Much of the discussion in the Evangelical Catholics post/comments revolved around the topic of the "Sunday experience" as being decisive in major decisions we make about our ministry affiliations. My view on this matter has been shaped by many things, not least of which is a history of moving around the globe with the military.
In my 22+ years in the Air Force, I've been in a lot of church/chapel services. Through it all, I've certainly seen my share of preachers, music, congregational cultures, etc. I have sung my share of hymns and of contemporary music, accompanied by everything from pianos and organs to full praise bands with electric guitars. I have seen elaborate altar calls and simple benedictions. I've seen expository and topical sermons of many kinds. I won't say I've "seen it all", but I've seen perhaps more than most.
Whenever we move, we look for a new place to plug in. There are so many factors to consider: the how close the building is to our house, the quality of the preaching, the children's programs, the music, and of course ... whether people were friendly (I know--just keepin' it real).
In the end, most of us make an initial decision based on what that particular "Sunday experience" was like versus our expectations. Often, the search is long and full of disappointments: the atmosphere was either too stuffy and formal or too irreverent and chaotic; the sermon was too "fire and brimstone" or too watered down; the people were either too cold and distant or downright suffocating; the music wasn't what we like and consider to be really spiritual ... you get the idea.
To make matters more confusing, our first impressions are generally wrong and our expectations change. The uplifting music that first attracted us may not "feel the same" after a few months or years. The pastor's sermons start to sound the same from week to week. What used to seem like enthusiastic worship starts to feel forced, or what used to seem solemn starts to feel boring. Oh, and of course we discover that a bunch of these people who seemed so nice are (gasp) sinners, and occasionally act like it in the most inconvenient ways. Disillusionment sets in.
But then ... we tried that other church down the street, and well it seemed so fresh and different! Ah, and the cycle starts again.
Like most of you, I have my preferences, but the years have taught me to make my choices based on a somewhat different set of criteria than the "Sunday experience". I've come to ask the question: "Where does God want us to serve?" rather than "Where do I feel 'fed' on Sundays?" This changes the calculus, because the burden is on me rather than on the congregation.
Worship in military chapels will do this to a guy ... chaplains come and chaplains go, and none is like the one who preceded him. The new one is assigned based on a variety of factors, generally not to include his statement of faith or preaching style. The congregation itself is highly transient and none is a "member" in the church sense of the word. Yet this has been my mission field--the people God has called me to serve for much of my career.
Coming back to the question of the "experience"--I've come to think of this as occupying an outsized place in our decision making. We are commanded to praise, honor, serve, obey ... but nowhere in Scripture are we called upon to "experience" God. Yet we seem to believe that unless we feel the appropriate tingling in our toes, we are not engaged in authentic worship. In the name of the experience, we abandon our insufficient church in search of something deeper and more satisfying. In so doing, we leave those with whom we had forged a bond and who had come to depend on us in search of a better experience.
What's more, for those in leadership, planning the services themselves may devolve into an exercise in manipulation, as we try to create the experience that will satisfy the hungry flock and entice visitors to make decisions. In a perverse way, it becomes "atheistic worship", as we try to do the Holy Spirit's job, because after all, He can only operate under the most pristine, man-made circumstances, as measured by how many people come forward during the altar call.
Like in marriage, there is virtue in joining with a body of believers and staying faithful for better or for worse, and in shunning the siren's call of the "Sunday experience."