Today I took a trip to the one and only Willow Creek church. I went there to see Shane Claiborne speak. He was speaking to their youth service because, as I found out today, he used to be an intern there. This whole thing seemed like one big paradox to me. Shane Claiborne, a crazy communist who has spent time working with Mother Teresa, speaking at one of the biggest mega-churches in existence. Yet, because of his past and his friends, he shows up every once and a while and speaks. As a friend of mine once said, he says just enough to offend yet be invited back again. A quick side note, that person that I para-quoted is Patrick Green. You can read his blog if you click on the from high brow pirate to hometown pastor link on my sidebar. I figured as I mention people I should let y’all know where you can find more fun stuff about them.
We arrived at willow creek about fifteen minutes before service started, which as a very good thing due to the overwhelming largeness of that place. We parked in section C-7 (yes they have sectioned parking, a lot like a mall!) and started to head to the big doors that would give us access to this crazy place. Upon walking in to willow creek your mind races with many thoughts like “is that an escalator???” or “Is that a falling water fountain that goes down through all the stories of the church and lands in a fountain lake in the basement?”. For me though, above all those things was a simple “holy shit…” thought. I was battling through a mixture of disgust, amazement, and confusion. I wandered into the main sanctuary for just a moment to see it and I was completely blown away by the sheer hugeness of it. It has two balconies. Two. One balcony and then another above it. Two effing balconies.
We were then directed to the youth area where Shane Claiborne was speaking. The youth service was very interesting. The worship team seemed to be a “we want to be like United” team, which was fairly expected. There sound guys, however seemed to be a bit confused about how to mix the room well. You could hear the snare and bass drum and nothing else. The acoustic guitar was really soft as well, but that could be due to technical difficulties because the guitarist spent quite a bit of time fiddling with his EQ. The guitarist and lead singer guy was also really interesting. His voice was like a mixture of Chris Conley (Saves the Day) and Bryce Avary (The Rocket Summer). It was extremely high and nasally. It was just very odd. They also had a wide variety of “cool” and “hip” videos and graphic stuff involved in between everything. The whole service was quite planned and structured.
Shane Claiborne spent quite a bit of time telling his story. It made sense, for the youth were going through a series called the vox series where they had a variety of people come in and tell their story. He talked of hanging out with Mother Teresa in Calcutta and of hanging out with interesting people at The Simple Way. He told stories of people he has met while touring the country. His main points were to become real lovers and to embrace love for the poor and downtrodden and to find interesting and radical ways to do that. My favorite quote of the talk was “We are just the asses that bring Jesus in.” He was talking about the donkey that carried Jesus into the temple. There are people all around yelling and cheering, waving palms and praising God and the donkey is all like “oh yeah, you all love me.” We need to realize that we must do the things we do completely for God and He is the one that should get the glory. We must realize that we are just the asses that are bringing Jesus into our world.