Documenting the Coming Singularity

Monday, February 05, 2007

Detoxing From Church

*This is not an anti-church, anti-Christian article as the title might suggest.

Here is a very interesting take on the McDonaldization of the American evangelical church, turning it into a conveniently prepackaged consumer product. Thanks to Jason Zahariades and The Off Ramp.

In the Americanized church, the organization is designed to turn life and faith into a simple prepackaged consumer product. This is what John Drane calls the “McDonaldization of the Church.”

  • I need to worship. So I go to my local church, which, if it’s cutting-edge, has a worship pastor on staff that prepares an inspiring "worship experience" for me on a weekly basis. One local church I know advertises its worship services on its marquee, "We worship five times, three ways, one God." (Hello! Is it me or does that just sound wrong?)
  • I also need to fellowship with my fellow Christians. So I go to my local church to attend a programmed version of community that provides a surface-level contact with people around some form of activity at my convenience. If I need more fellowship, I go to a small group, usually focused on the dynamic personality of the small group leader or on the subject matter I feel I need to better my life. But again, this is at my convenience and fairly optional if my schedule becomes too demanding.
  • I need discipleship and Christian growth. So I go to my local church to attend Sunday services, Bible studies and small groups where someone opens the Bible and tells me what it says and how it should apply to my life. I also have the option of learning "practical" topics such as how to be a good spouse, parent, employee, leader, steward, etc.
  • I need to serve. So I go to my local church and participate in a program where I use my time and skills in a fairly convenient manner to help others. For the most part, it’s fairly safe. And if I'm a volunteer, my participation is completely based on my schedule.
  • I need to be engaged in mission. So I go to my local church to connect to their evangelistic ministry and their missions program. Every so often I might volunteer to hand out sodas or serve coffee in a convenient and semi-relational form of "reaching people" for Christ. I might also give money to local missionaries the church supports and maybe participate in a weekend mission trip.
  • I need a children's program to educate my kids. So I go to my local church to place my children in the care of Sunday school teachers and youth pastors who will provide the spiritual and moral foundation for their Christian growth via an age-relevant program.
  • I need purpose for my life. So I go to my local church, hoping to find a leader with a vision big enough to inspire me. Then I sacrifice my time, energy, and money to become involved in the leader’s vision so I can build something big for God with him. New programs. New buildings. New projects. New groups. New services. New converts. New church plants. New missions. More and more and more vision to give my life a reason to exist.

To make matters worse, as a pastor on staff, all of my relationships and ministries are mediated through my title and position in the organization. An unhealthy symbiotic relationship occurs between myself and the organization as my life and faith becomes synonymous with the success of the organization. If we, as leaders, can design an organization that satisfies the consumer needs of a couple hundred people... well, then we must be doing something right in God's kingdom. And the more people we reach, then the better we are. So I preach, lead worship, administrate, counsel, teach, organize, recruit, train, write, and do practically everything as a “pastor” of an organization. Eventually my identity becomes distorted by what I do for the church. What’s worse, my role and effectiveness as a staff pastor are intimately connected to my own formation and personal development. This continues to blur the line between my personal life and faith and my abilities as a leader of an organization.

Click here for the entire article.


Spaceman Spiff said...

The church, in its quest for power, has used all the methods of power aquisition that capitalism makes available: advertising, stream-lining, ultimately, McDonaldization.

This has the same dehumanizing effects in church that it does everywhere. "Pastor" becomes a helping profession, except that pastors are particularly bad at drawing appopriate boundaries. They are often expected to be available for anyone at anytime, and, by failing to refuse, they create such expectations in the future.

For a church to be any different, it really has to be countercultural. It has to be different very much on purpose. Such is the challenge for Christians of our day.