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Tuesday, November 04, 2008 

What Does Air Hockey Have To Do With Church?

My polling place was in a medium sized mega church. Yep, the jokes can just write themselves at this point.

As I was in line it was everything I could do to keep my mouth shut about a host of issues such as the coffee shop in the front of the building as well as the indoor playground that rivaled any public school’s outdoor setup.

As the line snaked through the worship space where this congregation spent Sunday mornings, we eventually got to walk past the air hockey tables set up at the back of the room, right next to a whole series of bar stools and coffee tables. As the line was moving slowly we had plenty of time in an area that looked like a youth recreation center. The women in front of me looked a bit puzzled and finally raised the question when she asked; “What’s that got to do with church? Why do they have air hockey tables in their sanctuary?”

My response was short and sweet; air hockey has nothing to do with church, nothing. I followed that up with a snarky comment that they must be looking at one of those new fangled translations of the Bible that say church should look like the culture it’s trying to reach, specifically loose translations of Matthew 29.

The women in front of me just nodded in agreement.

I wonder if air hockey tables were placed there by republican operatives trying to sway the air hockey moms to vote for Palin? Just a thought...

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What do parking lots have to do with church? And what about seats? What do they have to do with church? What do fancy robes and organs have to do with church?

Am I making any sense? I'm no mega-church proponent, but I have NO ISSUES with a church building being a place where people can hang out. It's just a building. The church (ekklesia) is the people and not the building. Of course, way too many churches are focused on the outreach first and then discipleship--I take issue with that. We need the church (people) to be the church and then they are commanded to go out and preach the gospel.

Bringing believers and non-believers into a church for coffee and air hockey (an odd combination if you think about it) is great, but it's also good to go to the public and meet the people in places like bars...hey, I didn't get struck by lighZZZZZZZAAAAAAPPPPP!!!!!

Don't go messin' wit my favrite skripshure translations. In particular I love the New New International Standard Worldwide Amplified Contemporary American Darby Literal 22nd Century King Obama Version's translation of 2nd Hosea 32:6... "God helps those that help themselves."

Yeah you are making sense and demonstrating your evangelical coolness. You a right in bringing up that the Church is the congregation of saints. The Lutheran in me would only add to that it is also defined as where the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered. We’re on the same page in this regard I believe.

But, the air hockey tables were set up in the sanctuary, the sanctuary! I’ve got no problem air hockey or ping pong tables but what does it say to visitors when they see them set up where reverence should be given, where God is worshiped, and the Word is preached? What does it say to visitors, what does it say to the members themselves when games are set up in places devoted for the reception of God’s gracious gifts. Are such things permissible? I guess. Are they helpful? I fail to see how…

Stay tuned as I’m getting ready to write a piece on making a youth room a cool place to hang out while still having such a place reflects the theology that we confess.

Matthew 29? Is this in The Message? :)

Funny thing. I was just reading "The Message" today while standing in line to vote. I cannot tell if you guys are making fun of this paraphrase or not, but I really like it. Now, just in case, let me point out again that it's a "paraphrase" and not a translation. It's no different than me reading the original text and then saying that it means something like so and so today. There's no harm in that. I can also tell you that Eugene Peterson is probably someone you'd really dig. He's still working on Matthew 29. :)

Now, let me just go ahead and pick on you some more (seriously, you and The Elephant's Child are my favorite bloggers that I've never met). The NT church met in homes. Those homes were probably very modest and included everyday things that people needed to live and even play. Their meeting places were buildings then just like they are buildings now.

Is there anything wrong with giving a great deal of respect to the building that you've devoted to the worship of God? No. But I don't think that you can make a scriptural case for it.

I don’t think that you understand my point here. I’m not really focusing on the building itself but rather what the people are doing in the building. (This really shows my limits in communication skills..) This question is not just for my local mega-church but all churches including my own. At the end of the day, what we do in our worship spaces does reveal a more than a little bit about our theology.

You’re dead on right about how the first Christians met in houses. But, I don’t think that the early church would have allowed air hockey tables to be used in the equivalent of a sanctuary. The church I voted in had a youth room and a play area and certainly weren’t lacking for gaming space. I found it “odd” that game tables were included in the worship area.

When you get a chance, send me an email.

Ok, I sent you an e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you.

Your "WORD VERIFICATION" for this comment is "puddeck". That just sounds funny to me.

Ohh, even better, now your WORD VERIFICATION IS "flimp!"

Has anyone given any thought that the things in the sanctuary might have been moved there to make room for the ballot boxes?

Maybe they had to move them out of the room(s) where the voters came to vote, and didn't have the space in another "spare room" behind closed doors.

kirnkorner2001, good question! I’d have to say no because of the layout of their sanctuary. All the game tables and coffee bar stuff was at back in what seemed like its own area. I’m not picking on them because they are a nondenominational mega-church. If this was my own church I’d still question it. I’m personally aware of one congregation that removed the back three rows of pews so folks could feel comfortable drinking coffee during Sunday service. The “why” they would go for this set up is what really intrigues me.

I understand Frank. I personally wouldn't understand the air hockey table in the sanctuary either, and while I don't go to a non-denominational mega-church, I do attend a non-traditional church, and we meet in a high-school auditorium.

If it were me, and I was questioning it, I'd be willing to waste a Sunday morning and see if the tables are still there. I'd even wait a few weeks after just to make sure they had ample time to move them back.

Did you notice if they were plugged in? I know it was just a pass-through for the voters, but it sounds like you had plenty of time to take a look around.

kirnkorner2001,
With the price of land around here running from 200k-500k, there are many missions being started in auditoriums and movie theaters, and most will never get their own building. Right now my district only supports missions that can be self supporting within three to five years no matter what the price of land. I agree that we need to be good stewards of our resources but what a shame it is that we constantly talk about missions but put limits on what we are willing shell out.

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  • From The Haut South
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