How do I lead consumers who are so inundated with consumer culture to see church differently? We are so enveloped by consumerism, we don't even realize it. It is that pervasive here in the west as USAmericans. In fact, they way we typically describe the American Dream equivocates our ability to consume with success. So, how do I lead others to see things differently? It starts with me. Seek to consume less, and seek to serve/give more to/for/with God.
How does being Missional change the time that we gather together on Sunday mornings? If an hour or so on Sunday morning is no longer a religious service to be consumed, what drives what we do during that hour or so? In the past, it seems like the songs we sing were chosen largely in part because they were consumable for people. You could probably say something similar about the sermons that are preached. It was an effort to sell God to consumers for what God can do for them. This is so different from the attractional, worship-driven model of evangelism. Is an average attendance number a good indicator for church health? Yes, but is worship the doorway to the Christian life as it has been in the past? It is a good indicator because it means you have more people who are being sent on mission. It can still function as a doorway for some (and even many), but maybe not in the way we've seen in the past. Why do I say this? Because if we're not trying to put out a product for consumption, then are we going to invest so much in doing over-the-top performance type of stuff? Let's be honest, the church cannot compete with Hollywood and professional concert venues--although we've done fairly well in many churches across the country. AND, I just don't think we SHOULD be trying to compete with the professional entertainers because we're not trying to put out a product to be consumed. However, we are trying to communicate and help people experience an Awesome God who can do more than any high-tech entertainment could even dream of. So I'm not saying we abandon all technology and excellence and professionalism. I'm just saying our motivations are different for using it, which will probably change the way we use it. What does that look like? I think we create it as we go in the context we are in, so it will look different for each group of people that gathers. One of my fears with stating it that way, though, is how do we keep worship from devolving into a product to be consumed.
I think this graphic also indicates another shift (transformation) that needs to happen in the churches I lead. A movement away from programs, and a greater focus on people. I feel like we get so attached to our programs so much that we'll do anything to keep them going even though they're not reaching people. The example I've seen is Sunday School. Let me first say that I don't think Sunday School is inherently bad. People learning the bible and growing in their relationship with God is good. The problem is Sunday School has become an institution that we expect new people to be willing to jump into. I've heard church members complain and say, "I wish we had more people in Sunday School." Usually it's "I wish those young people would come to Sunday School." Those of you who are leaders of established churches with declining Sunday School know exactly what I'm talking about. Like I said, people growing in their relationship with God is a good thing. Let's find ways for people to be a part of a group where that happens in their context, whether or not it's a part of the institutional Sunday School--who cares? The important thing is people are growing in their faith and supporting one another in ways that they can't (or won't) in a large group of people.
My one last reflection on this for today is applying this to Holy Communion/Eucharist/The Lord's Supper (or whatever you call the sacrament with bread and wine). The way I've experienced this sacrament in the churches I've been a part of is very individualistic and consumery (yes, I made that word up). Most of the time, it seems like communion is focused on me getting right with God. I remember what God has done for me in Jesus Christ. I consume the gift God gives, and it is my individual transaction. How is the Sacrament of Bread & Wine different when being Sent on mission is emphasized? How is it more communal encouragement and still personal?
I've had more questions than answers, but it's discussion that we need to have.