Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Church and Entertainment: Dialogue II

Entertainment: It is one thing to introduce TV's and DVD's to Sunday School curriculum or projectors and screens in a worship service with drums and guitars that's a nice start, but that's merely a beginning. Why not add slides and bouncies to your children's ministry? What child (and really adult!) doesn't love a good bouncy? You want more kids, just hang around more with me and I'll make it happen. Oh how you are missing this generation. Especially your more established people. Just look at the statistics. Numbers don't lie!
Church: I can’t deny the decline. But too serious you say? Too serious about the Greatest News in the world? Can that be possible? Perhaps you have a point though, Entertainment. This Greatest News should be characterized by celebration, liberation, and joy!
Entertainment: Joy, yes joy and celebration. Now you're really starting to hear me. That's what I'm talking about uninhibited, unencumbered joy! That's what your people need, a little heaven on earth, here and now. You place too much emphasis on the sweet-bye-and-bye and forget the joy of heaven now. Let them eat cake! Let them slide! Let them bounce! Then they will want to listen to your message! Then they will have ears to truly hear!
Church: Umm.
Entertainment: Let us enter into a long term contractual agreement and together we can use Efficiency and Technology for our advantage. Together many more will come; many more will experience joy and fun like never before. That Good News you're selling, I've heard it said, it is should be anything but boring. I am just what you need.
Church: Entertainment, you too raise some important points about joy. But I am not an organization that values customer loyalty and pleasure at any costs. Rather I value deeper values like commitment and sacrifice. You too make me question though, "Why do we take ourselves so seriously and forget the joy we can experience?" "Yet, how might fun and entertainment lead people away from the Gospel such that all they experience is a surface level understanding of commitment and sacrifice that is called for in the Gospel? After all, so many left Jesus when He called for a discipleship that was solely committed to His way of life and love?" I think I'll skip along for something more everlasting!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Church and Entertainment: Dialgoue I

Entertainment: Church you are so archaic! Efficiency and Technology weren't forceful enough. You are in serious danger. In particular, you have been too slow to ask from me what you need. I have what you have been desperately seeking. Some churches still don't even allow piano's in their sanctuaries! Can you believe it? What is this the Dark Ages? Of course, for a long time you didn't even allow women to sing in the church because your archaic ways (1 Corinthians 14:34). That's how the boys’ choirs started. Most of your people have updated to the 19th or perhaps 20th century, but you are still so far behind what your people are seeking. You need me so much more than you realize. Why can't you just see your need for me and embrace me? There are some churches getting it much more than others. They have lights and sound as good as almost any secular concert you can pay money to attend. Don't look now Church, but these churches are on the increase and are growing. I know it makes you nervous and scared, but your dichotomy between sacred and secular is a foolish myth. I say, let your people eat cake! Give the people what they want and they will come!
Church: Entertainment, we are more different that you realize. Your audience is in the seats, in your consumers. I have multiple audiences, one of which is God! I cannot simply be about pleasing people's desires and wishes. For one, they always change. Desire is a funny thing that way.
Entertainment: Your people are too solemn. They take themselves too seriously. What they need is fun, fun, fun. You've heard a thousand time, "Build it and they will come!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Church and Technology: Dialogue II

