You know who you are. You’re the pastor who watches the Bachelor for research, right? Yes, I’m speaking to the male pastors too. Perhaps you, like my husband, find yourself shaking your head at your significant other, and saying things like, “I can’t believe you watch that trash” …and forty-five minutes later you’re all, “This show has 8.1 million viewers. I want to be the relevant pastor. I should watch this show… for research…” And poof, the Bachelor producers have scored another convert. Except instead of drinking the Kool Aid you’re drinking wine. Every week. And your commitment is unwavering…kinda like your grandma with church on Sundays.
Did I mention that Chris Harrison is ordained?
Is the Bachelor really a thing for people in youth and young adult ministry, we ask? While we’re pondering this, there are scores of millennials (along with their parents, mind you) analyzing every last detail of this season’s finale…recounting every rose ceremony and every one-on-one date, looking for signs that pointed toward the bachelor’s ultimate choice. They’re doing this because they’ve been part of this love story: watching it, religiously, from the comfort of their own homes. So if it’s not a thing then I guess those millennials are the same ones who are flocking to the new young adult ministry at your church, right? And their parents are probably part of your healthy and committed team of volunteer youth leaders, right? Right. Take another sip.
Or maybe you’re just wondering if they’ll invite you, their pastor, to their next Bachelor viewing party. Which totally wouldn’t be awkward at all.
But I think that’s just it: there’s something ritualistic- communal- (dare I say) liturgical about all of this. What do I mean by liturgical? In the church we understand liturgy to be the flow, pattern and general order of worship. When we talk about the church being liturgical we usually mean the more formal, stained-glass, stand-up/sit-down/memorize-this-prayer kind of churches. But I would posit the every church is liturgical. Every church has a flow, an order, a predictability to their worship (even the Spirit-filled, praise band kind of churches. Don’t agree? Watch this.)
Looking for liturgy in all the right places
The Bachelor is liturgy at its finest. Never mind the predictability on which the show has built its empire: the clinking of the champagne glass before rose ceremonies, the tearful limousine interviews, emotive monologues that confuse lust with commitment, (and don’t forget the devastated people onto whom we can project our own personal feelings of loss). Announce the next bachelorette (#makethatplural): rinse, repeat—But the liturgy is also found in the ritualistic meta-narrative of the viewers.
Bachelor fans gather on Mondays to watch, eat, tweet and drink themselves toward the finale of one person’s televised dating olympics love story. They clear their calendars. They take turns organizing who is in charge of the food and they vote on the (drinking game) rules. They have an unwavering hope that love, in the end, will win. It’s just a different love than the kind Rob Bell talks about. C’mon, church- we’ve seen this before.
The similarities are there: we gather weekly. We drink wine and eat carbs. We tell love stories (read: the Bible) whose characters are just as nuanced, dramatic and back-stabbing as the next contestant on any reality show. What gives us pause, however, is the fact that the love story told on the Bachelor can’t hold a candle to the love story told in the church.
Taking the Bachelor to church. Or is it the other way around?
And that’s what liturgies functionally do. Liturgies tell love stories. The liturgy tells in prayer, word and sacrament, the love story God has for the world: a love story that suffers alongside our deepest wounds, offers grace that we needn’t earn and points us toward the kind of active hope that gets hungry people fed and prisoners out of captivity. While Chris Harrison is dang good at reflective listening, he’s a terrible pastor. He doesn’t actually ever point to something more compelling than a romantic sunset or a positive personality trait.
But liturgies don’t just tell love stories, they write love stories. If we’re going to take the recent scholarship of James K. A. Smith seriously, then we know that we are formed and informed by our practices. Smith echoes Augustine’s thought that we are what (or who) we worship. We are what we love (not what we think). #sorryenlightenment
Who’s your daddy liturgy?
This means that the liturgies in which we participate are the liturgies that form our loves and direct our worship. What the Bachelor would have us worship- what the Bachelor would have us love- is decidedly different that what (read: who) the church would have us worship and love.
Your youth ministry is liturgical. Each week you invite the kids who walk through the doors of your church into a particular story. So I guess the question is: what story are you telling? What love story are you helping to write as you plan the liturgical flow of your youth ministry? The other definition of liturgy is: the work of the people. This definition points to the activity of the liturgy- to each person present being part of the story that is told. If participating in the liturgy of the church means participating in the story of Christ…I wonder if we’re getting to that enough. I wonder if young adults see more of an entry point with the narrative of The Bachelor than with the narrative of the gospel.
The truth is, the liturgical invitation of the church is one that calls all people to participate in the most compelling love story of all: a love that doesn’t fade with the beauty of a rose. And- like real life- God’s story is not one for the faint of heart. The church invites young people to encounter this very real, fully human and fully divine God. The God who fashioned the sunsets and personality traits we idolize. The God who binds up the brokenhearted. The God who embodies passion. Passion, after all, means to suffer with. The God we meet in Christ suffers with us- on and off camera- and offers us nothing less than grace.
I’ll cheers to that!
 Chris Harrison has been the host of The Bachelor since its inception on the television network ABC. The show began in 2002 and has had 19 seasons. Chris Harrison also hosts the show’s spinoffs, including The Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad and Bachelor in Paradise.
 Sigh. For the first time in bachelor history, there’s two bachelorettes next time around. #icanteven
 I realize that it’s cool to hate on Rob Bell right now, but I’m not trying to do that. I’m just referring to his book, Love Wins.
 This is undoubtedly the “cool” way to define this word. It’s cool because it’s gritty and a very real invitation for worship to be more than something we witness. It’s something we- all of us- enact.