A few weeks ago my wife and I visited a large contemporary church in the south England. The building was modern, comfortable, furnished to a very high standard and equipped with all of the facilities and high tech AV equipment we have become used to. On entering the church building it has the atmosphere of a shopping mall with a packed cafe in the foyer buzzing with life. Making my way through the anonymous crowd we found a seat shortly before the service began. As the musicians opened the service the noise and the chatter from the foyer and those coming in late drowned out any though of worship for about 20 minutes.
The preaching was in a contemporary style, very well presented and challenging. At the end of the service while talking about the growth of the church the Pastor said [and I admire him for his honesty] that a few weeks ago he met a couple in the congregation he thought were visitors. On speaking to them however he learned that they had been coming to his church for 7 years!
I left the church as anonymously as I had come – past the throngs of people focused on their own conversations. No one engaged my wife or I at any point during our visit. This is a successful church in our country – and I do not in any way wish to criticise – but that was my experience.
Last Sunday afternoon I visited the very small church of a rural Roma Community in Northern Romania. It was a one room building with a small wood stove for heating. There was no toilet, cafe, or any other conveniences we in the West demand. But the worship! The sound of passionate worship from the 40 – 50 people crammed in to this small building as I entered was explosive. There were no OHP’s or screens to be seen – not even hymn books of any description. But with a very talented keyboard player and an equally talented drummer and guitarist the passion in worship was something I have rarely seen. Time means little here. To be together – to worship together and to hear the Word of God proclaimed is all that matters during these hours. After the service any visitor [and they are very rare] are plied with good food and every kindness in one of the the small houses which surround the church.
This church is one of many in Romania where the gospel of Jesus Christ is radically transforming lives and communities among what must be the most deprived and marginalised people group in Europe – the Roma.
I know which Church I would rather be in – even if it does not have a toilet!