Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
If that is the definition of insanity, then I think the Christian church is insane. Watching the church in North America for the past 20 years doing the same thing over and over, is driving me crazy. Especially because they falsely assume they are avant garde. I have been to the American conferences and witnessed first hand how they are trying so hard to make Jesus cool, if only culture would quite changing we’d have a handle on it – at least they think that. The truth is I don’t care how you change the MOdel of your church…it is all the same. Whether it is Multi site, Mega Church, home church or missional community. These really are only shells which are supposed to embody the sacred treasure of the Good news of God.
My dissatisfaction stems from working with a guy who was not an early adopter, not a status quo either, he was a laggard. That means he would wait for the status quo to adopt something then he would jump on the bandwagon. This led to a never ending quest for the latest cool trend in Church (for him very late). I watched him try everything to make church cool. He made popcorn before service, he bought water lights, downloaded the latest gaudy distracting motion videos to put behind his already busy worship songs and yet still knew this would only last for a couple of months. He would spend an obscene amount of time trying to figure out how to change the order of the service around so that it was more appealing. Some sundays he would play a movie clip at the beginning of the worship set, or sometimes at the end, sometimes he would set chairs up in the lobby of the college were they met instead of the theatre because he thought the change would stimulate. Through this whole process it fed a never ending cycle of distraction. He could never have success because there was nothing to measure it against, nothing was static. I frustrated him after working with him for 7 years as another Church meeting in a theatre down the hall. I frustrated him because I never changed anything. We were running our service the same way we had when we started. 3 songs, a 20 minute coffee break, message and Question and response. He kept pestering me to “reboot” as he called it. let me share an observation.
The model doesn’t matter.
You can change it all you want, ultimately it doesn’t matter. The only thing that will ever matter is the message. I recall the famous quote regarding media “the Medium is the message” in regards to Christianity, Jesus is the Medium….and therefore the message. What really needs to change is not the model, but the message.
The Christian church has been spewing out rhetoric and calling it the gospel for a couple of hundred years now, but in the past couple of decades it has been counter productive. Accept Jesus or burn in hell isn’t working anymore. Many would say, well I’m living in hell now so what difference does it make. I have come to realize that that is many Pastors Good news sermon-“Jesus came to save us from hell”. I have come to realize while that might be partially true, if thats all they say, it is completely false.
The message of the church needs to change and start sounding a lot like the message of Jesus. His good news was simple – “you were made for more than this”. That is my paraphrase. When you flip through the gospels and watch him dialogue with the disillusioned, this was his message. To the disciples…you were made for more, come and follow me and you will catch humanity. To Simon the traitor, working for Rome as a taxation officer, you were made for more than this….the message is clear. That is the good news. Who wouldn’t want to hear and believe that. We live in a world full of People who are disillusioned, and suffering from lack of worth, and from failure overload. And the Church while busy trying out a new model keeps the crappy rhetoric going…”become a Christian or go to hell”, and wonders why no one is interested. Their message is unattached form the core of what humanity is seeking. Reason, purpose, hope, grace, these are the things that Christ came to offer.
What if, the church was a place were if someone showed up on a Sunday morning, they would hear the Good news that no matter how messed their life was, they were made for more. What if Church was made up of a community that was living out that conviction. I think that message is very much the answer today as it was 2000 years ago in Palestine.
Focus on the message, the true message of Jesus, and ditch the message of the Church and I believe the model will sort itself out.