Most of you know I spend a great deal of time reading about “mission,” what with being a Mission Pastor & all. On Mondays, I try to get your thoughts going about stuff I read. Today’s thoughts come from Michael Frost’s book, The Road To Missional: Journey to the Center of the Church.
I had to laugh.
A well-meaning member of my church was excitedly telling me how much she enjoyed all the “new” changes our leadership made regarding our Sunday worship service. She liked that we were using Power Point on our two new big screens. She liked that we’d added some colors to our lighting. She liked that the verses and quotes used during the sermon were on the screen. And, most of all, she liked the fact that the pastor started off with three-minute clip from a recent movie to introduce his sermon points. The well-meaning lady let me know how glad she was that our church was so “cutting-edge.”
I was glad to hear it. Really, I was. It isn’t often that significant changes are made and are well-received by folks. Still, I had to laugh.
My thought was “cutting-edge to whom?” The average age of the folks in the room was probably 35 or so. I was 38 at the time and had been working in student ministry for quite some time. The main service looked a lot like the youth services we’d been designing for about 10 years. I mean, we’d already shifted in our services.
We’d stopped doing Power Point.
We’d changed worship to much more of an “unplugged” approach.
Candles, and a LOT of them, had replaced almost all the lighting.
We’d gotten away from singing so many songs and replaced a bunch of them with all sorts of interactive practices.
Silence was part of the service. Corporate and private prayer was added. Responsive readings. Journaling, even.
My point is not that the main services were wrong or bad. My point is about perspective. The stuff going on in the main worship service was probably cutting-edge compared to what most of the folks attending were used to. The stuff going on downstairs in the youth room was meeting the needs of those we were serving. This really isn’t about which one was “better,” or “more effective.” My guess is the both were plenty effective for their respective congregants.
My point is that we need to be aware of the reality that what is attractive to us and the way we design ministry (hey, I’m 48 now) isn’t the only way to do business.
The stats generally point out that there are more “megachurches” than ever before in the U.S. The stats also point out that there are fewer churchgoers than ever before in the U.S. The short interpretation of these realities is that an overall decline of influence is being masked by the “success” of these large churches. The kids aren’t necessarily big fans of what attracts their parents.
Michael Frost records Dallas Morning News writer Clint Rainey as saying,
All of this, we’ve been reminded interminably, is to ‘attract seekers.’ I’ve grown very disenchanted with this concept. Attract seekers to what? A sanctuary worthy of a Broadway production? An auditorium mimicking a convention center? A complex of expensive buildings?…Amid a culture inundated with bigness and cellular technology, iPods and TiVo, the technolgized megachurch is no longer impressive.
Hear me, please.
This isn’t to say that these things aren’t effective. That’s an entirely different discussion. What it does say is that some thing appeal to some groups of people, and those same things don’t appeal to other groups.
The same thing could be said about the candles and unplugged and responsive worship approach. The kids responded well to it. Some of the parents did, too. But not everybody did. Some of the older folks thought it reminded them of their stodgy church upbringings they were trying to stay away from.
My point is that we need to be aware of thinking one style of doing church is the “right” way.
And what this means is simple: We can’t expect one model to be effective for everybody. We shouldn’t be looking for a “magic bullet” that will just rearrange everything so a specific demographic will come to our place. It isn’t about being “cool” or “relevant” or anything like that.
The missional movement isn’t about advocating one way of church service. It’s bigger than that. In the words of Neil Cole, “Why don’t we switch our strategy from attractional church programming to something that empowers and releases Christians to have real influence?”
It is NOT about advocating one way of doing business. It’s about making sure all our programs at our churches are equipping people to be exactly who their Creator created them to be…
…and unleash them to tell people about love and Jesus and life transformation and Kingdom life.
Maybe I’ve just been spending too much time thinking about Ephesians 4 these days…