Posted by: nickgerlich | August 28, 2007

Trading Places

We recently bumped into an old friend while shopping at that bastion of free-market capitalism, Wal-Mart. It was right there in the cereal aisle that we bared our souls and had a heart-to-heart about church.

Um, make that former churches.

We had not seen this person in a few months, but in that short time, this person and his/her family had made the painful decision to leave a church (and denomination) that had been a part of their lives for many years. Cognitive dissonance is not a strong enough term to describe what this person was going through, with a tossed salad of emotions (guilt, anger, fear, relief) playing on a mental trampoline.

This family has recently landed at one of Amarillo’s non-denominational mega-churches. They love everything about the new church, from children’s programs to the worship experience. But still there are those lingering feelings doing somersaults in their souls.

Our discussion immediately conjured recent memories of our own, for we, too, had made a similar decision six months prior. It’s hard to leave friends and familiar faces, along with all the things that make a church “home.” But it was something that we had to do, just like this family.

Like our friends, we landed at a non-denominational mega-church, with every imaginable ministry on the calendar. And, like our friends, we suffered through the same period of post-decision blues.

As we were visiting among the Raisin Bran and Frosted Flakes, though, something began to clear in the middle of my cranial fog. The respective mega-churches at which we landed have become refuges for not just us, but countless hundreds of others, people who have experienced similar discomforts in needing to leave a church and somehow assimilate into another.

And why did our families and all the others feel led to leave behind established church routines and friends, and head to the campuses of these ever-expanding, denomination-free churches? Because in many cases those former churches somehow lost their relevance. Often mired in the quagmire of denominationalism and “that’s how we’ve always done it” thinking, these former churches are perilously close to joining the ranks of the dinosaurs.

It’s why many people have fled the small city for the critical mass of the big city. In fact, the pastor of our former church even said that he can’t compete with our new church, because it’s a “shopping mall church.” I guess it’s about having your needs met, and not just clinging to the warm fuzzies that familiar faces and routines can engender.

Which probably explains why we were shopping at Wal-Mart in the first place.



  1. […] too, attend a mega-church in Amarillo (read my earlier blog to read about that transition period a few years ago)>. In an era of Wal-Marts and Best Buys, I […]

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