Monday, April 15, 2013

The problem with church "insiders"

Lots of FB posting by Methodist ministers of this link: "Why 'Insiders' Are Killing Your Church." The author's thrust is that churches say they want to grow and reach new people, but they really don't.
Countless numbers of leaders and members of churches have given in to a Christian consumerism. They embrace a mentality that gives ample rhetorical support to evangelistic intent, but resists violently at the point of implementation because — at the point of actually “doing” it — it “costs” them.

In other words, scratch the surface of a sacrificial, pick-up-your-cross, to die is gain, eat my flesh and drink my blood, Christian,

… and you have an it’s-all-about-me, spiritually narcissistic, turned-inward, meet my needs, feed me, consumer.

Don’t believe me?

Let’s listen in:

“Of course I want to reach lost people,”

… but I’m not going to see us change the music.

… but I’m not going to lead a capital campaign to raise the money.

… but I’m not going to park far away.

… but I’m not going to risk stirring things up right now in the church.

… but I’m not going to attend a different service time.
And so forth. It should be noted, btw, that church insiders are clergy, too.

I think that essay is a little harsh in some places, but there is a lot of truth in it. We see the same dynamic at work in other areas of our lives, too. Consider, for example, the debates about federal spending and runaway entitlements spending. Voters ideologically approve cutting the budget but operationally we don't want programs that benefit ourselves to be on the block. For example, my parents are in their 80s. Do I really want Medicare to be cut? Baby boomers, of whom I am one, are just starting to retire in large numbers. Do I think that Social Security spending should be lowered?

What we have at work in many of our churches (including whole UM Conferences, heck, the entire denomination!) is a kind of cogntitive dissonance between what we approve of in principle and what we will actually support in practice. Bill Easum and Tom Bandy summed it up this way, note the tag line at the end: