Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pastoring a Sock-Puppet Church

I read with just a bit of glee Diana Butler Bass's ditty on modern VBS programs (which are so glitzy that we small congregations can't compete and usually so conservative that they're not usable without considerable tweaking -- I'm sorry but trying to get 5 year olds to confess their sins and accept Jesus as their savior is just simply silly!!!).
Diana moves from a discussion of the changes in VBS programs from when she was a child (I'm just a tad older than Diana so we were VBS'ers at similar times in our lives -- though across the country) to what these programs say about how we do church. There are all kinds of programs out there and church growth hucksters promising their own version of "VBS in a Can" that will make our churches more efficient and effective -- in just 40 days (and for $39.95)!
She writes:

Lately, I have been reading Bill McKibben’s fine new book, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. McKibben argues that growth—based on “hyper-individualism”—does not create human happiness, health, and wholeness. Rather, local community and close connections make us happy. We must shift away from a Wal-Mart economy to what he calls a “deep economy,” defined as “the economics of neighborliness.” Less stuff, he suggests, will create more connections by transforming the human economy and makes a “durable future” for the planet.

Although McKibben writes of economics, his argument carries over to faith. Successful American churches are Wal-Mart type congregations, built on the idea that bigger-is-better, hyper-individual faith, and entertaining programs meet an infinitely expanding religious market. That vision creates a culture of religious sameness across the country—indeed, across the globe—that subsumes local cultures in its wake. Want your church to grow? Attend the latest
pastors conference offered by a celebrity minister. Do 40 days of purpose or seven steps toward mission. Put on a dazzling Christmas spectacular. Buy Vacation Bible School in a can. You, too, can have a successful church if you lay out the cash.

Ah, yes, isn't that what we want, especially we pastors of "wee little churches"?
And so she goes on:

I no longer want to belong to an efficient church, a big one, or even a successful one. I just want to be part of a good sock-puppet church. And, as I have traveled this year, and spoken to many thousands of Christians, I had heard them, too, longing for sock puppet church, a deeper congregation, a community that stitches memory from scraps, one that (as McKibben says) “rebalances the scales” of our religious economy—and, in the process, may well transform the
world.

Diana, you're always welcome at my "Sock-Puppet Church"! We're not efficient or spectacular, but we are committed to being a place where God changes lives so the world might be transformed!

1 comment:

Mystical Seeker said...
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