As one who’s been told that I have what a seminary professor termed “a holy discontent with the status quo,” I have to be very careful to strike a balance. Most days you could take “holy” out of the equation when it comes to discussion the state of play in American churches. I’m not really proud of that.
Join me in the tension, won’t you? Today’s New York Times article should be a nice starting point.
Here’s a quote: “Instagram built our church,” he [pastor Chad Veach] said one afternoon at his office here a block from the El Rey Theater. “Isn’t that fascinating?”
Tread lightly, Mr. Veach: The method you use to attract people will be the method you have to use to keep those people. The reality is that you can have a huge church that is built by the Holy Spirit or one that uses proven just-add-water formulas the article mentioned:
“But saving souls is a business like any other. Pastors today who want to start a ministry for those 40 and under follow a well-traveled path. First, they lease an old theater or club. Next, they find great singers and backup musicians. A fog machine on stage is nice. A church should also have a catchy logo or catchphrase that can be stamped onto merchandise and branded — socks, knit hats, shoes and sweatshirts. (An online pop-up shop on Memorial Day sold $10,000 in merchandise its first hour, Mr. Veach said.) And lastly, churches need a money app — Zoe uses Pushpay — to make it easy for churchgoers to tithe with a swipe on their smartphones.”
…and it’s difficult to know which is which. If it’s the former you might want to give credit where credit is due.
Now, a bit of background: Justin Bieber and Chris Pratt are among the attendees of a three-year-old congregation that is growing like kudzu.
And here’s the tension: Jesus seemed to make room for freelancers in Luke 9. Ephesians 4 tells us we all have a gift and a role. 1 Corinthians 9 tells us to become all things possible to win others. I could go on.
Needless to say all this stirs the discontent (and my dissertation work ain’t helping, either). Instagram building the church. A well-traveled formula. Branding. Merch. All of it raises my eyebrow. Fascinating, right?
So, I’ll try to get over myself. And trust that God knows what He’s doing. But manalive it’s hard to keep from turning over tables today…