What’s one thing you’ve learned in your time at the church?
A friend asked me that recently as we sat across the table together enjoying lunch at a local restaurant.
While a myriad of things could have easily been shared, here’s a big one (with a detailed explanation):
My biggest competition for attention on Sunday is the Denver Broncos.
Consumerist Christianity isn’t just seen as a way to do church but the way in the North American context.
Now, he laughed, and I’m assuming you did so, so let me explain a bit.
- While in some sense I mean the literal Denver Broncos (I can expect a significant decline in attendance on a Sunday they play on the east coast and have an early kickoff), I also mean more generally the idea of entertainment. Living in Denver is full of perks: top quality restaurants and attractions, skiing, boating, hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, four wheeling, you name your earthly vice and I can get you to a quality spot in under an hour. The church has become nothing more than just another thing to do in a city full of things to do. The result is that the church is easily forgettable.
- Many people participate in small groups, but never really experience change. We create all sorts of affinity groups (parents, model airplane builders, young professionals, the weird people we’re never quite sure what to do with, etc…) but never really ask or expect people to bond, connect or grow. How do I know? Because I’ve been a part of groups that the church would deem both ‘failures’ and ‘successes’ and rarely has change ever been involved. Instead, we’re hoping to present a viable method for people to choose a church activity over a ‘secular’ activity, or at the very least to do the secular activity with some church people so it somehow seems more holy.
- Talking about discipleship and evangelism in the church is pointless without first starting something to change the culture. The current model of the church has made anyone talking about discipleship, mission, or evangelism to be an outsider. Giving a sermon on discipleship is almost as effective as giving a sermon in Swahili: quite simply, no one will understand you. What’s needed is not more talking, more theologizing, or more proofing from the Bible. What people need is a visible demonstration of what discipleship looks like.
As I shared with my friend, I shared how deeply I had seen consumerism rooted in the mind of the church, her people, her polity, and her programs. Consumerist Christianity isn’t just seen as a way to do church but the way in the North American context.
So what have I learned? Attraction based ministry is killing the local church.
Simply talking about a new way to do church, or giving a nice sermon on the importance of discipleship is like covering over a mortal wound with a Band-aid. What the church needs is not more nice preachers with catchy titles and clever gimmicks; it needs people willing to commit to the radical message of Jesus and live a counter-cultural lifestyle.
Because people can go anywhere and consume. We have been taught that it is not only in our nature, but in fact expected of all decent human beings.
The problem of any church is not the Denver Broncos, small groups, or sermons; it is consumerism and the only way past it is to create a new paradigm where serving, participation, and transformation are the norm; a new paradigm where service, kindness, and compassion are the characteristics of everyone and not the vocationally called; and a paradigm where life with God is not seen as just a thing to choose but the thing by which the rest of life begins to make sense.
Add to the discussion: What’s one thing you’ve learned in life or ministry that could help the church grow and thrive?
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I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture.
In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society.
I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith.
I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary.
I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.