Cory‘s post over at Jesus Manifesto is something that I sympathize so deeply with. He writes of a woman who visited during the Sunday service looked through the bulletin and left before the end of the first song. Her reasoning was that there was not enough of a children’s ministry for her young child. With a church of 70 or so folks this is a hard jab that gets felt pretty strongly. The dilemma is whether we can resist the temptation to sacrifice the subversive and non-centralized call of Jesus and simply give people what they want. Cory writes, “Yet if we would simply capitulate to the consumerist tendencies of the people in our community, we might have more opportunities to introduce them to the world-transforming love of Jesus.”
As I wrestle with accepting having 6 to 10 people at our weekly gathering, people “shopping” gets to be pretty brutal. We had a few when we first got things going that came for a few weeks and then decided we weren’t for them. To have one new face is a rush of encouragement… but to find out later that they want a sweet and hip worship service is rough. It’s like losing 15% of your church. Hah! the joys of being small.
While I don’t want to come across as saying that every other church out there is consumeristic and that there are not many, many exceptions to this ‘doing church.’ There are always exceptions… but I think that is what they are. They are so often isolated units apart from the main system. It is pretty tough to deny that there is a “system” of “church” that doesn’t simply cater to what people want. After all, it is so exciting to see very few empty seats and to have tons of money coming in through the offering plates (or baskets… or funky velvet bags…)
As we face the challenge of facilitating and fertilizing the emerging church of Bend, Oregon, it is so difficult to not buy into the traditional “marks” of success: bodies at a weekly gathering and good “services” to offer. This idea of success is one of the hardest things to get beyond. But to let go of this and consider our success as being connected in more and more transforming relationships in the Bend community is so freeing. Finally, we are released to celebrate, laugh, worship, eat, and converse with whoever finds meaning in everything we are doing in any place we are meeting. We meet people where they are at… give them the freedom and opportunity to go as deep as they want. But, gosh… its difficult… and takes so much time…