Image by ReillyButler via FlickrIn the morning I sort through my RSS feeds. It’s my “newpaper” reading for the day. Lots of technology and Apple feeds. Lots of religious feeds. And, these feeds often feed my soul as well.
It’s not every morning that, as I sort through my morning RSS feeds in Google Reader that I pause and think to myself THIS IS IMPORTANT. It’s important for me. It’s important today. I find lots of good stuff. No doubt. But it’s kind of rare that something someone else writes on another website finds its way to me and immediately resonates with what I have going on inside of me and my concerns and my growing edges and touches on what I’m finding so important right here, right now.
But this morning it did.
This morning I’m emotionally recovering from Sunday. It was a day we started on a new sermon series called “Awkward Family Snapshots from the Bible.” We’re looking at the very dysfunctional families in Scripture and seeing how messed up they were and yet God was still able to bless them and bless others with them. We have some messed up families. I know our folks are pulled in so many directions and lament that their plates are so full and yet they see no way out. But I want them to hear how God still blesses and used them.
It was a day that we seriously looked at some of the economic struggles facing our church and wondered why people don’t give more and our leadership discussed the benefits of having a full-time pastor at the church. What would ministry and our finances look like with a half-time pastor? In the end, it’s a matter of priorities. It’s a matter of discipleship, we said. And looking for a short-term fix for a long-term problem wasn’t going to be the way out. We need people invested in the mission and ministry of the church not merely with us to see what they can get out of it on occasion. This conversation was a weighty one for our family.
It was a day that I spent with family, heading out to the “hand tram” up Crow Creek Road.
It was a day for grilling out.
And now I’m left here, in the coffee shop, trying to plan and to lead and to disciple.
That’s when I saw this post from the Missional Church Network. It’s a long quote from Renovation of the Church: What Happens When a Seeker Church Discovers Spiritual Formation by Kent Carlson & Mike Lueken. I’ve not read the book. It looks great from the quote.
I don’t know how to say this in a gentle way, but we should not assume that those people who are attracted to our church have been captivated by the message of Christ and his alternative vision of life. In truth, most North American Christians are not riding courageously on warrior steeds with swords waving wildly in the air, crying out, “Let’s change the world for Christ.” Rather, they come in the air-conditioned comfort of their SUV or minivan with their Visa card held high in the air, crying out, “Let’s go to the mall!”
We should be more truthful with each other here. They come because their high-school kid likes the youth program, or because their children don’t get bored, or because they like the music, or because the pastor preaches the Bible the way they believe it should be preached, or because they happened to be greeted by a smiling face one day, or because the worship leaders looks like Brad Pitt.
This is the hard, raw reality of life in the North American church. The people who come to our churches have been formed into spiritual consumers. This is who we are. It is our most instinctive response to life. And you can hardly blame us. Almost everything in our culture shapes us in this direction. But we must become deeply convinced that this is contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ, the one who invited us to deny ourselves and lose our lives in order to find them. If we do nothing to confront this in our churches, we are merely putting a religious veneer over consumerism and nothing is changed. We offer no real, viable, attractive, alternative way of living. And what is worse, our churches become part of the problem. By harnessing the power of consumerism to grow our churches, we are more firmly forming our people into consumers. Pastors end up being as helpful as bartenders at an Alcoholics Anonymous convention. We do not offer what people really need.
I read this, coffee in hand this morning and repeated the last lines again a few times:
We offer no real, viable, attractive, alternative way of living. And what is worse, our churches become part of the problem. By harnessing the power of consumerism to grow our churches, we are more firmly forming our people into consumers. Pastors end up being as helpful as bartenders at an Alcoholics Anonymous convention. We do not offer what people really need.
We offer no real, viable, attractive, alternative way of living… Pastors end up being as helpful as bartenders at an Alcoholics Anonymous convention. We do not offer what people really need.
Our folks are not living in an alternative way. I’m not sure I’m even living in an alternative way. And I’m supposed to be leading.
We offer no real, viable, attractive, alternative way of living…. We do not offer what people really need.
How do we offer what people really need? How do we, not really a seeker-church, practice spiritual formation?
Questions are harder while money is tight. Answering these questions long before a building process would have been the ideal way to go. But here we are now. A community of believers trying to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world while still trying to make disciples of ourselves.
But, if we’re not making disciples here, then what are we making?
What are we making here?
Perhaps, from the quote above, we’re just making more consumer of religion.