Please try to make it to the Chris Bathgate House Show next week if you’re in the Phoenix area:
“Brave” – Your thoughts?
I had the privilege this morning of attending a breakfast sponsored by No Child Waiting and Focus on the Family to help promote an upcoming one-day event to help place children from the foster system into Christian families. The event will be Saturday, February 11 at Scottsdale Bible Church from 1:00pm-5::00pm. Please consider being there and helping spread the word:
Aaron Spiro: House Show: Hold On.
I have gotten outside the normal rhythm of life lately and I haven’t had much time to consistently read. However, I have been able to start Jared Wilson’s book Gospel Wakefulness.Right near the beginning of the book, Wilson touches on a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about over the past few years as a church planter (how long is Church of the Cross considered a “plant”?) and as a pastor.
In the early days of church planting, lots of people recommended lots of different books. Two books I’ve thought a lot about over the years since then are Nelson Searcy’s Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests Into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church and First Impressions: Creating Wow Experiences In Your Church by Mark Watlz. If you know me or our church family, you have probably guessed that I don’t keep thinking about these books because I necessarily agree with them. In fact, I don’t.
Perhaps I need to clarify, because when people hear that I don’t agree with books like these, they often jump to the conclusion that I (we) don’t take Gathered Worship seriously. Nothing could be further from the truth. We strive for excellence in everything we do but we also intentionally leave room for mistakes and freedom. After all, as we continually remind our people, our Gathered Worship is not a performance. We are not there to entertain people and we are certainly not there to “wow” them with anything other than Jesus. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Both Searcy and Waltz, while perhaps not intentionally, each perpetuate the unwanted, unwarranted notion of “Consumer Christianity.” Each assumes that if we simply do things well enough, smoothly enough and with enough flash, then people will move from “attending” a Sunday event to meaningful membership. Also embedded in this approach is the notion that the worship gathering is the driving force of the rest of a local church’s life together.
The result of this mindset often plays itself out in churches continually trying to “out-wow” each other, with sets, props, lighting, fog machines, “rockin’ music” and on and on. It’s not an exaggeration to say that in many churches, hundreds of hours a week go into making sure Sunday morning “goes off well.” And yet, with all this excitement, why does it seem that so few Christians in America seem truly excited by the Gospel?
Wilson reminds us of the adage: What you win people with, you win them to. Wilson explains:
I am not against the use of creative arts in church-far from it. The church must employ its artists in service to God’s mission or we are aiding and abetting the wasting of their gifts. But there is something fundamentally amiss in the philosophy that posits the church’s worship service as in competition with Disney World or Hollywood movies or, in some cases, the circus.
And yet, for all of the “excitement” in many of our churches, people don’t seem to be excited about the Gospel. Wilson suggests that what’s often mission is “routinely presenting the unchanging gospel in a way that does justice to its earth-shaking announcement.” But, some might argue, doesn’t repetition numb us to the message? Wilson clarifies:
I believe ever-increasing showmanship is what actually numbs people. The weekly efforts of many churches to top themselves in razzle-dazzle for the cause of Christ is what numbs.
I think Wilson has made an extremely important point. Our country is seeing the dramatic growth of so-called “mega-churches,” consisting of thousands of people and often driven by high production values. And yet, the American church does not seem all that adept at actually making and reproducing disciples of Jesus. Instead, we seem to have excelled in reinforcing people’s identity as consumer and the church as “entertainer” and purveyor of spiritual goods in the marketplace of life.
What might happen if we dialed back the “production values” of our worship gatherings and upped the ante on clear, precise, powerful proclamation of the Gospel, including its drastic call on our lives? What if, instead of seeking to “create wow experiences” we “wowed” people with Jesus? What if we regained the vision that Sunday morning is not our focus but discipleship? What if our gatherings felt more like family reunions than productions? What if we stopped feeding people’s consumerism and asked them to count the cost of following Jesus (Luke 14:28, etc.)