Thursday, September 05, 2013


Cool, Daddy-o

Chaplain Mike:

“Building Congregations around Art Galleries and Cafes as Spirituality Wanes”
Amy O’Leary, NY Times 12/29/12

* * *
If we can’t have our megachurches, we’ll find another style that suits us.

Amy Leary’s recent article in the New York Times shows that the spirit and principles of the church growth movement are alive and well among evangelicals, even as the evangelical world and subculture they created continues to wane. Leary begins by pointing to a warehouse “church” that is “part of a wave of experimentation around the country by evangelicals to reinvent ‘church’ in an increasingly secular culture.” 

If I hadn’t seen those words just last week, I might have sworn this was a piece from the 1970′s or 80′s.

Read the article and note the catchwords the author picks up from those she interviews. It’s all about “marketing the church to millennials” and “connecting with the community” and “drawing more traffic” in venues and with approaches that will ostensibly appeal to those who are “spiritual but not religious.” In order to reach such people, the thinking goes, we too must appear spiritual but not religious and disguise our faith in “post-Christian” wrappings. “Many have even cast aside the words ‘church’ and ‘church service’ in favor of terms like ‘spiritual communities’ and ‘gatherings,’ with services that do not stick to any script,” she writes.

The article reinforces a suspicion I’ve always had about these kinds of approaches. Leary quotes Warren Bird, director of research for the Leadership Network: “For new leaders coming out of seminary, ‘the cool thing is church planting. The uncool thing is to go into the established church. Why that has taken over may speak to the entrepreneurialism and innovation that today’s generation represents.’”


Just listen to the words of Houston Clark, whose company “designs spaces and audio-visual systems for churches nationwide.” Catch the motivations inherent in the approach. “Every generation wants their own thing. Kids in their late 20s to midteens now, they really crave intimacy and authenticity. They want high-quality experiences, but don’t necessarily want them in huge voluminous buildings.”
For me, there’s the rub. We want our own thing. We crave the experiences we define as essential. We want them in the form and fashion that we denote as “high quality,” when and where we want them. I’ve observed that this is not only the mindset of the people we’re trying to reach, but it is often our “ministry” mindset as well. Why would anyone want to go to an old, boring, traditional church or ministry and be forced to deal with all the crap I don’t enjoy instead of having continual excitement and gratification in a cooler setting?
The entrepreneurial spirit that aims to satiate people’s craving for ever new experience is alive and well. We call it “ministry,” and it’s cool to be a part of it.
I don’t know. I always thought this ministry thing was about people and building relationships and sharing Christ together.

Excellent points, two brief comments.  Firstly, consider these words, "It’s all about 'marketing the church to millennials' and 'connecting with the community' and 'drawing more traffic,'" I read that and it just hit me -

We are not asking people to buy something, we are asking them to commit to something.  Those are two radically different things.  Packaging sells something that you buy on impulse.  But impulse fades and we are talking about eternal commitment here.  It's kind of like the difference between meeting a potential spouse in a meat-market bar and meeting one at, well gee, church.

In the end that is a very useful analogy.  In courtship and marriage, attraction is one thing, but long term relationships are another thing altogether.  I think I need to not pursue this analogy any further before this port turns really crude.  I hope the idea is obvious.


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