Technology: During the Dark Ages and even the Middle Ages you might have been a learning organization that taught many, but not today. If people have religious questions they don't have to come to you. I can provide all their answers. Haven't you heard how reliable Wikipedia is? There are websites and blogs run by your own people who have embraced my abilities that provide answers at any moment accessible from almost any location in the world. No longer do they have to wait for a sermon series, much less the lectionary that give answers so slowly. And the answers they give are so, “out there” they’re just not very relevant either. But with me, no longer do the people have to wait for one of your groups to mass produce the answers in a way that relates to them. Today I allow them to ask questions on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Message Boards and get answers not just from lay people but from the experts themselves who help ensure their accuracy. Can you hear my tone? It is similar to Efficiency's. I too fear for your future. I can help.
Church: Technology, you too, like Efficiency, seemed to have bowed at the altar of relevancy. What you call irrelevant, I call creating a larger perspective with which to see the world. While I might not always address the immediate, felt need of some, my aim is often to the larger perspective of deeper, real needs people have in helping them to see the world differently. Simply giving quick and packaged answers to felt desires isn’t always the best answers.
Technology: Call it what you will, Church. In sticking to your guns, you are being left behind. Meet the people’s needs! I can help you.  
Church: Just as Inefficiency raised some important points and questions so have you Technology. Can real community happen in a "virtual" world? Certainly the way people can get answers and create virtual community might be a means to real community or a means to service, but they are not the same are they?
Technology: Just as Efficiency stated, I fear you are not catching the depth of the issues. Please, stay longer, let us enter into a long-term, contractual agreement and I will show you the way. I have much more to teach you.
Church: Technology, I really appreciate the dialogue, but I must be going. Perhaps to look into how Facebook or Twitter might increase my public image.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Church and Technology: Dialogue Part I

Technology: Efficiency sure had some good points. I overhead the latter part of your conversation. Though, I will admit you had some great points too. But I'll leave that for y'all to figure out. My point is that simply to make a small step toward the culture you need me. Oh man do you need me Church! I know much of your people have dappled with me a little, but I have so much more to offer! Twitter, Facebook, Websites, Projectors, Screens, Microphones, Sound Systems are all but a start of what I can offer. Your people have personal computers and internet capabilities right in the palm of their hand. You need to catch up and catch up quickly.
Church: Yes, we have certainly met before, Technology. Like with Efficiency, I approach you with hesitancy. Technology is a gift, but so much can go so wrong and be such a distraction. It can be so disturbing. Honestly, for some I’ve seen you become an idol.
Technology: Idolatry, please. Don't believe all you hear, Church. Honestly, you’re not that naïve. Video Conferencing, Virtual Worship Services, and Virtual Online Bible Studies are the waves of the future. Let me just say, Church, I really don't think you're getting just how much I affect your people. In fact, I would argue that with my current level of influence (my influence will only continue to grow) people have little need for you. I don't mean that to be arrogant, just truthful. People don't need you any more, Church.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Church and Efficiency Dialogue Part II

Church: In your emphasis on the urgency of “now,” you overlook ancient truths. It takes only a committed few to change the world. It only took twelve empowered but far from perfect disciples who spread Christianity across a hostile world! And as for changing times, well I've been through that plenty of times before. Many have signaled for the flag declaring my death before. The Church has been through persecutions, crusades, inquisitions, scandals, political revolutions, scientific revolutions, ups, downs, and many other tribulations. I might move slowly for you but sometimes slow and reflective is exactly what is needed among the hustle and the bustle. There are far too many voices proclaiming the next, the newest, the greatest, the best, and the biggest without listening for the still small voice of God (1Kings 19:11-12). I'm afraid I’m just not as concerned as you are.
Efficiency: Oh, your focus on the past proves my point! Oh, how I wish you would listen! Times are different today. Without adapting to make yourself efficient, up-to-date, relevant, for heaven's sake, you'll continue to die out. Check your own statistics! Get your head out of the sand and be realistic. You are being too naïve!
Church: Naïve! Adapting to the culture? Like when some of the Lutherans and others adapted to the Nazi regime? Like with theology adapts so much to cultural truths there is very little Good News left to proclaim? Like the inquisition? Like indulgences?
Silence captures them both.
Church: You do raise several questions though, Efficiency. The sorts of questions I am seeking answers for. How should I relate to the surrounding culture today? Where is the boundary between adjusting to cultural context and cultural values dictating beliefs? Or the line between maintaining a holy distinction as God's called out people and irrelevance to the needs of the time? Between incarnational ministry and pandering?
Efficiency: Those questions are not going far enough, Church. You need me to help you adapt to regain your once dominant influence over the culture. Let us enter a contractual agreement and I can help you make the adaptions you desperately and quickly need to make.
Church: Thank you Efficiency for a helpful dialogue. I really must be going. Perhaps I can work on my efficiency by leaving this conversation!?   
Efficiency: Nor do I have time for such a worthless conversation. What a waste of my time!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Church takes stroll...(Beginning of conversation 1)

