On Mondays, I’m going to post quotes/thoughts from books I’m reading. Ideally, the topic will be on the idea of Tribe members being “on mission.” Today’s entry is from Incarnate: The Body of Christ in an Age of Disengagement, by Michael Frost
My first exposure was about 10 years ago. Back then, I referred to it as a “smorgasbord spirituality.”
What I was seeing in the students I served in student ministry was a big point of conversation among the youth ministers I worked with. One area congregation was known for big outreach events, like ball games or on-site concerts. Another was known for their worship style, which had an appeal for young folks. Yet another was known for their youth-led service, with a very dynamic leader. Another church had incredible missions experiences through their denomination. We were the ones known for small groups which had service opportunities attached.
We were seeing a lot of overlap. I mean, on Friday night, our kids would all attend the big Christian concert. On Saturday night, they’d all worship at the area’s only Saturday night service. On Sunday night, they’d be at the youth-focused service (after they’d gone to their “home” church in the morning). On Tuesday, they’d be serving and on Wednesday our church saw an attendance bump in our small groups. They’d also be doing fundraisers for the mission trip they were going on in the summer.
It was like a big buffet line for the spiritual life. A designer experience for the purpose of spiritual growth. We wrestled with it as youth ministers…and this was before the proliferation of mobile phones and on-line social media and podcasts and video sermons. My guess is this generation of student ministers have their own version.
But those folks I served back then are young adults who’ve generally moved out and started careers. Michael Frost discusses how their spiritual life has changed given what he calls “excarnate living.” Kind of like travelers in an airport: They’re mobile. They’re impermanent. They’re not tied to places or people. He quotes another social scientist who refers to this type of lifestyle as “grazing behavior.” It’s a lifestyle of endless sampling of experiences with no real commitment to any one style, ideology or belief. We’re all waiting for our flight trying to make the best of it. So we check our phones, read our books, watch the news, shop, and then move to the next thing.
Here’s the quote I want to focus on from page 25 regarding “excarnate culture”:
It has seeped into our everyday thinking in the church as well. We drive our SUV’s across town to churches in neighborhoods we don’t live in (and don’t want to). We send SMSs and check Twitter during the sermon, and then we download our favorite celebrity preacher’s sermon as a podcast to listen to during the week. We engage in on-line discussions by posting smug and condescending remarks about those unseen, unknown folks with whom we disagree. We sign petitions and change our Facebook profile picture to show our support for various causes without any thought of getting involved personally. We are outraged by those who manipulate child soldiers in Africa or who traffic sex workers from Central Europe, but we don’t open our homes to our own neighbors, let alone those with no home at all. And this isn’t to even mention the prevalence of online porn usage by churchgoing men, including male clergy.
He goes on to mention church leaders on satellite screens and arena churches and other such nuances of our culture.
My question today is two-fold: Are you seeing evidence of “grazing behavior” these days and if so, what does it look like?
And secondly, what are the “wins” and “losses” of such behavior (presuming you think it exists)?
Have at it, patrons!