Do you remember your high school prom? If a girl, you were purchasing your dress months in advance. You cleared your schedule for the entire day, just so you would have time to have your make-up and hair exactly perfect. If a guy, you rented a tuxedo in advance and made sure to take a shower on the day of the prom. You put your best foot forward. You knew, or at least your mom told you, that you needed to look your best. You took the best car your family owned, or you rented a limo to take you and your date to the prom. It mattered what you drove up in to the prom. You were careful to mind your manners and you were all smiles that night, especially for picture-taking time. Everyone looked picture-perfect. Flawless. Everyone seemed to be having the time of their life!
These days, prom isn't just for junior and seniors in high school. In NYC, there is a theatrical play called "The Awesome 80's Prom" set in a real dance hall that includes audience participation, and people flock to the theatre in NYC to relive their prom experience. There are many events all over the U.S. that closely resemble high school proms, usually as fundraisers for charities or even for-profit events. And every Sunday, churches across the country host their own version of the prom called "The Christian Prom."
Think about it, we treat going to church like going to the prom. Before church, we shower and get all cleaned up. We put on our best "church" clothes, and we make sure our spouses and kids are dressed in their best "church" clothes too. Then we load up in our nicest cars or SUVs for the ride to church, preparing ourselves and our families to be on their best behavior. Once, at church, we parade through the church hallways hoping that people notice how "put together" we look. We are careful to mind our manners, but most importantly it's all smiles! It doesn't matter that you and your spouse or kids fought all the way to church, once at church, it's time to turn on the charm. Once we get to church, we slip into our seat and watch those on stage singing in their best "church" clothes with smiles from ear to ear. Clapping and smiling, these people have gone through the same routine to get to church. So we sit and listen to the preacher, leave in time to grab some lunch and make it home to see the football game, and check another Sunday Christian prom off the list. We've done our duty. We've gone to church. We've let everyone see how perfect we are. Now we can get back on with our real lives...
Imagine this. The same Sunday, a girl walks into church for the first time. She's at the end of her rope, and while she doesn't want to be going to church, she feels it's her last resort. She thinks maybe there's hope for me there. Lonely and insecure, she approaches the church building. She sees nothing but perfect happiness on the faces of those walking in. Then she sees her co-worker dropping her kids off in the nursery. The same co-worker that is so rude to everyone in the office each week, is now all smiles and minding perfect manners. So this girl continues in to the church service. She's brokenhearted and looking for hope, but no one notices. She watches those on stage all smiles and dressed to impress, including her co-worker. She knows that this co-worker is going through a lot at home. She knows how rude this co-worker is to everyone at the office during the weekday, and so she's confused as to how she is standing in the choir acting as though everything is perfect and as if she's completely happy. Then she looks and recognizes her next door neighbor. She's only met him once when her dog ran away and she asked him if he had seen it. He stumbled to the door, completely wasted from all the alcohol he had been drinking, and managed to tell her he hadn't seen a dog anywhere. Now he's at church, sitting all dressed up and happy? She was looking for something real. She was looking for someone to notice her and help her. Instead, all she saw were happy, plastic people that didn't take time to notice her or offer her help. She figures she was right all along, the church is just a place where people go so they can dress up and be seen. A place for them to pretend like they live perfect lives. Flawless. Everyone seemed like they were having the time of their life! The Christian Prom.
Church is not supposed to be a prom. Church isn't even supposed to be about us at all. It's meeting together to encourage and disciple each other in the Word. It's finding out what's going on in the lives of others and teaching them what God's Word says about it. It's about discipling, and being discipled. This is how we fulfill God's command to us, the church. Matthew 28:19-20, "Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you and I will be with you." This is how we glorify God. This is how we expand the kingdom of God across the world. Church is NOT about us. It's about God. It's about loving people. It's about being real! Prom is so high school.