I was talking with my wife the other day, and her brother has never been in an airplane. She has, and her parents have, but my brother-in-law has never flown. I was thinking about that today, and I remembered a story that I read in Time Magazine awhile ago about a new twist on air tourism for the poorest citizens in New Delhi, India. For $4.00, these faux-travelers can cram into a 120-passenger plane, run through the emergency procedures, try on their life vests, drink a soda and eat peanuts, and sit for two hours ... all while they go nowhere.
The plane doesn't fly. But the price of a ticket is too high for many of the poor residents in the area, so they go through the motions of flying. For some, it is the experience of a lifetime and as close to flying as they will ever get., and for others, it is a crash course in airplane etiquette for when they eventually do fly. No matter what, however, the fact remains - this doesn't count as flying.
I've been in churches that lack altitude. You're there, and you go through the motions, and everything is just like it is supposed to be ... but there's no altitude. Nothing that lifts you higher, that takes you beyond where you are right now. The same songs, the same traditions, the same ... everything. But there's no real lift. It's hollow and empty and insincere. A church - a real, spiritual church - should soar. In a church service, where there is a real move of God, the people there should be caught up. You should never leave a church service in the same place you started. It doesn't count as church if you haven't flown.
This isn't about emotionalism - it's about transformation. It's not enough to have a church experience if the experience doesn't change the participant. Going through motions doesn't change anyone. An encouraging sermon of goodwill doesn't change anyone. Singing songs heard on the radio doesn't change anyone. The Spirit changes people. The Spirit gives altitude.
A plane that doesn't fly isn't really worth anything. Neither is a church with no altitude.
(if you want to read the story in Time - http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1684522,00.html)