How modern is a modern church?

These days churches want to be attractive and relevant. That’s why the style of music is adjusted, the way of preaching, the decoration and even the coffee. We talk about demand-oriented and target-group oriented approaches, about focus and vision, about programs and events. Everything to reach people. Because that’s what it is all about, bringing people into contact with God. We build our modern churches in an excellent spirit to show something of the greatness and goodness of God. This results in an up-to-date, state-of-the-art, cutting-edge Sunday experience.

I once visited a Roman Catholic high mass and was struck by the resemblance between this service and the one in my own modern church. The colourful, dancing lights from the stain glass windows, the music from the choir that rolled from above and behind me to the front where it, together with all kinds of images around me, underlined the rituals on the stage. It lifted me up and made me feel part of something bigger. It was all together strangely familiar. Only the use of Latin had an alienating effect; this was not for me, this is only for an inner circle.

This made me realise that we try to reach the (non) believer in the same way as was custom a millennium ago. We still use light, sound, images and rituals. We only stopped using scent. (Why? It is a great experience when a scent comes into the church.) But the gap between a believer and a non believer remains enormous. Things that are normal to us may seem like Latin to them. Ever listened to the lyrics of a modern worship song with the ears of someone who is not familiar with Christianity?

In the old days a lot of time, money and manpower was spent on building cathedrals in honour of God. Today we spent a lot of time, money and manpower on our multimedia buildings. The modern surroundings probably will feel familiar to the non believer, but do we speak the right language or is it like Latin to them?

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”