Veritas Community Church
This week I listened to a sermon from Veritas Community Church. Veritas has multiple campuses in Columbus, and (conveniently for me) posts their sermons online. I chose to listen from the comfort of my own apartment, with my new pumpkin candle lit while sipping some coffee. It’s so comfortable and easy this way, and tempts me to never leave my apartment for church again. However, I know this is a watered-down version of “attending” church, and it is more of an exercise in thinking about God than it is participating in the community of God. And, as if Veritas knew I was in leggings and slippers with wet hair sitting at my kitchen counter, this week’s sermon was about participating in the church community.
From their sleek web design to their googleable pictures of college kids enthusiastically worshipping, Veritas projects a very youthful and modern vibe. It’s the kind of church where I wouldn’t be afraid to show up because it was stuffy and old-fashioned, but I might be worried I wasn’t cool enough to be part of the group. The huge banner on the home page of their website boasts “WE ARE ALL ABOUT JESUS WE ARE TRANSFORMED BY THE GOSPEL TO TRANSFORM THE CITY WITH THE GOSPEL.” And, yes, it is in all caps. They don’t seem to be affiliated with any specific denomination (or if they are, it’s not easily identified from their web presence). As I have moved through this year, that kind of non-affiliation has started to give me the heebie jeebies. I understand why a church might want to establish their own methodology for worship and not conform to a denomination, but it also gives them the ability to use scripture in almost any way they want. They don’t have the checks and balances of a denomination as a whole to look at the doctrine and say “what does our denomination believe about issue x?” They run their own thing, and although I always want to believe intentions are good when a church does that, it could also be used in a way that is manipulative. I am not accusing Veritas of this in any way, but I do have a lot of discomfort now around all these new agey non-denom churches that could easily spiral away from the gospel.
Veritas also does the “series” thing where they pick a topic, design a really edgy graphic logo for it, and then preach on things surrounding that topic for a few weeks. Examples of past topics include: Practical Theology, Summer in the Pslams, The Problem of Pain, Grace is Tanglible, and so on. These series could be structured around practical ways to apply the scripture to our lives OR it could be a very convenient way to cherry-pick your way through the gospel and use it to tell the message you want. Again, not accusing Veritas of this specifically, but it is a hang up I have with series-oriented churches.
Their current series is called The Gospel and our Rhythms and is designed to help listeners think about ways the gospel influences their day-to-day lives. The sermon I listened to focused specifically on the church. Sunday gathering is part of the average churchgoer’s rhythm, but as many pastors like to point out, church is technically the group of believers in Christ, not the building or the time slot on Sunday. If you believe in Christ, you are automatically part of the church, whether you attend worship or not. However, Veritas notes that engaging in the church as part of a community enriches the experience for everyone. They emphasized the need for church diversity, and how the more diverse perspectives the church has the more it enriches the atmosphere. The pastor (who was almost always yelling the sermon, I only have audio to go on here but it was very forceful) said that God made us all to be in community with one another, and that sin is the thing that separates us. He blames sin for things like racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. That part tripped me up a bit, since the Bible is full of misogynistic, racist, and homophobic themes and language, and the Bible is supposed to be the direct word of God. But, putting that big hiccup aside, he says sin is what divides and if we are engaged with the church and determined to stay in community with one another, we can overcome that sin together.
The part of the sermon I found most authentic and engaging is when the pastor stopped yelling for a moment and earnestly apologized for all the times that Veritas has not been as welcoming or community-focused as they could have been. He acknowledged women feeling marginalized in the past, and their voices not being heard. He acknowledged the church adapting too slowly to a changing cultural landscape and a more diverse congregation. Acknowledging those failings, but emphasizing that he wants the church to continue to do better, means he believes the same for his congregation. And it was nice he stopped yelling for a bit.
All in all, I liked this “church” experience. Mostly because I was in my pajamas with my cat, but also because I think Veritas is doing an ok job at navigating the non-denominational church landscape. It seems like on the flipside of not having a denomination to be accountable to, they also don’t have a denomination to defend or protect. They can acknowledge their own shortcomings and course-correct to fix them. That element of the church seems like a huge advantage.
Maybe next week I will actually attend a church, maybe this church, but in the meantime, I will be studying again. Send me words of encouragement and also recommendations for churches I haven’t visited yet!