I have been attending church for pretty much my entire life. Vacation Bible School, AWANA, Sunday School, a Christian college, the whole nine yards. I’ve sung hymns and praise songs, read from the King James Version and the NIV, been part of large and small congregations. I know there is no such thing as a perfect church, but I do think certain steps can be taken to maximize effectiveness.
Over the years, I have learned the size of a congregation is not an automatic determinant of the quality of a church. I have attended large churches where I almost felt like a customer in a “big-box” store. By this statement I mean it probably would have made no difference if I was present or not because nobody really made an effort to get to know me. I think many times a smaller congregation can provide a more personal connection. It can make all the difference in the world when ushers or other members are welcoming. Granted, this is a major generalization, but I have perceived these observations to be true in the past.
I have also experienced a wide range of worship music styles over the years. I think most Christian music styles can have a place in a person’s life, but I’m not sure if all Christian music styles need to be performed during the Sunday morning service. I think worship music should generally be reverent and prepare one to hear the Word of God. I’m a fan of age-old hymns which have stood the test of time for centuries, but it seems like these are becoming more and more rare. I do understand the need to be relevant and relate to a younger generation, but I hope substance and reverence are not lost in the process. Can praise songs do this job effectively? Probably if performed with the correct mindset and objectives. This is a major point of debate in some churches. I think it is important that the pastor and music director be on the same page when leading the service.
Another important aspect of the church is the sermon. I think a pastor is very similar to a personal trainer or coach in many ways. Both are entrusted with guiding their pupil through growth and training in their respective physical and spiritual domains. A training regimen can lead to increases in strength and speed under the direction of a skilled coach just as Biblical preaching can lead to increases in faith and devotion for a church member. Improvements in these areas are not always easy; athletes and church members alike must be disciplined and adhere to their training instructions. Additionally, just as overtraining can lead to stress fractures or other injuries, a pastor must be sensitive to the needs of his congregation to prevent harm. Ideally, these relationships will produce mutual growth.
These are just a few broad observations made during years of church involvement. Generally, Southern Baptist and independent, fundamental churches are responsible for my experiences. I know there are wide ranges of theology and practices in Protestant circles; my experience is mainly limited to the Baptist denomination.