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52 Churches

Saturday Evening Mass

A few months ago, we went to church on Saturday morning. Now we head off for a Saturday evening mass.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #50

1. The worship leader directs us to “page one in the white book,” but what we find doesn’t match what they say. We’re confused and can’t follow along. 

How can you make it easier for people to participate in your service?

2. For the Eucharist, the priest says nothing about nonmembers, though I know we’re excluded. Still, I can have the spiritual encounter of Holy Communion without physically taking part. 

How can you serve Communion in a way that includes everyone?

3. The tradition of sharing the chalice still disgusts us. Most participants receive the wafer and bypass the cup. I suppose some must avoid alcohol, while for others it’s a sanitary issue. 

What traditions should you change to address the concerns of today’s visitors?

4. Afterward I chat briefly with the priest. He knows we’re visiting but doesn’t ask our names. This might be because a member hovers about, anxious to talk to him. Though I don’t feel slighted, many people would. 

What behaviors do you need to change to be more visitor-focused?

[See the prior set of questions, the next set, or start at the beginning.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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52 Churches

Reflecting on Church #50: Best in Class

Should Your Church be Best in Class?

With our journey of visiting fifty-two churches over, I can reflect more on the complete experience. Today, I’ll add to my thoughts about Church #50.

This church holds five services each weekend, and we attended the first one. I was disappointed over the lack of college students present, despite its proximity to campus. I doubt many students would attend the two Sunday morning services either, but I wonder about the two Sunday evening ones.

I suspect a different demographic shows up then. Maybe I’ll make a return visit but on a Sunday evening, hoping to meet some college students. Would those services be different or are all five the same?

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

Of the three Roman Catholic churches we attended, this one interests me the most. The people were more friendly, the structure less formal, and the message more accessible than my other two experiences. To me they represent the best in class for their stream on Christianity.

Even so, they still have a way to go to match some of the more engaging Protestant churches we’ve attended.

If I wanted a Catholic experience, this would be my go-to church. Yet I also know a steady diet of it wouldn’t be good for me. It’s a nice place to visit, but finding true community there would be a challenge there.

[See my reflections about Church #49 and Church #51 or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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52 Churches

Reflecting on Church #5: Intrigued but Frustrated

With our journey of visiting fifty-two churches over, I can reflect more on the complete experience. Today, I’ll add to my thoughts about Church #5.

A church growth buzzword is seeker sensitive, that churches need to conduct services that are friendly to visitors. Our experience at Mass was the opposite: inaccessible and exclusive. It was not seeker sensitive.

Not being able to follow the service kept us on the outside. Though their observance intrigued me, with mystery and awe, I left feeling empty and alone.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

I was also dismayed that some people treated the reverence of the occasion with casual indifference, as though merely putting in their time, measuring the minutes until they could leave.

The two people in front of us talked during worship and their snickered whispers distracted me throughout the service. I wondered why they bothered to show up. Perhaps they were there to check “attend Mass” off their to-do list.

Last, though I recognized several people present, with only one exception their get-in-and-get-out attitude kept them from noticing me or even allowing me the opportunity to approach them. We did get to meet the priest and one friend talked to us, but overall no meaningful community took place.

[See my reflections about Church #4 and Church #6 or start with Church #1.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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52 Churches

Attending Mass (Visiting Church #5)

When I tell people we’re visiting Christian churches, they often assume Protestant and are surprised our plan includes Catholic gatherings. That’s where we head today, to our first Mass.

The most noticeable difference is an ornate crucifix in the sanctuary. I’m pleased to see many lay people helping lead the service. There’s a nice range of ages present, including children who remain with us the entire time.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

I struggle to follow along. There’s many times for the congregation to respond, but we don’t know what to say. Their service is not friendly to the uninitiated.

Music

The lone musical instrument is a keyboard and the keyboardist leads the singing. There’s also a choir. Both the singers and musician are behind us. Removing our focus from them, makes it less like a performance and more worshipful.

The priest leads us in the Apostle’s Creed. I thought this was a Protestant proclamation, but obviously not. We also pray the Lord’s Prayer. I’m aware Catholics don’t say the final line that Protestants do, but I almost say it anyway.

Message

The priest begins his Mother’s Day message with a series of anecdotes about moms, segueing into love: reciprocal love, romantic love, and love-your-enemies as exemplified by Jesus. I wonder how a priest can address the complexities of romantic love, but he does a great job at it.

I also appreciate him mentioning Jesus’s death as a love-your-enemies example.

The message is short, followed by communion, what many refer to as the celebration of the Eucharist. The priest calls it “a memorial service” for Jesus. We don’t partake, and I attempt to spend this time in quiet contemplation of Jesus’ sacrifice. However, I’m too distracted to do so.

The priest announces Mass is over. The service lasted one hour, and we head home with much to contemplate.

[Read about Church #4 and Church #6, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #5.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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52 Churches

Praying for Church

Say a Pre-Church Prayer

One of the practices my wife and I followed when we visited 52 churches was to pray before we headed out the door. This seems simple enough and something we should have always done, but praying prior to church was a practice we seldom did, more likely skipping it than remembering.

However, one year of visiting a different church every week taught us to embrace this practice; we depended on it. Indeed, without prayer to prepare the way, disaster would have surely resulted on more than one occasion.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

Almost every week we prayed we would hear what God wanted to teach us. Often we prayed for ways to give back to the people at the churches we visited.

Sometimes we’d pray against fear or apprehension—or even that we could find the church. A few times, I needed to pray for a good attitude. And towards the end, we prayed to fight fatigue and to keep an open mind.

For the 52 churches, we remembered to pray 51 times. (The time we forgot was in rushing to Saturday Mass after squeezing in time with family.)

When we expect much at church and pray for it, we usually experience much. Click To Tweet

After experiencing firsthand the benefits of praying before church, we’ve continued this practice, remembering most Sundays. When we expect much at church and pray for it, we usually experience much. The opposite is also true.

If we take the time to go to church, shouldn’t we also take time to pray for a great experience?

[Read about our journey of visiting 52 churches.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.