Tuesday, July 24, 2007
The Church of the Future needs to take a lesson from the Church As We Know It when it considers how to motivate people. Consider the use of guilt. I recently read in a newsletter a chiding from a pastor at a Church As We Know It. He was complaining about how people tend to get lazy in the summer and slack off from their church duties, like helping in Children’s Church and going to small group. Even though they might have a very legitimate reason for not being able to teach Sunday School in the summer, the basic assumption was that the members are not holding up their end of the bargain. The article went so far as to remind members that Jesus was not a nine-month out of the year Savior, and since he went so far as going to the cross, the least we could do is go to all the meetings that were offered. He concluded that we should obey the command to not neglect the assembling together of the saints. Why not go further in the reproach? If nine months isn’t good enough, why is once-a-week any better? Why not everyday? Why not twice-a-day, three times a day? Where do you end the shame? This is the problem with guilt-based motivation. It works with arbitrary reference points. It doesn’t concern itself with freedom. Its prime usefulness is in survival. Consider it this way. If you were in business offering a product that no one was buying, you would have to ask the inevitable “why?” Is it the fault of the market or the product? What could be done to change the lack of interest? Guilt is an option here, and it works in the short term, kind of like the guilt over global warming, but eventually people will end up doing what makes most sense to them. So why not focus on what makes most sense rather than using guilt? People are busy in our culture. Why not take the summer off church activities? Why not trim the Church As We Know It schedule down to once a month worship services? You and I both know why that won’t happen. Because people will forget to give their tithe, and if they forget to give their tithe, we can’t pay all the salaries, and if we can’t pay all the salaries, then staff won’t have a job and if the staff doesn’t have a job, we would have to assume that God doesn’t care about us, and if God doesn’t care about us, then what are we really believing in? See why guilt is easier than freedom?
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
I count it a privilege to be living in a time of transition as it pertains to faith. I can’t imagine any other time in history where humans were exposed to so much change. Unless you’re Amish, in the last 10 years you have been required to change how you live, how you talk on the phone, how you spend money and how you pay your bills. The car you used to be able to work on in your driveway now requires a special mechanic with a high tech degree. The list could go on. Change isn’t always about right or wrong. Oftentimes it’s simply about what makes sense. Take cell phones for example. It’s not wrong to not have a cell phone. In some ways it would be great to not be chained to one, but they do have tremendous advantages. I can recall before getting my first cell phone thinking they were just a new form of CB radio. They were clunky, heavy, and expensive. But over time it just made sense to change and get one. The switch has been so effective; we finally got rid of our landline in our house. In our case, the new is better than the old. Such is the case with the Church As We Know It. I would never say the current congregational model is wrong, but I do believe there are new opportunities that need to be considered. While many would claim the way they do church is the biblical way, the Sunday morning monological approach has its roots in modern culture as much as it does in the New Testament. Efficient in its design, certain in its answers, The Church As We Know It has worked well for a period of time. But unless you haven’t noticed, we are living in a different age. Before the days of the cell phone, we didn’t know any differently. The technology was not accessible, so change was not an issue. But now that we have the means, we must decide whether or not we will give ourselves the permission to utilize it or not. Again, not a decision of right or wrong, but one of adaptation and value. I can’t imagine not having a cell phone, even though I clearly remember life without one. Sure they are a hassle at times, making you feel enslaved to it, but it does have an off button. But I will accept the liabilities of owning and utilizing one versus trying to live in our current culture without. In the same way, having adapted to a new way of The Church of the Future for a few years now, I don’t see myself going back to the old way anytime soon. The new is not right. The old is not wrong. I prefer to describe it as a better fit for the direction I see ahead.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
I’ve been dialoging with another blogger lately on the issue of joy. His thoughts have led me to reflect more on my story and the faith that was handed to me. I was raised riding through the spiritual life on the Fact/Faith/Feeling train. For those of you unfamiliar with this illustration, it basically says that Facts are the engine to which you connect your Faith, and your Feelings are like the caboose and get to come along for the ride. The logic is fine to a point, unless you find you’ve been run over by that train. Here’s some of how I got caught on the tracks. My spiritual culture held emotion at arm’s length. If I had a dime for every time I heard a leader say, “feelings change; facts never do,” I’d be a rich man. This sentiment is fine if treated as a proverb, but somehow it became a theology. I was not as secure as all the leaders who taught that illustration. They would go on and on about love and the joy of the Lord, how these are not feelings, and so it left me discounting how I felt about things, especially about God. I cut myself off from my emotions, assuming they were not to be trusted. I concluded I should just live inside my mind. It worked for a while, but the Caboose wouldn’t accept taking backseat. Slowly over time, I was increasingly living in fear. I was afraid of messing up, of making God mad. I justified it by calling it the fear of the Lord. I memorized Psalm 115:3 to remind myself that God could crush me at any second and probably should, since I deserved it for that thought I just had. Feelings were speaking, but Mind wasn’t listening. Graciously, I found myself gaining an ear for Feelings voice. There were stories to be told about being inadequate and why I was so fearful. Feelings wrote long essays on my need to please and fit in and how that influenced even what I thought of God and how I assumed he viewed me. I’m glad I finally tuned in. So this is in part why I have a hard time with the choo-choo train illustration. It works better on a napkin, but not as my paradigm. Facts are fine and necessary and faith must be rooted in something solid or it will falter. But feelings are not the bastard children as I once thought. I now believe how I feel is extremely important in my spiritual well being. If I feel discouraged or depressed, I better take note. It may pass as quickly as the guy late to catch a plane, but if not, there may be a message I need to hear.