Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Something I've been sensing for awhile...

There is a change happening in the way churches "do church." The book I just finished, Intuitive Leadership addressed this change. Greg Boyd, one of my "heroes" wrote the below article that further reinforces what I've been sensing for a couple of years.

Greg Boyd recently did an interview with Burnside Writer’s Collective, in which he was specifically interviewed by Scott Noble. It is a short interview in which Greg is only asked three questions. But the questions that he was asked, are important questions that we should be asking. You can read the interview in its entirety here. Here is Greg’s response to the third question -
Do you think the mega-church model of pastor as CEO is going by the wayside?:
“I suspect so. I think we’re going to have apostles and prophets and evangelists and teachers and pastors. The churches that have that [the pastor as CEO model] are usually because you have a superstar, with a great personality and a great gift and who can build a superstar team. But there are a lot of drawbacks to that model.
We’re wrestling with that here at Woodland Hills Church. It’s really based on a consumer, CEO model. And so you want to attract as many people. The trouble with the attractional model is that you set up a paradigm where people think the job of a person is to attract, instead of the job of Christians being a mission. When a better model comes along, then the consumers go over there. It really kind of creates a shallow sort of Christianity.
In fact, at Willow Creek they have kind of been reassessing what they do on this basis. The goal is not to get people to come to church. The goal is not even to make them believers. I really think that’s missing the mark. But that’s kind of been our paradigm. How many decisions have you made? How are your numbers doing? I think those are exactly the wrong questions. The question is: Are you making disciples? People who really get inside of them the radical call to live a beautiful countercultural kingdom. That, I think, is the bull’s eye. And that is much more rare than believers.
To get people convinced of the Gospel, that’s good, you need that. You can’t be in the Kingdom without that. But the attractional model tends to leave them there. If I’ve learned anything in my years here at Woodland Hills Church is that you can be downloading great information to people, but it doesn’t mean that they do anything with it.
For that to happen, they’ve got to be in a community where they learn by practicing it. I’m not saying God is not there. God uses it, and we still see good things coming of it, but something else has to happen for them to really start changing their lifestyles and asking questions like, “Is this where we’re supposed to be living?” “Is this how we’re supposed to be living?” “Is the money going to the right areas?” “How much Jesus Kingdom is there in us?” “And how much American kingdom is there in us?” Information doesn’t necessarily confront our American idolatry and stuff.
And so that’s why we’re putting all of our eggs in the basket of small groups as Kingdom units. And that is the church. The church is the Kingdom unit of small groups who are living in a missional mindset to their neighbors. And we get together, and we still celebrate and proclaim the truth and the Kingdom once a week as a big event. We don’t call that church anymore; that’s just an event. Come to the event, if it feeds you. But church is what you do from Sunday to Sunday out in your neighborhood, with your small group, with your tribe of people."

Thanks to Scott Sidusky for allowing me to steal from his blog.

That attractional model is dying as our culture changes. It's interesting that a mega-church pastor is making this observation. My own personal thought is that the megachurch is the last gasp of Christendom in our society; the perfect storm of consumeristic Christianity and the marginalization of the church. One stat that supports my theory is that while the number of megachurches has doubled in the past 10 years, the number of people attending church has dropped significantly.

The attractional model seems to still work well in certain cultural pockets, like the Bible belt. Megachurches are very effective at reaching the dechurched and unchurched/ nominal Christian. But I don't think the attractional model will work to reach people who have grown up in a post-Christian culture. No cool sermon series or slick mailer could've brought to TFC the friends from Bonita Flats. The bible study I'm going to be doing with my friend is because we followed Jesus' statement in John "as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you" and went to their turf.

Based on some stats, my own anecdotal observation and the observations of some others who sense the same things, this is what it means for my leadership and TFC:

1) I have to make a change in who I look to for mentoring/ learning. I was trained in the attractional model and it's been difficult to transition out of that, since it's all I've ever known. I just finished Intuitive Leadership and realized I need to continue reading along those lines. I have to change what blogs I read and who I look to as examples. That's why it's been so great to have conversation with Shane Ash, because he's way ahead of me in understanding this shift. If I continue to listen to and read pastors who are succesful through the attractional model, I'll continue to miss what God is calling this church to do and I'll also keep comparing myself to a false standard, thus growing my sense of being a failure. Which leads to the second point...

2) I have to let go of my pride. Within the church subculture, "winning" is determined by worship attendance. Since I've always been considered a "winner" in just about everything I've done in life, it's been hard to be on the outside of what church culture determines a successful pastor. Maybe I lack the talent and/or ability to grow a church in an attractional model, or maybe God has designed my personality and skill set so I'be be able to reach the type of people we're reaching; those who couldn't be reached through an attractional approach. Can I stop thinking of myself as a "failure" based upon the mainstream church culture and instead realize that God has shaped me to be the right type of leader for our community and mission? This isn't an excuse for letting people slip through the cracks of discipleship but it does require a humility and patience in allowing God to do through TFC what He's already determined to do, even if that means Donnie isn't celebrated as a "success" within church subculture. I guess I'll have to "settle" for leading to Jesus the people missed by other models of church leadership.

Yeah, that sounds pretty good to me.


David Brush said...

The core dilemma I think we are wrestling with as a church is this; is missions a program employed by the church in which the world is brought into the arms of Christ, or does the mission flow directly out of God and into the world, making us partners and pursuers of that mission. How we answer that question dramatically affects our understanding of ecclesiology, our missiology, and I would even say our Christology.

The effects of modernity have left us with a compartmentalized life style. We have a prayer life, a devotional life, a church life, a work life, a family life, etc. All of these lives are stratified, prioritized, and isolated into digestible life-experience-nuggets through which we interact with the world. This dis-integrated existence has been applied to the church as well where we have separated the purpose of the church into various ministries, and groups which all act in autonomous isolation of the other. We have allowed our missiology to become one out of many things the church does. It is something done by subset of people over there, not as something we all do right here.

We must fight for a return of integrated identities; not just our individual lives, but our life-together as well. It is only from an integrated identity that we can begin to understand the pervasive nature of God’s mission. Rather than being a commodity to be acquired and dispensed, a tool that is learned and implemented, missions is an incarnational reality. We don’t ‘do’ missions, to borrow from Hauerwas we ‘are’ missions. We are invited to put-on the character of Christ, as Dallas Willard notes, “Indeed, the only hope for humanity lies in the fact that, as our spiritual dimension has been formed, so it also can be transformed.” This is the core of missionality, to find ourselves and our world transformed under the power of Christ.

David Brush said...

You gotta read this:

Donnie Miller said...

Wow, that's quite a read.
I'm seeing this in a pastor-friends church.

Andy said...

OK, David's initial response makes every missionary I know, including myself, stand and say, "YES!" :)