Saturday, May 20, 2006

Biker church is a bit of hog heaven

An interesting piece in the paper today about a biker church.

Go ahead and read the article, and then I'll toss out some points for discussion.

Done? Wow, some of you folks can really speed read. Anyway, just some observations...

Now, I write this as a person who wears a leather jacket (though it's not often cold enough in New Orleans, and certainly never in the chancel at church) and who rode for many years. In fact, with the price of gas, I may well revert back to biking. Motorcycles are a blast, a true gift of God, and some of the most interesting people you will ever meet tool around on two wheels. One of my fondest memories was riding halfway across the country on a camping trip with my dad. We were so crazy about riding that we would wear snowsuits and ride in the Northeast Ohio winter. Now that my disclaimer is over, here goes my critique.

1) The people who attend this service (as well as the other "theme" churches mentioned in the article, such as the "cowboy church") are not seeking Jesus Christ and the Christian faith. Now, they may well be after some kind of therapy or some sort of change in the priorities of life - but what is missing in this article is the mission of Jesus to die for the sins of the world and to save us from death and hell - in other words, the gospel. At best, the Jesus proclaimed by the preacher at this church is a kind of moral example, a Zig Ziglar with long hair and sandals.

2) The real religion being promoted is not worship of Yahweh, but worship of self on a Harley. Notice that the sanctuary is decked out not in statues of Jesus, not in stained glass bearing images of the life of our Lord and His Church, not in iconography that points to the Gospel - but rather with motorcycle parts. This church celebrates the religion of America: our hobbies. People love their hobbies, be they motorcycles, sports, movies, cars, collecting, etc. to the point that they want to engage in the hobby 24/7 - even in church. This self-centeredness is antithetical to Christianity. In fact, it is to take wonderful gifts of God (leisure time and hobbies) and turn them into false gods, even placing them in a sanctuary and creating a cult religion out of them. They refuse to submit to God even for an hour on Sunday, instead requiring the Church to conform to their tastes and sensibilities. Do these people see themselves connected more to the ancient martyrs and saints of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, or would they feel more fellowship with non-Christians who happen to ride and wear leather?

3) The preacher only refers to himself as a "preacher." He doesn't see the pastoral office the way Scripture does: as an office of shepherd, elder, overseer, spiritual father, steward of the mysteries, etc. He makes no mention of sacraments. In fact, he works in an auto parts store during the week. He almost boasts of his lack of training. Is this all there is to pastoral care? Ride to church on a bike and wear a nametag that says: "pastor," preach a sermon, and ride home?

Interestingly, the pastor says "I'm called." Many in the LCMS would completely agree, and would cite the fact that he has a congregation, and therefore has a "regular call" according to the Augsburg Confession. There is no mention of whether or not he has been biblically ordained.

Also, it bears mentioning that this is only one step removed from what goes on in many conservative LCMS churches today under the guise of "contemporary worship." The "church growth" methodology is certainly the same. There is at least one LCMS church in Texas that has a "cowboy service" - complete with two-stepping and cowboy hats. St. Paul warned us this would happen in 2 Tim 4:3-4.

I don't know who said this (it was quoted by Prof. Pless in a lecture at seminary), but we Americans play at our worship, worship at our work, and work at our play.

This latest fad of "theme churches" is one more example of our misguided priorities - and the Church's cowardice in acquiescing to them. What bikers and non-bikers alike need is the Gospel, the proclamation of Jesus in both Word and Sacrament, the radical notion that Jesus dying for your sins is far more important than your leather jacket. This is far more radical than giving people a fluff church that encourages them to worship themseves.

5 comments:

Child of the King said...

It is amazing to me how so many of the "church" fail to understand that as believers we are the church. No where in the New Testament does the word "Church" refer to a building or meeting place. What it always talks about are those groups of people, that have come to know Jesus Christ as their Saviour, that meet or gather together to share and do all of the one anothers. Where people gather or meet, whether it is in a bought, named building, coffee shop, mall, street corner, or biker event is never the issue or point. The Word says that where 2 or 3 are gathered, Christ is there! The gospel is always the point and purpose. As Paul says, I am determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified! So why does it bother some so much about the method, if the message is Jesus Christ. We are all part of the body of Christ when we come to know Him and Him alone! It is true that man looks on the outside but God sees the heart. If our only commands are to love God and love others our world would be quite a different place if we would just do that! We should never look at others and how they are doing things, God does not call us all to the same ministry. We should truly be praying and encouraging one another to seek Him, the creator of all things and then accept one another as Christ accepts us. We are all a work in progress and God will not stop until the work is completed! (You can catch me at www.redeemedriders.blogspot.com) God's blessings!

Father Hollywood said...

Child of the King:

I agree 100% with your premise about what the Church is. I never said the Church is a building. I never denied the term church to believers who gather anywhere *for the purpose of worship of God and to receive His gifts.*

When you say "The Gospel is always the point and purpose," if it were only so! These "theme churches" have another purpose to exalt a hobby, a clothing fad, or some other expression of *self* over and above the Gospel.

Let me put it another way. Let's say there is a "church" in which the pastor and the people all say "We like expensive clothing. That's our lifestyle. We like three piece suits, designer dresses, and Rolex watches. So, our church is decorated with designer labels and pictures of sports cars and exclusive golf courses, and we all dress in the same style. That's what makes me comfortable, and so I don't go to 'regular' churches."

