This is post 2 of 3 from my old blog, originally posted on July 1, 2008:
Recently, I became a multi-churcher. I go to three or more different churches for various services throughout the week. I learned the term from Matthew Paul Turner’s The Christian Culture Survival Guide, in which he cites ministry options and differences in faith among the reasons for multi-churching. My reasons for multi-churching however are mainly logistical. Mainly, but I’ll get to that.
I grew up in a small, small town about an hour north of Jacksonville, Florida. It’s called Boulougne (pronounced Buh-lone’, not Baloney). It’s not even big enough for a traffic light, if you are familiar with the standard metric for town smallness. Technically, it’s not even a town anymore since the mayor was busted for counterfeiting or some shenanigans like that, but whatever it is, there one can find a package store, a gas station that sells fishing bait, and a church.
I love this church – the First Baptist Church of Boulougne or Boulougne Baptist Church, depending on who you ask. I grew up there, and I love the people. For just a little while, my family left and went to another church, but we came back, and it felt like coming home.
When I finally realized two years ago that the cost of fuel to commute to school and work in Jacksonville was the same per month as rent, and I moved to the city, I still did not quit going to church at Boulougne. It was more than an hour’s drive down US-1 one way to go to church on Sunday, but I just did not feel led to go anywhere else yet. I did start trying out different churches on Wednesday night to save a mid-week trip – the beginning of my multi-churching.
I should also mention that, like everything else around, the church was also small, that is, until a few months before I started thinking about leaving. Boulougne had just finished a building program, and everyone was really amped about the big, new sanctuary where we wouldn’t have to alternate leaning forward and backward to save on shoulder room. Nevertheless, with all the newness in surroundings came a certain apprehension and anxiousness about keeping it that way. I’m all for taking care of the blessings God gives you, but how much should we really care about carpet?
Really though, the fastidiousness over appearance did not eat at me too much, and neither did the half dozen or so other little irritations that arose. That’s not very many afterall. In hindsight, I realize that such minor annoyances should be viewed as reminders to care about more important matters (or at least make an attempt). Maybe some people just worship by being obsessive, regardless of how it gets on my nerves. I can live with that.
As it turns out, however, a problem did arise that, when combined with the distance issue, ultimately lead me to leave the church. For several years, I had been the “first-chair” percussionist in the church’s orchestra, meaning that I was the only percussionist. Mainly, I played the drum set because it let me cover the most parts as one person, which is typical for the size of orchestra that we were (about 8-10 people, given a particular Sunday).
I absolutely loved ministering in this way, even though it can sometimes be a challenge to play the drums in a small-town, conservative, Baptist church. Percussion reminds me of God’s power. When I hear a cymbal crash or the boom of a bass drum, I think about how God made lightning and thunder to scare the rain out of heaven. A solid rhythm to me sounds like a stampede of horses, and honestly, at times the feeling of it would make me cry while playing because of the awesomeness of God.
Moving into the new sanctuary initially did not change the orchestra much, nor did it change my passion for playing. There were some growing pains of course, mostly about whether or not the piano’s lid should be up or down, and other little things like that. All of these issues either became settled (someone decided on half-way up) or were generally relegated to the tolerable minor annoyances category. But then, a few months before I left, the pastor talked to me about ordering some timpani’s for the church orchestra. He had found some on eBay that he was thinking about purchasing for the church, and for the price, they were a miraculous bargain. He told me at that time that he wanted to start moving the orchestra to a more “orchestral” sound. I did not exactly realize it at the time or I might not have been so cooperative, but that meant phasing out the drum set, pretty much entirely.
Some short weeks later, the timpani arrived, and thus began the physical and metaphorical crowding out of the drum set. (Despite the large size of the new sanctuary, the stage has remarkably little room.) The arsenal of percussion instruments continued to increase thereafter to include a big, sparkly-red concert bass drum, a concert snare drum, a set of orchestra bells, and various other little noise-makers to bang around. I added in a smaller drum set as well, so it could still fit, though playing it really wasn’t allowed.
As the size of the percussion section grew, my enthusiasm for playing diminished, as did my ability to cover all the parts. My very gracious and talented girlfriend joined me, but even then it was a struggle. The two of us just could not properly fill out the section. Sunday mornings were blur of sheet music, on top of the hour-long commute, and Sunday nights (typically, more low-key) were not very much better. The percussion section needed at least three musicians to be decently covered. This was not the ministry that I fell in love with. What happened? Sometimes, I feel as though I was being terribly whiny about it, but I really did pray that God would adjust my heart and make it work. I stuck it out for those few months, but in the end, this incident proved to me that it was time to leave.
What was it that bothered me so about the situation? I could point out a number of particularly stressful thorns: coordinating a section with too many instruments and not enough musicians, doing so while living over an hour away (meaning that mid-week rehearsals were out of the question), not getting to play the one instrument that I love so much. Each of these certainly contributed, but for me the real issue was the close-mindedness to anything but one form of musical “worship.” Worship is not anything outward anyway, but inward, so to even speak of music as worship is a complete misnomer. The gospel of John says that “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (4:24, NASB). At best, music is a tool (and I wholeheartedly proclaim it as a wonderful tool) that leads people to worship, but it is not the worship itself, because worship happens in our humble spirits as they commune with God’s glorious Holy Spirit.
I understand the pastor’s vision. Though he did not understand the full details of making it happen, he wanted the music to be grand and majestic. God can most certainly be honored in that way, but what I absolutely cannot agree with is that church music – or any other worship-leading device – must needs be done only one way. God is so worthy to be glorified in infinite ways, so should it not be the other way around? Should we not be seeking for more and more ways to worship God? I have certainly found many creative ways to sin against Him, and still do, so should I not desire to creatively glorify His name as much as I desire to repent of these sins? I do not see how one can legitimately separate the two.
So now I go to a medium-sized, contemporary, non-denominational church on Sunday mornings, an extra-large, Baptist church on Sunday evenings, and various small college group Bible studies mid-week (all much closer to my house I might add. Bonus!). I have stumbled upon the joy of multi-churching. I can see the beauty in the whole spectrum of Christianity from Catholic to Pentecostal. It’s not about one church having better programs to be involved in or a fear of commitment to one church or denomination. It’s all about worshipping the One Being in the universe who deserves to be exalted in each and every way that we can exalt Him.
And that is how I became a multi-churcher.