The look of love has been forever changed by social media and by a transformation of society which eliminated some of the things that once made the old dance possible. Now it is a new dance and a new beat underlies it all. Nowadays you need different things to succeed. Some of them include:
- A decent photo that minimizes your less than good features and maximizes your best features
- A catchy nickname that is more about attracting your intended than reflecting your identity
- A brief and vague summary of your main interests to increase interest without turning someone off
- A wit and sense of humor to ease the fears and make a difficult situation bearable...
Why, come to think of it, this is not only true of dating, courtship, and marriage, it is also true of finding a church! Where this was once a long process that led to a long term commitment, today it is likely as quick as a glance and results in an association that may end as quickly as you can unfriend someone on Facebook! Whereas once it may have been about family or friends to introduce you and help seal the deal, today it is more about your feelings, about the moment, and about, well, a good picture, a catchy name, a vague summary, and some humor. You notice what is missing? Doctrine and truth, among other things, as well as history and connection to other Christians (denominational identity and accountability).
As quickly and easily as a prospective mate can be dismissed and you move on to other choices, that is how quickly and easily folks dismiss a church and move on to the other choices they have. It can be all about a look or the wrong one. That is both an explanation of and a reason for the rapid movement of people in and out of denominations and in and out of congregations. It happens in my parish and, I expect, in all of them. People grow tired of the marriage and start looking around -- either for another one or none -- the marriage here is not to a spouse but to a church. It is subjective and individual and the old pillars of truth, dogma, and liturgy have given way to the new pillars of relevance, preference, and sentiment. I was talking to a pastor about longtime members and leaders who seem to wake up one Sunday morning and decide they either don't want to be married to the church anymore or they don't want to be marriage to the same church any longer. And then they are gone. Yes, I still see them from time to time and they remain friendly toward me and toward the congregation but they have other interests or other needs or other wants and we just didn't do it for them anymore.
It turns out the look of love is more of a fast glance. . . said the pastor with a sigh -- thinking both of dating, courtship, and marriage AND church membership. . .