We would say "what hypocrites!" We would accuse them of excluding anyone outside of their lifestyle. Such exclusion is basically the same thing as a Klan or Skinhead "church." We would also point out that their focus on the self and on material things is contrary to the Gospel of our dear Lord. Would you honestly call such a group a Christian church?

The "biker churches" (and all the other themed fad churches) practice the same exclusion - while not based on race or wealth - it is based on a lifestyle (which really means "hobby"). The central focus isn't Jesus, but the self, the lifestyle, the fashion, the hobby, the clothes, the music, the vocabulary. With such a narrow focus, they exclude those who are not like them (I know they say everyone is welsome, but if that were really the case, they would have a huge diversity of people, not simply a group of people devoted to a certain hobby or style).

Let's be honest, how many people who have no interest in stamp collecting would choose to worship in a stamp-collecting Church replete with numismatic sermons and walls decorated with postage stamps from around the world? Such a "church" would hardly be a place welcome to everyone, would it?

Just substitute leather and jeans for three-piece suits and designer dresses in the example I gave, and you may begin to see the point.

The Church - the *real* Church, the eternal and holy Church founded by Jesus on the apostles - is counter-cultural, trans-cultural. It is inclusive. In the Church, you'll find bikers and CEOs kneeling together at the communion rail. Old women and teenage boys receive Christ together in Word and Sacrament. Black and White receive the forgiveness of sins together. We don't practice lifestyle apartheid - we are all sinners in need of the Gospel regardless of our hobbies, occupations, race, age, or anything else that divides people these days.

Biker "churches," cowboy "churches," Star Trek "churches," etc. are devoted to something other than Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. This is why they look more like auto parts stores or Hard Rock Cafes than churches. A *real* Church will want art that represents *Jesus* as well as some depictions of the saints and of the history of the Church - not mufflers and air filters.

These theme *churches* do encourage worship - I'll give you that. Just not worship of Jesus - rather they are about worship of *self*.

I would encourage people who worship at such churches to re-evaluate just who and what is being worshiped there. The Church on earth is part of a much larger Church - the Church of all times and places. We know what heavenly worship is like, and what it will be like for eternity, because of what is written in Holy Scripture. There won't be little rooms for bikers, cowboys, CEOs, country music afficiandoes, white supremacists, stamp collectors, football fans, rappers, etc. It will be one huge collective worship that includes everyone who confesses Jesus, with all worship focused on the Lamb. Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess, and we will sing very specific hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs. There will be gold and incense, and beautiful singing.

Visit a traditional, liturgical church some Sunday if you want a preview.

Peace be with you, now and unto eternity!

Rev Dave Dillon said...

Rev dave Dillon, Highways and Hedges Motorcycle minstry:
I read your Bio, to get a better idea of who I was writing to, and found some curious things. Some of your interests are beer,rock and roll music, Stephen King novels.I also see where you put down your industry as "Religion". In your answer to child of the King, you say to try a liturgical church, but fail to invite to "your" church. I am one of the leather clad you speak of. I am also an ordained minster. I read into Jesus's great commision, to GO out to the nations, not build a building, put up a sign and wait for the lost to come in. See I think the part you miss is the "LOST" part. I'm sure it was nice to spend all the years in seminary to learn theology. But i found that everything Jesus needed to teach the deciples, is in the new testiment. God the father wants all to come home to Him. I was a member of a Lutheran church for 10 yrs., in the New Orleans area. I listened to the lithurgy, was even exposed to the contemptary services you thing so lowly of. But I think until the pastor like I had at that church and yourself can learn to come into the street, where the sick are, to come down from the pulpit, so you can SEE the hurting and lost, up close, you just won;t get it. Being a young, assitant pastor, I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit can open your heart and mind to the truth of the Gospel, and realize that it is for the lost of the world, not to be used as just another industry, in the world.
You be Blessed in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ

Rev Dave Dillon said...

Rev Dave Dillon, Highways and Hedges Motorcycle minstry:
I read your Bio, to get a better idea of who I was writing to, and found some curious things. Some of your interests are beer,rock and roll music, Stephen King novels.I also see where you put down your industry as "Religion". In your answer to child of the King, you say to try a liturgical church, but fail to invite to "your" church. I am one of the leather clad you speak of. I am also an ordained minster. I read into Jesus's great commision, to GO out to the nations, not build a building, put up a sign and wait for the lost to come in. See I think the part you miss is the "LOST" part. I'm sure it was nice to spend all the years in seminary to learn theology. But i found that everything Jesus needed to teach the deciples, is in the new testiment. God the father wants all to come home to Him. I was a member of a Lutheran church for 10 yrs., in the New Orleans area. I listened to the lithurgy, was even exposed to the contemptary services you thing so lowly of. But I think until the pastor like I had at that church and yourself can learn to come into the street, where the sick are, to come down from the pulpit, so you can SEE the hurting and lost, up close, you just won;t get it. Being a young, assitant pastor, I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit can open your heart and mind to the truth of the Gospel, and realize that it is for the lost of the world, not to be used as just another industry, in the world.
You be Blessed in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ

Jeff Smith said...

I agree 100% with your premise about what the Church is. I never said the Church is a building. I never denied the term church to believers who gather anywhere *for the purpose of worship of God and to receive His gifts.*

Womens Leather Jacket