quickly and fast growth, that’s what’s important. Who cares if the soil is shallow? We don’t need roots as long as we are busy and entertained.
That taking up the cross stuff is such a drag. No one wants to hear that. It interferes with our life purpose. If we leave it out, more people will want to come and follow us.
Let’s make make sure we emphasize the savior side of Jesus. The lordship and obedience side? Count us out on that, it’s so passe. We can make our life decisions without that.
And let’s keep worship to exactly one hour including announcements because we look forward to talking with our friends and getting out in time to get a good seat at our favorite restaurant. And speaking of our friends, if people see how cool our cliques are that’s kind of like ‘love for one another’ isn’t it? They’ll know us by our love right? Or maybe they’ll know us by our love for ourselves. Where is our Bible anyway? We never could get that right.
Without God, we can have really relevant, culturally significant, topical sermons about whatever is going on in the news. The more current we are, the more people will want to visit our church to see how relevant we are.
Without God, we can continue to be amateur providences for the people around us, and when we think they are suffering too much, we can step in and save them from their spiritual pain because there’s just so much people can take. The risk of preventing Jesus from working in their life is minimal, and what we do will make sure that they stay committed to us and our group.
Just think, without God, worship is much easier. We can come as we are and stay as we are. Who needs identification with Christ, true community, and transformation? A form of godliness is all you need. And lets train more ministers like Elmer.