The Church, like much of the world, is struggling with the anxieties and stresses of a rapidly changing world. Imagine if the Church went shopping for some remedies. Taking an introspective stroll at the Mall of Current Ideas, venders attempt to lure the Church into a long-term, contractual agreement. What should the Church decide in order to ensure its survival and perhaps even a brighter future?  
The Church first encounters, none other than Efficiency.
Efficiency: (Of course he speaks first) Church you are a slow organization. You move so slowly. You adapt too slow. Today's successful companies and organizations run as models of efficiency. Due to the pace of the market place they have to make quick decisions in order to compete. Church you are a slow organization using the committee structure and Robert's Rules of order. You need to adapt to the fast-paced times. You are falling so far behind you are becoming irrelevant. You are like a large ship that turns slowly in the water and so cautiously that you couldn't catch the weakest Jet Ski. I'm like a speed boat that can turn on a dime and yet large enough to maneuver in the roughest seas. I can do a world of good to help you adapt to today’s realities. You need my expertise! 
Church: Making quick decisions sure are essential for competing in the rapid pace of today’s marketplace. You are right about that. I desire a voice in the marketplace of ideas. But speed, I believe, can also be detriment. Novelty can mislead. Remember New Coke? Sometimes older is better. When something has been around for thousands of years it has been thoroughly tested. Remember though, the turtle, not the rabbit, wins the race. You forget the average lifespan of a Fortune 500 company is around 40 years. I have been around for at least 2,000 (and some would argue for longer than that). I'm not so sure I need you, Efficiency. In fact, you could learn a thing or two from me.  
Efficiency: True you have been around, and perhaps we might learn a little something from you, but don't you keep up with the news? Times are changing and changing faster than ever before. That companies only last a few decades is exactly my point. Don't you see your fate there as well? Just look at your attendance numbers and aging congregations. Look to Europe to see your fate! Massive and beautiful cathedrals with barely a person inside worshiping the god of the middle ages! Come, let us speak about organic groups and dynamic groups, downsizing and bottom up empowerment, downscaling, doing away with middle management, putting more cost and responsibility on your customers, and all the latest trends. If you don't listen now and begin changing, I fear your irrelevance in our society will only continue to increase. Can you hear the peril in my tone of voice? I am really afraid for you. Adapt now or there will be only a small remnant left who will not have any influence or impact in the world. Trust me, heed the dire warning signs - change or be left behind yourself!
The conversation will continue next time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mosaic Movement

"On our own we are little more than bits of stone and glass. Together we are the body of Christ." Mosaic Holy Bible. That quote very much sums up the Mosaic movement. This modern movemnt is very often urban and multi-cultural and also post-institutional, including one version who offers hip-hop services. Within this movement is a deep suspicion of modernity, authority, and pat answers (much like we saw with the emerging movement). The emphasis within the Mosaic movement is not on creating programs to meet needs of the current congregation but involving members in ministry within the local community. They have a strong desire for the upcoming generation and the focus of Mosaic communities usually are significantly involved in local and global missions. Their ways of doing community raise many questions (not so much answers) about what it means to be a follower of Christ and the nature of the Church.
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:13-27
Where does this movement challenge your notion of church? Where might it fall short?
What is Paul getting at by using the metaphor of a single body to a church sharply divided? What does it say about diversity? What does it say about unity? What might it suggests about leadership?
If you were to put your gifts in terms of a body part, which one would you be?
How can you best grow your gifts for ministry? What would the church look like if all contributed their gifts selflessly?