The current narrative among many main-line churches right now is that they want to reach the “young people” and the big idea that is often put forward is to make church feel less old school churchy. We must revolutionize the church and make it an effective agent of change for the kingdom of God by meeting in bars, coffeeshops, tattoo dens, and in parking lots with the plan to spend the day in giving back to the community through service projects. We need to worry more about building relationships and less about “doing Church the old way.”
True, God can never be contained by any building. True, God does not want our sacrifices and wants our hearts to humbly seek God. True, we are charged with being our brother and sister’s keeper.
Has anyone shared with you that the brain actually needs the rituals practiced in corporate worship to develop one’s faith?
“Storytelling may deepen a child’s fantasy about God, rituals give personal meaning to theological ideas. That is why religious parents ask their children to pray, and why they expose them to religious ceremonies and events. We take them to our temples, churches, and mosques on the high holidays, where their senses are saturated with the sights, sounds, and smells of our spiritual heritage and beliefs. They gaze through stained-glass windows, sing hymns in foreign tongues, light candles, bow down in prayer, and sample sacramental foods. They literally enter another world. God becomes even more grand and mysterious – and sometimes frightening – and new parts of the brain light up like a fireworks display.”
How God Changes Your Brain by Andrew Newborn, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman
They go on to say that each religious practice that we do “can change the way you think and feel about God.” There is no denying that practicing charity is essential. However, it is equally as important to practice the rituals of a liturgy for the brain to develop and our faith in God to deepen. Rituals such as corporate prayer of confession and intercession, passing the peace, reciting creeds, and of course partaking in the sacraments.
“But we do all of that at the bar!” Good. I am glad that you do. Sadly, not all groups that gather in non-traditional spaces continue such important practices.
Whether we are young in age or young in the faith we need the rituals to grow our brain’s understanding of faith in our God. Classic or modern. Traditional or contemporary. Sanctuary or bar. Does not matter. Your brain will need ritual and our Christian faith needs to be more than just our individual journey. It must be in a group, confessing, forgiving, being shaped by God’s Word, sacramental, and being sent out into the world as agents of God to bring holy redemptive change.