I dreamed there was a mall in San Antonio with nothing but churches in it. People would come from all over the city, have breakfast in the food court, then attend whatever service appealed to them in the moment. Jeanene and I had attended a few times out of curiosity but never found anything of interest. The mall did not contain a diverse group of churches. Mostly generic non-denominational evangelical praise-and-worship types with a few subtle differences that only insiders could discern.
My seminary roommate and dear friend Larry Parsley was in town and wanted to visit this mall of churches, so we went with him. Larry is a pastor in Dallas, and I remember assuming in the dream that Larry was curious about this latest development in the ever-changing landscape of American Christianity and wanted to see it for himself.
When we arrived we went to the biggest of the mall churches, which was meeting in the space that used to be a Dillard’s. They had torn out the second story floor, leaving a giant room with a high ceiling. There was a stage up front with a curtain, and folding chairs were arranged on the floor for the worshippers. Hanging from the curtain was a giant screen and the entire worship service consisted of video clips with the ministers behind the curtain providing voice-over commentary, offering emotional prayers, and leading the congregants in a number of rousing choruses. The curtain never once opened during the service, nor were the ministers ever seen.
Then Larry stood, made his way to the stage, and disappeared behind the curtain. I immediately understood that he had been asked to preach, which I decided must have been why he was in town. I was happy about this because Larry is an excellent preacher and one that I admire greatly. He has a Ph.D. in theology, does his work, and is a gifted public speaker.
Larry appeared on the video screen but he was almost unrecognizable. He was much shorter than in real life, and they had put a pair of heavy black comic glasses on him. He didn’t talk. All he did was run around in a manic fashion with the music from Benny Hill playing, doing pratfalls and spit takes. The congregation roared with laughter and applauded.
Then the video was over and Larry emerged from behind the curtain to take his seat beside me.
I turned to look at him. “That’s all they wanted you for?”
He looked back at me with a blank expression and said, “That’s it.”