There is a new post making the rounds on Facebook called “The Church is Called To Be Churchy, So Deal With It“. This “response” started out of a desire to comment, but deciding Facebook may not be the best place for a longer comment, so …
Let me start by saying I mostly agree with what I think the author of the article is trying to say … I just think he/she doesn’t have a good grasp of what people mean when they complain about churches being “too churchy”.
Boiled down into my one-paragraph description, the article basically is about the fact that Churches are supposed to be places where we talk openly and frankly about God, Jesus, sin, etc … and to expect otherwise is to ask the Church to be other than it is called to be.
Except, I don’t think anyone expects the Church to stop being about those things. Of course a church should be a place where people can learn about God, the Gospel, our need for God and his work in the world to fix things that are obviously wrong …
But is this what people are saying when they complain that Church is too churchy?
I doubt it.
Two books that could really help define what people mean when they talk about what they mean by “too churchy” are “unChristian” and “You Lost Me” – both by David Kinnaman. In these books what becomes very clear is that it is not the core content of Church that people react negatively toward, it is a combination of its (often negative) presentation, the lack of space for real, honest discussion about difficult subjects that do not have “paint-by-numbers” answers, and the many “grey areas” that are tacked on as essentials to be considered a believer.
It seems to me that people are fine with the core messages the author of this article seems to suggest churches are being encouraged to “water-down” – what they are looking to change is the “take it (ALL), or leave it” attitude we have a habit of portraying; the overblown atmospheres that create an environment that makes authentic individual responses difficult; or the attitude that real, hard questions are discouraged here because they could be disruptive to the unity of the congregation.
This is why I think churches need to listen to what people are saying; not to “water-down” the message of Jesus, the cross, and all that, but rather to find ways to make this message relevant to lives in 2015.
The gospel is as true as it always has been, but how we proclaim it should change with the audience we are trying to reach (think of Paul on Mars Hill for an example of how this is found to be true in the Bible).
In fact, this is a major issue I have with the argument put forward in the article above … people do complain about donut shops, libraries, concert halls, airports, and, yes, even hospitals. They complain all the time …
… And, in fact, most these organizations (the good ones at least) encourage this. They survey their customers and users all the time.
To get feedback. To improve. To correct mistakes. To learns how to change to meet the needs of the people they serve.
There are always limits to how far they can change, but a successful, sustainable organization will always adapt how it delivers its core products in a way that keeps people coming back (or, in the case of a hospital, makes their time there more comfortable). In fact, oftentimes companies will even switch the focus of their services. Tim Hortons & Dunkin’ Donuts have been doing this over the years as they switch from “donut shop” to “cafe”.
The reason organizations encourage feedback and make changes … to keep customers from complaining in another, more drastic, way – complaining with their wallets. Dissatisfied donut shop customers take their business elsewhere. Unsatisfied library users stop using the library and funding drops because not as many people need the service.
The examples go on. And, in our church circles, complaining with wallets is the equivalent of simply stopping attending church at all. It seems that is what is happening in many parts of our country today.
To summarize; please don’t change your core message, but for God’s sake please listen to complaints and find ways to better reach people, find ways to make the Gospel GOOD news, and encourage people to genuinely ask questions and seek God for themselves.
After all, it’s what the Church is here for!