This blog records my transition from the Churches of Christ to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Monday, September 28, 2009

If You Build It, They Will Come

i find myself more and more disappointed with the "build-it-and-they-will-come" mentality practiced by churches these days. i fear my own congregation is going through this right now. "Why don't we have droves of young people? Why, it's because we don't have a huge, state-of-the-art youth-center chalk-full of tv's, video games, lounges, and a cafe, of course."

Churches seem to think that the main answer to the puzzle of how-to-do-evangelism-in-the-21st-century is more bells and whistles. "More technology, more building, more trappings, etc. The real trouble with the gospel these days is that it's just not wearing the latest fashions. Give it the latest fashions and then we should see our churches bursting at the seems with fashionable people."

Really? i'm sorry. Maybe i'm a fuddy-duddy. Maybe i'm a crump. But this seems nearly bankrupt to me. Could we get huge numbers of people to come into our churches if we had lots of shiny bells and whistles? Sure we could. But are huge numbers of people our goal? Suppose we get 100 new people into our church building because we built million dollar youth centers and sound stages and view screens and cafes in our facilities. Why are those 100 people there? If our church building burned to the ground and there was no more bells and whistles, how likely is it that those 100 people would stick around? If they showed up because of all the shiny new trappings we've added, then it's hardly likely that they're really there for any deeper, more substantial reasons than that.

Many churches seem obsessed with numbers. "if we could only get our attendance up!" And what does a girl do when she wants to attract more attention from boys? Nicer clothes, a makeover, pedicures, and smooth talk. Well, then. If the church is aching for more attention from more attenders, maybe she just needs to style herself up a bit, right? Well, in the case of the girl and boys, it may very well be that the girl does get several new boys to notice and talk to her. But where will those new boys be if they saw her first thing in the morning looking like death warmed over? Some boys are only talking to her because of the new skirt and hairdo. And arguably, some new church attenders would only be there because a church got more "dolled up" than it used to be.

The real question is: Is that the kind of attention and growth a church should want? Does that really meet the goals Christ has in mind for His body? Comparing to a girl desperate for a date or to an entrepeneur bent on coming up with a product to win more consumers seems a very cheap and shallow thing for the church to do, to put it frankly.

Listen, i'm not trying to say we should be poor stewards of contribution money. Thus, taking good care of what we've invested in is certainly wise. But stewardship is really my point. Are we being good stewards of money by using it to emphasize things that are (arguably) more superficial and peripheral to who we really are and what we're really about? What would we think of the girl who tells us her new goal is just to get more boys to pay attention to her? Personally, i'd wonder why she's setting her goals so low. Even if she's successful, what's she really got? Nothing that will likely be with her long term. As soon as old age sets in with her, and as soon as all her new clothes go out of style, then where will she be? Maybe churches (including my own congregation) aren't making as drastic or trite a mistake as that; but i can't help but think they're doing something in the same neighborhood.

Why not rather use our resources to emphasize and draw more attention to the things that do constitute who we really are and what we're really about? Why not find ways to put even more weight on the most simple and basic elements that make up Christian discipleship? Things like: Prayer, Scripture Reading, Benevolence, Relationship, Love, Bible Study, Singing, and the Lord's Supper. If you can't get people to come through the church doors for *those* (and related) reasons, then have you really won them for Christ at all?


Matthew said...

I was in OK City this past week. I was hoping to meet up with you but the time just went by. I will be back and hopefully see you.

MrsHonea said...

As much as I understand your concern, and there is legitimate concern...I also feel that people rarely make a decison on their own to get to know Christ. We (Christians) instead must talk to others about Christ, and what better way than to invite them to our church services right? If we have something that intriuges our guests (even if it's not that day's message) that entices them to come back (or the children's cool ministry entices their chilren)...this can be a plus. No, church service does not always need to be cool and fun, but it does help in it's own way. Eventually if people do stay for those things, they will get to know Christ and His church eventually. Rome wasn't built in a day and things take time...so during that time, why not make it inviting so they come back and hopefully, eventually, see Christ through the bells and whistles. Churches that have those do need to remember the end goal and you're right, it's NOT to fill the pews. If a church keeps Christ in the forefront, then everything else is fine...imo. :)

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