I like second service Christians. Wait. Let me rephrase. I like second service Christians better than first service Christians. There. I said it.
I remember when a church I was attending switched from one service to two. It was not pretty. Most certainly the church needed it. It was packed. The general rule is when the service is consistently up to eighty percent full, plans need to be made for some sort of change. If no change is sought, filling out that extra twenty-percent usually won’t even happen. The idea is that people don’t like to be that crowded and will just seek other places of worship. It was time for this church to think bigger.
Half the people thought it was a good idea. The other half did not. The half that did not argued that it would take away from the intimacy that was currently present. They liked the way it was and did not want it to change. The half that did wanted to experience the excitement of growth and new faces. They liked the way it could be and were willing to risk the change. It is amazing how many people left because of this growth “problem.”
Change did occur. A second service was inaugurated. Invariable, certain (predictable) things happened. There was an “early” and a “late” service. Those who did not want the change (and stuck around) went to the first service. I don’t know why, I suppose it felt like it was the “original” service. Those who did want the change went to the second service.
Head with me for a slight turn here.
When I preach at a church that has two services, more often than not, I get a lot better reception from the second service than from the first. They laugh more at my jokes. They cry more at . . . well, those parts they are suppose to cry. Their facial expressions are more dynamically indicative of the movements of the sermon. And there is even a bigger line of people who want to talk to me afterward. All and all, it is simply a more positive experience during the second service.
“Yeah, that is because the second service is LATER, Michael. People are more awake!”
I don’t think so. You see, first service Christians never fall asleep. Their eyes do not even glaze over. Fatigue is not the issue. They are listening to be sure. But the type of listening is different. Generally, they are more likely to have their arms crossed. Their countenance seems to default to scowl. If it is not, then they look like they are having to make quite an effort at keeping it from gravitating to such. In short, they are more critical. It is as if they are looking for creative ways to criticize me rather than listen to the word of God and let it change them. Are they waiting for me to slip up? Do they already know everything? Are they (perish the thought) the fundamentalists of the church? I don’t know. But one thing I do know is that excitement and energy are far from them.
When this church switched to two services, there were two personality types that were separated. Those who did not want growth and change and those who did. First service Christians are protective. They are protective of their way of life. They are protective of their truth. They have made it as far as they can go and only exist to keep the status quo. On this journey called Christianity, they have set up camp, become comfortable in this camp, built walls to protect themselves, keeping their flock in and others out, and stationed canons pointed toward the outside. They are scary to be around. It’s that simple.
Second service Christians are excited about possibilities. They are never ready to make camp and build walls. Their arsenal is small. They have “Yes faces.” They are looking for the good first, rather than the bad. They gravitate toward acceptance rather than criticism. Their arms are never crossed. They just seem to have hope. That is why I like to preach during the second service.
Now, hopefully you have realized that much of what I have said is somewhat metaphorical. It is not really about first and second services.
I know of a local church pastor who is head of one of the largest churches in America. One time he said that he would not hire pastors who were outside of their 20s. When asked why, he said because in your 20s, you still believe you can change the world. After your 20s, you don’t.
I have struggled with this idea. Most of the struggle is because I realize there is some sense of truth to what he is saying. Many times when we get older, we slowly lose the excitement about life and possibilities. We start to become first service Christians. Our self-evaluated “wisdom” and experience reekss of bitterness, hopelessness, and a downcast spirit. We begin to fold our arms to life itself. Any thoughts of change, hope and development become living heresies. “Been there, done that” is our motto. Joy is replaced by self-preservation. We become immobile and, worse, we justify this and seek to reproduce after our kind. We just want things to remain as they are. Change is a treat.
Not all first service Christians are “first service Christians”…don’t go there. And I know that there are churches who have more than two services, so don’t ask about “third service Christians.” By now you should know that the first and second service stuff is not really my point. Also, not all of us outside our 20s are “first service Christians” (I hope!). But we have to fight, as individuals and churches, to keep from becoming such. The moment this disease (and it is a disease) infects us, spiritual rigamortis is next on the calendar. The gravitational pull of lives filled with hurt and disappointment causes us to roll up into a ball on the floor for the remainder of our existence.
But we are not called to be in this ball. We cannot duck our head in our shell. Yes, change, development and starting a second service are all risky. Standing up straight is risky. It is easier to have no hope than to expose ourselves by fickle hope again. It is easier to be critical than hopefully accepting. But did you know “Been there, done that” is not in the Proverbs?
Let us find joy again. Let us become second service Christians and return to the joys of hope and possibilities.