Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Not conformed to this world, but transformed

Chaplain Mike at The Internet Monk [like the founder of that site] defines himself as "post-evangelical." Most of his background was in evangelical and fundamentalist churches but he has increasingly had "issues" with American evangelical church culture. He has been explaining his reasons in the context of preparing for the publication of Michael Spencer's Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality. In Chaplain Mike's post today, "My Issues with Evangelicalism," two of his points particularly resonated with me:
THE WORSHIP ISSUE: The Stage Show
Worship in the evangelical church has consistently followed patterns established by the American revivalist tradition, which in turn drew from the theater. The “service” is essentially a stage show.
  • Music and other elements prepare for and build up to the main event: the sermon.
  • After the sermon, the preacher calls for response through an invitation.
  • The “actors” are those who hold forth on the stage.
  • The congregation is the “audience.”
  • The preacher is the “star.”
  • The sermon is like a sales pitch and the invitation gives the listeners the opportunity to buy in.
This inevitably leads to a performance mentality on the part of those on the stage and a spectator mindset for those in the audience. Even those who do their parts with best intentions can’t overcome the unspoken messages they are sending and receiving.

Let me say unequivocally—this is not worship. I’m not saying that these services don’t serve a purpose, particularly in mission settings, and it’s true that some may find a way to worship while they sit in these shows, but on the corporate level these types of services are not designed so that God’s people may offer worship to him.

This is not an issue of style, but of definition. ....

THE PASTORAL ISSUE: Hey Look! I’m an Entrepreneur!
It seems it is no longer admirable to desire the lowly vocation of “shepherd” (pastor). Evangelical ministry has become professionalized. “Leadership” is defined by cultural models and “success” is likewise cast in those terms. Ministry is about creating a thriving enterprise (entrepreneurship) and expanding its market share (growth).

The successful pastor’s study has been transformed into his office, complete with a staff to insulate him from people who might waste his time. He imposes his will (er, “vision”) upon the congregation. His main tool is not the Bible but his Blackberry. He dresses cool, refuses to stand humbly behind a pulpit when he preaches, and majors in “practical” messages filled, of course, with pop culture references.

Pastoral ministry in the evangelical world grows out of one of three secular models:
  • The CEO—the visionary leader who knows how to build a business
  • The General—the brilliant strategist who knows how to expand territory
  • The Motivational Speaker—the charismatic preacher who knows how to draw crowds
Pre-industrial, agricultural, and personal models have been replaced by the ethos and practices of the corporation. Eugene Peterson once said he was horrified to hear himself answer an inquirer’s question about his work with the sentence, “I run a church.” But this is the evangelical model, and, in my view, it has run amuck. .... [more]
My Issues with Evangelicalism | internetmonk.com