Thursday, April 12, 2012

I got the following in an unsolicited email from a group called Lifetree Cafe.  It was an interesting email and the graphics were well done.  But the content... well, suffice it to say I have issues with what is being sold... a bill of goods that may well rescue the church as an institution while rendering that church unrecognizable to God and alien to the kingdom established in Christ.  What do YOU think...  It read as follows:

Most people don’t go to church anymore. And the minority who do regularly attend and appreciate weekly services fit a certain profile. They’re the church-inclined.  This shrinking minority differs from the majority in several ways:
  • Audience-Oriented. They appreciate a good presentation from the stage. They prefer to passively listen while the paid professionals on the stage do the work. Similar to theater-goers, they may judge the “performance” based on how well they are entertained or engaged.
  • Anonymous. They often seek anonymity. They like being part of a faceless crowd. They don’t necessarily want to be noticed—or known. They appreciate churches that keep the spotlight on the performers on stage, that allow the audience to sit quietly in the dark, so to speak.
  • Authority-Centered. They rely heavily on authority figures for information and inspiration. So, in the contemporary church, they count on the paid professionals to communicate the insights, move them, pray on their behalf, and do the real ministry.
  • Academic. They see the church’s role as primarily academic. They come once a week to obtain information about the Bible or God or life. They expect to hear an authority teach theological principles and historical data.
  • Auditory. They’re often auditory learners—people who take in and remember primarily through their ears. The contemporary church service suits them because it’s predominately an auditory experience.
For the shrinking minority, this type of church experience satisfies them. They’re content with the status quo.
But what about the growing majority of people who don’t regularly attend church services? Why don’t these same factors work for them? It seems that what attracts the church-inclined may actually repel or at least disinterest the majority. Let’s look at each factor again from their perspective.

Audience-Oriented. Though most people enjoy a good show, they don’t view their spirituality as a spectator activity. Even though they may long for God, they say they don’t see the need to sit in an auditorium and watch professional religious people perform rehearsed presentations.  Have they been to the Divine Service lately?

Anonymous. Though most people seek occasional anonymity, when it comes to matters of the heart, they actually crave relationship. They want to be known. They want to contribute to the conversation. Telling their story is as important as listening to someone else’s.  The only story that matters is Christ's.

Authority-Centered. Most people today have moved into the new era of information distribution, which is accentuated by the internet. Increasingly, people no longer have to wait for authorities to deliver needed information. They’re comfortable accessing and processing it themselves.  In other words, a cafeteria Christianity in which they pick and choose what it is that they like or choose to believe in...

Academic. We live in an information-soaked world. When it comes to spiritual things, most people don’t sense they’re lacking hard data. They’re lacking the soft stuff of the soul. Their desired relationship with God seems more at home at Starbucks than in a lecture hall. Like any relationship, they sense growth in a relationship with God comes more from give-and-take than passive consumption of someone’s lecture.  If they are more at home in Starbucks, then the only solution is to turn the Church into Starbucks.  Oh, wait, somebody has already tried that.

Auditory. Research shows that 30 percent or less of the population is made up of auditory learners. Most of the population processes information and thoughts primarily in other ways. They tend to tune out when asked to endure a presentation that implies they should sit still and listen.  Have they watched the ceremonial of the Divine Service and observed the doctrine you can see with the eye in that liturgy?

Don’t misunderstand. These people aren’t disinterested in God or spiritual things. They simply don’t find the church’s format a good fit for them. The typical Sunday morning service of half lecture and half sing-along simply isn’t a useful way for them to connect to God.  And it doesn’t matter how carefully the preacher prepares or delivers the sermon, or how polished the musicians perform. That formula just doesn’t work for most people anymore.  If today’s church wishes to reach beyond the shrinking church-inclined attendees, it will need to consider new and different ways to engage people.  In other words, either accept the dominance of the people's choice of what God to seek and how to seek Him, or risk being deemed irrelevant to the ordinary spiritualistic population.  Hmmmm, better irrelevant to people who love seeking more than being found that to be irrelevant to God.  Oh, wait, that sounds arrogant doesn't it. Let me rephrase that. Well, nevermind....


Dr.D said...

"...accept the dominance of the people's choice of what God to seek..." Whoa!!!

Shades of Moses and the golden calf!

These folks are nuts. No Christian priest can accept this sort of thinking.


Anonymous said...

Obviously, what God thinks or wants or desires is less important than what WE think, want or desire, even from God. So, St. John the Baptist can go take a "flying leap" with his, "He must increase and I must decrease" mentality. How archaic and out of touch must the Church be! Oh, well, thank the "god du jour" we have groups like these that really care about the unchurched! (Lord, have mercy upon us!)

Anonymous said...

"If they are more at home in Starbucks, then the only solution is to turn the Church into Starbucks.  Oh, wait, somebody has already tried that."

That "somebody" happens to be the MNS District:

WHY have a church building and hold the divine service in an ideal location when you can sell the property and convert the campus ministry into a roving Starbucks church?

If the Starbuck's model no longer works, than why are so many LCMS district pushing it?

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters wrote: "In other words, a cafeteria Christianity in which they pick and choose what it is that they like or choose to believe in..."

I happen to belong to an LCMS congregation that is a very active member of the Willow Creek Association. I am forced to cut away the Evangelical fat and gristle from the Lutheran steak every time I go to church. I refuse to sing fluffy praise band songs. I also quietly ignore bible studies based on a Bill Hybels or Rick Warren book and/or DVD. I AM the Cafeteria Lutheran!


Cafeteria Lutheran

Anonymous said...

Funny how so many Lutherans openly disdain the Roman Catholic church, but they have very few negative things to say about the Evangelicals.

Little do those clueless Lutherans know what the Evangelicals really think. "Crybaby Catholics" and "Catholic Lite" are common insults. As long as drinking, dancing, card playing, and infant baptism are allowed in the LCMS, the Evangelicals will never accept Lutherans.

Chris Rosborough understands Evangelical theology. When will most Lutherans finally understand his point of view.

Anonymous said...

In the birth control era, selfishness is a self limiting phenomenon.

We will see faithful folks increase by God's grace in His time and in such a way that people will not get any credit for it. The way I see it God is not so into rewarding the arrogant and the self important who have too much faith in their own ideas. Just 2¢