Don’t Run Away From The Base, Unless You Want To Start Base
Instead of randomly selecting Churches to attend in February, I decided it was time for a theme month. Themes make everything more interesting; imbue meaning where there is none, and give a nice narrative to write around. Themes are fun for everyone, and make life a little easier. So February is Schism Month, the month when I will visit two churches, Base and SoulQuest, that formed because of a schism at my life-long church: Shepherd Fellowship (now Grace Waterford). I should note, for the sake of full disclosure, that I hold nothing against the people for leaving and starting their own church. Also, Base’s service started at 10am, and they were still going when I left at 11:30. I had already agreed to meet some friends for our house-like church at 11:30, so I couldn’t stay the whole time. Next week I’ll plan accordingly, and in my defense, how many American churches go past an hour and a half service? And more importantly, how many can do that and keep you entertained?
Now, I’m not saying we should go to church to be entertained. I’m pretty sure I’ve lambasted that before, but if you’re gonna be sitting in a chair for two hours, it helps to be into the service. The first hour at Base was music and two separate altar calls (one to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, and the other for those who needed physical healing), and they almost lost me. After 15 minutes of Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Louie Giglio, and David Crowder songs—they start to grate on me, and I realize they really are all the same. So, an hour in, even with a brief pause to greet people, announcements, and a few jokes I’m seriously considering turning off the sound system, or committing suicide in the sanctuary. I think none of these are overreactions. And in case you’re wondering, I don’t think Christian’s sing enough Sufjan Stevens or Thrice.
Luckily, by the time they hit the hour mark, Base’s pastor, Devine Meyers, starts his sermon. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that Devine knows how to give a sermon. He knows how to engage a crowd, make everyone feel involved, how to make a tangent not seem pointless, and knows how to make a joke. I actually made myself known when they asked if anyone was visiting because the man is a silver-tongued devil. And I mean that as a compliment (he’s not the devil, or a false prophet, stop freaking out, my conservative friends*). I left halfway through his sermon, as I noted, but I was able to hear him talk about the strength of the body of Christ. How we are stronger when we work together, support each other, and don’t try to overturn believers. Meyers commented:
“I never like it when someone leaves a church and says, “I left there because I didn’t like what the Pastor said,” or, “I left that church because I didn’t like the direction they were going.”
Now, Meyers wasn’t around when Base started, and I don’t know how many Shepherd people still remain (I didn’t see anyone I knew). But every once in a while a genuine moment comes along where it really did “take everything I had” to restrain myself from raising my hand and commenting, “Dude. Do you know why you’re here? Do you know how Base started?” I did not, however, stop myself from laughing loudly. (PRO TIP: Just nod your head while you do this, people will just assume you’re laughing in agreement, remembering a similar incident you went through. Like a group people leaving your church to form another. That was awesome.)
To be fair, knowing the guy beforehand, it wouldn’t surprise me if the formation of the Base was spun to sound better. This is your obligatory cynical comment of the post.
Meyer’s continued with his sermon, unfazed by the irony of his comment, and delivered a perfect organizer message. If you’ve ever worked on a political campaign, or at a food bank, or anything where you needed to get people to volunteer, you know the spiel. You tell your story, fit it into your narrative, and finish with a concrete ask (“Want to make phone calls? No, I don’t need a media planner, but would you like to make phone call? No, we let other folks deal with overall strategy. DO YOU WANT TO MAKE PHONE CALLS DAMMIT!?!” This is organizing). I have no problem with this, I’ve done it and it’s effective. Especially when your story is genuine and you’re passionate about the cause. And I don’t doubt Meyers lacks either, but I do have one comment about the half sermon I heard. Base has makes it clear on their website, and alluded to it in the sermon, they want another building. Something that reflects their personalities more. They even pulled the classic “God will provide if we give and pray” routine. Anyone who’s read one of my posts knows what I’m gonna say next, you have a building. Be happy. Focus on your congregation, the needs in your community, and don’t worry if your building looks stuffy. Who cares? You have a building. The appeal and allure of a modern, huge building is understandable. We’ve all grown bored of steeples and sanctuaries. But don’t make that your goal. It’s okay to grow as a church, but don’t grow just for the sake of adding numbers. Grow because whatever you’re preaching is registering with people, and they want to be a part of your community because they’re genuine—not because you ran a good PR campaign.
And once you get big, prepare for the schisms. They’re the best part.