I was just reading my friend, Elaine's blog, and it directed me to an article at from Relevant Magazine that piqued my interest. You may enjoy the read. But it brought to mind a conversation that I've had a couple times in the last week. The article is titled "Mimicking The Mainstream." What is it about our culture that the modern church feels it has to mimic? I know that most Christ-followers talk a great game about the evils of the world, "ungodly music," and other hot topics, but we still feel compelled to a copy-cat mentality. And I wrestled with this all the time in Student Ministry. My Youth Minister always said, "You can never out party the world. They have more disposable resources committed to entertainment than the church. Don't try." And that shaped much of my philosophy of Student Ministry, even though it cost me a couple of "jobs." "We need more fun stuff." "We need more fellowships." What we really need is more Christ, and that doesn't require a budget or programming. It requires genuine, Christ-centered, integrity relationships. Sorry, I digress.
Why does the community of faith feel that copying the world will bring people in? Why do we think building a coffee bar will impact the unsaved? I think there are some things we are missing.
The first is that its not the coffee bar that brings the people in. It's missional thinkers who utilize the tool to build relationships that bring people in. Of course, many of you know my thoughts on "bringing them in." We should take Jesus with us out to the culture. A topic for another time. Although sometimes birthed in good intentions, I think that the modern church thinks that the buildings are for Christ-followers to enjoy and remain sheltered from the "bad world out there." And, in an effort to keep the givers happy, the facility becomes a broken tool. It becomes a holy huddle. The church begins to legislate policy that makes it harder for the community to utilize the facilities. And we lose site of the original intent of the facility: to facilitate ministry to the world we copied!
The second factor is much more insidious. How do you copy life and not lose something in the translation? If you've ever seen "Multiplicity," you understand this concept. It's why human cloning hasn't been accomplished yet. With cloning, life seems to take hold, and then dies for no apparent reason. Most of what the church copies gets "sterilized." It loses the organic feel of life. It becomes like processed cheese food in a world of better cheeses. It's becoming more and more amusing to me to watch the church try to copy life out there and bring it in here. I can almost here the discussion: "Lots of people go to concerts. We should have a concert." "You know, coffee bars are very popular. We should have one." "Kids love to hang out on Friday nights. We should have alternatives for them to hang out at on Friday nights." But you can't make life happen. You can't take something that is chaotic, organic, wild and bring it into the controlled environment and make it flourish. It either dies, or it takes over like a transplanted weed. My friend, Barry, mentions this in his most recent post on The Lost Art Of Farming. What a shame that we feel we have to bring life under the roof of the church so it is safe to be involved with, or so that we can control it, or record it's growth.
I think the biggest factor in all of this is that the church seems to lose people to the world. We send people out from our Sunday gatherings unprepared to live life as Christ. They are well prepared to attend something, but ill-prepared to answer questions, interact with Hale-Bop cultists, or give an answer for the faith they have. In an attempt to draw people, we have dumbed-down the faith with entertainment and spoon-feeding. And so they end up being OF the world instead of IN it. We send out babes to the slaughter instead of farmers to the harvest. At best, disciple-making has taken a back seat to fellowship among the believers. At worst, disciple-making has been kicked to the curb for better seats, comfortable facilites, and safety. In the article mentioned above, Tim quotes a theologian named J. Gresham Machen. The quote reads, “Christianity must pervade not merely all nations, but also all human thought… instead of obliterating the distinction between the Kingdom and the world, or on the other hand, withdrawing from the world into a sort of modernized intellectual monasticism, let us go forth joyfully, enthusiastically to make the world subject to God” (Christianity & Liberalism)." The imperative facing the faith community has always been living life among the world in such a way that Christ is lifted up so that He may draw all people to Himself. Only by shifting our focus away from attender-making to disciple-making can we make the transition to effective ministry and worship. I'd like to see churches do one of two things: Either build a facility that is of value to the community so that life comes in and grows there, or divide their resources among the body and send them out to live life on its terms. One such community expression is FRWY cafe. Years in the planning, this missional faith expression is making a difference in their culture. I love what their Pastor says. “When we planted a church, the original idea was to start by building a community and then develop a café,” explains Pernell Goodyear, pastor and ethos-shaper. “We wanted to create a place that is neutral ground, public space. We asked what it would take to create a place that is normal, that would reach people in our culture.” They landed on launching a cafe that is also a church rather than a church that sponsors a cafe. Or, what would it be like if a church had a capital funding campaign that redistributed all the money raised to their members to spend building relationships at local venues? Imagine FBC Anytown saying, "This morning we reached our goal of $500,000 in our fund, so we bought all or you a $1,000 Visa gift card to spend building relationships! Go now and make disciples with these resources."
So, what do you think? Tired of cloning culture and killing life? You are the only one who can change it. What will you do?
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