Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Watch the vocabulary. . .

In the city where I live you can choose from the 180 Church or Exit One Church or One Church among the myriad of names chosen by those on the cutting edge of modern Christianity.  I suppose I should not complain but I will.  Whatever happened to the use of Biblical words or the names of saints or doctrinal names -- like Grace or Faith or Resurrection or St. Paul or St. John or St. Mary or Holy Trinity... among others?  Okay, so I am being trivial here.  But the truth is that not only the names of our churches have veered from the vocabulary of Scripture, so have our conversations.

I have already lamented here how my own church body seems to be in love with the term entrepreneurial.  We are told to be entrepreneurial pastors and churches and we give out awards for entrepreneurial leadership.  Last time I checked this was a term for economics or business.  I am a card carrying capitalist and I do not dislike the term but I dislike the way we have peppered our conversations with terminology borrowed not from Scripture or even Christian history and theology but other ologies or areas.  The more we distance ourselves from the Biblical vocabulary, the easier it is for us to distance our faith and teaching from Biblical doctrine.

Over the past third of century as a pastor, I have heard about the need to vision cast, adopt new paradigms, write mission statements, and define core values.  Such stuff consumes the bulk of the American economy.  Ask any nurse, for example, how much of their time for patient care is wasted on customer relations, customer satisfaction, telling people the hospital vision statement, sharing the core values with the people in the waiting room, and filling out or asking people to fill out customer satisfaction surveys.  Yes, I get that health care is a big and competitive industry but why are we saddling those who must care for patients with the burden of helping hospitals build brand loyalty, achieve high consumer preference scores, and convince them that this hospital is better at providing service that satisfies than another hospital down the block?  In the same way, we as pastors are told to spend our time studying demographics, putting in good signage, writing mission statements, clarifying core values, and building an entrepreneurial sacramental ministry (whatever the heck that means).  We are here to preach and teach God's Word, administer the sacraments, console the dying and grieving, call the erring to account, pray for the flock in our care, etc...  but we hardly have time for that when we are so busy borrowing the latest, greatest business trends.

We ought to be concerned.  We ought to be worried.  We ought to be cautious about the easy way we have translated the church into a business, the ministry into entrepreneurship, the Gospel into a product, customer satisfaction into the goal, and increased market share as the purpose of our churches.  We are raising generations of people who find it harder and harder to distinguish the church from business and more and more passive and high maintenance about the level of customer service they expect -- and it is not a good thing.

Some of the best sermons I have ever heard were sermons I did not like or want to hear.  They drew blood, exposed my weakness, and confronted my sin in uncomfortable but essential ways.  And then the drew me from myself to the arms of Jesus outstretched in suffering.  Our people have been deceived by pastors who distract the church and its ministry from the Word of God, from the Gospel of Christ crucified, and from a life of sacrificial service loving God by loving our neighbors in His name.

At the same time, our people are more Biblically illiterate than ever and find it hard to distinguish truth from error, heresy from orthodoxy, and the Word of God from the ramblings of people about their feelings.  The church is not a business.  It not in business to satisfy people.  The Church is the body of Christ and she exists to proclaim Christ's death for the forgiveness of sins to every age, people, and place until He comes in His glory.  The Church will not be evaluated by people but will be judged by the Father.  He will not ask if we have been successful but we will be asked if we have been faithful.  Perhaps WalMart cannot afford to do business like that but the Church cannot afford to do business like WalMart.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

This post sounds a lot like a member of the group John the steadfast would post. Sorry that you don't agree with certain ways of evangelism that you still think it's the I could sit back and do nothing and just take care of the congregation in my building will be full. It doesn't work that way we are commanded to go out and reach the lost and you do that anyway possible. The divine service is not the only proper way of worship. Well I love both and do both contemporary and traditional. I do Word and Sacrament I do law and gospel. But I go out in my community and I reach the lost and I am a sacramental entrepreneur.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, what exactly do you mean when you say that you are a "sacramental entrepreneur?" What does that term even mean?

Bill Woolsey said...

Pastor Peters, as the pastor who coined the term sacramental entrepreneur, I did so as a way to expand the playing field, you might say, and enlist more people in the work of starting new ministries. Said ministries would be a variety of starts, including word & sacrament ministries, but not limited to those solely. Hopefully ultimately resulting in W&S, however. Sacramental entrepreneurs are men and women who originate in the sacramental, historical Church and are wired to start new. We want to help them do so in ways that result in new people knowing Jesus and becoming part of a local congregation. Pastors might be included in that grouping, but the group is not limited to ordained. I hope this helps clarify.

Pastor Paul Lidtke said...

Pastor Peters, You hit the nail on the head! For centuries the Church evangelized the world by doing what it did best and what Jesus called upon it to do, preach the Word and administer the Sacraments. Your article calls on pastors and congregations to make job one, job one. I'm often disappointed to see how many people flock to conferences that do nothing to teach the Word, but everything to teach the church to market itself. I'm absolutely certain that as pastors and congregations share God's Word on a daily basis, God will bless and keep his Church!

Jan Payne said...

Thank you Pastor Peters! I work in a corporate environment and am immersed in that jargon for 40+ hours a week. Why would a church be encouraging something that is "like" a church, but not offering Word and Sacrament? Jesus has already given us a mission statement - we are to love our neighbors as ourselves and make disciples of all men. Let's pray, do works of mercy and overflow with God's Grace so that our neighbors are exposed to His love and drawn to Christ. Honestly, being pressured to participate in hipster entrepreneurial schemes would be enough to make me vote with my feet. Good luck with the non-Word hearing and non-Sacrament receiving converts. "Spiritual but not religious"

Dixie said...

I go to a Greek Church so you think we might be immune to the corporate management style invasion - but unfortunately no. We have mission statements, SMART objectives, SWOT analyses...frankly, it is a little sad that we are enthusiastic about these things. Not only do I have to deal with them in my work, I have been around long enough to know that these corporate things aren't always effective and are short lived...next year they will introduce the new best thing. Blech. Oh well...people are people.

Anonymous said...

At the end of day, those churches that work in the harvest using techniques of effective communication will grow. That is because faith comes by effective hearing of The word of God. And as long as the vision casting entrepreneurs are faithful to that objective, their tribe will grow.