As a pastor I often find myself wondering what people REALLY think when they visit a church. I meet first time guests to Cross Point out in the lobby every Sunday and they generally give our church very positive feedback. But come on, we live in the South. Even if they hated it I’m not sure they would actually tell me.
A couple weeks ago a lady by the name of Vanessa Pinto visited Cross Point. My understanding is Vanessa had not been to any kind of religious gathering since she was a child. She also happened to be from San Fransisco (that’s not in the South) and is a writer for the Huffington Post. Last week they published an article she wrote entitled “What’s Wrong With A Little Faith” which was about her visit to Cross Point. I found her perspective extremely interesting.
Here’s an excerpt…
I find it fascinating that in a city as free as San Francisco, church, synagogue and practicing as a believer in a traditional form of religion and/or God is not a subject people bring up often or at all. In the most enlightened and compassionate circles, to say that you are religious, or a believer, you are deemed less than, weak, hateful or ignorant because you need God to believe in.
While in the South doing research for my book, one of the things that made headlines and the news was the opening of a new campus of a church called Cross Point. What I found interesting was that every news truck was there to cover it — ABC, CBS, NBC and more. I was intrigued to see a church of all things, be such big news. But again, I come from San Francisco, where the only church you read about is Glide during the holiday season.
In an unusual set of circumstances, I was invited to and accepted an invitation by Cross Point to attend their first Sunday service of church at their new campus, located in the heart of Nashville. I go to a lot of events and openings, so why is it that it felt so strange to attend one that has to do with God? I got up early on a Sunday and did something I hadn’t done in many years. I went to church.
When I arrived, I was shocked by how many people show up for church in the South. It was raining and snowing, but the parking lot was overflowing with cars. When I walked into the church, they had a children’s area, a book store, coffee and cafe seating set up along with the platform in the sanctuary. There was singing and screens so people could see easier. The first thing I noticed was the age of the attendees, ranging from early 20s to 70s, all visiting with one another. There was a huge population of gay parishioners and people of every color. Cross Point clearly welcomes all attendees and those attending were waiting to hear from Senior Pastor Pete Wilson.
On this Sunday before Easter, he had an interesting sermon. It wasn’t filled with promises of fire and brimstone for those who were not believers; it was simply a message filled with hope and the acceptance that life is not always within our control and that while that can be difficult, it can also be something one can become comfortable with. I kept waiting for some tone of hatred and fear or a pitch for cash, but none came.
Due to my experience with religion as a child, I assumed that all religion has a hell or terrible after life that you will go to if you don’t believe… that if you didn’t conform to a particular mold, you weren’t welcome and that God was cruelly judgmental and vengeful. None of what happened when I was a child happened on this day.
However, here is what did happen: I realized I was guilty of what most people are when it comes to church and people of faith: judging those who believe and the places without really giving it a fair chance.
It’s funny. We live in a city where we are encouraged to try everything out, but God or religion is definitely not one of them. Practicing Christians and Jews are the minority here, spiritually. And that said, once I let my own pre-conceived notions about church go and allowed the hour to unfold, it was all very normal and nice. I met some of the people who work at Cross Point, families who call it home and people who have retained their identity while still attending church.
To read the entire article you can click HERE.