A friend and I were exploring this topic yesterday. I was in a particularly negative mood yesterday and my friend was upbeat but realistic. He said something like this, “I’m not sure if 10 years from now if these places [referring to traditional churches] will still be around in the same way they are today.”
I have pondered this question many times over the past decade. Two reasons exist for this: 1) The growing clarity that these churches are out of sync with a non-Christian culture; 2) I’m completely in love with the worship in many of these churches. I took my youth group to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco two weeks ago… wow! Such a beautiful building that hosts many prayer services each day, spiritual seekers walking the labyrinths, and pilgrims interested in a church that loves all types of people. Last spring, I took my group to Chicago. While there, we visited Fourth Presbyterian (right across from the water tower on the magnificent mile). It’s an old building with amazing art, sculptures, windows, pipe organ, and vast architecture. While there, the choir was practicing for their Easter worship services…. I thought I was in heaven or at least in Boondock Saints (you know the scene at the beginning where they receive their “call”).
Thus, I return to my question about these churches having a place. I find their worship to be so very inspirational, yet they are so out of touch with wider society. Not that I see all that they do as grand either. Traditional churches often waste tons of money on their traditional trappings. They have an amazing tradition and liturgical resources, yet lack the creativity to improvise on it. They tend to put the majority of their resources into corporate worship services rather than seeing worship as a broader idea encompassing all of life (this is often very true of contemporary mega-churches as well). So ask, “Do traditional churches still have a [significant] place? Do they have a role to play?”