My friend and colleague, Morris, included this quote in a recent post.
Marva J. Dawn writes:
We have turned our churches into ‘vendors of religious services and goods’ where people shop for worship, instead of ‘a body of people on a mission.’ People choose a church by what makes them feel good, instead of belonging to a community in which God will kill us, and then raise us up into the new life of obedience. (Living in the Lamblight)
Morris, Mark and I spend a great deal of time, both individually and when we're together, lamenting the pressures we feel in our role as Music Ministers. Over the past decade, the church growth movement has enticed church leaders to follow models for business created specifically by and for the "get rich quick" world of Madison Avenue and Wall Street. The models have simply been dressed up in "churchly" language so as to appear holy and righteous.
Born out of philosophy drive that led to the tech bubble growth then failure of the '90's and the housing bubble growth and failure of the '00's, these models can be particularly appealing as a handle to grab on to. Implementing these models gives the impression that real kingdom work is being done when in reality, we're only hopelessly struggling to fill "felt needs" that need to be emptied instead (both our flock's felt needs and our own felt needs)
When church musicians cooperate in being ‘vendors of religious services and goods’ where people shop for worship, instead of ‘a body of people on a mission’ we sell out the kingdom and we sell out our calling. The temptation is great. The pressure in enormous. After all, we like to feel successful. We like to see full sanctuaries. We might even enjoy producing and performing the show. We like the pat on the back and hearing the the music "had a good beat today." But in our hearts we know it's just a bubble that, with the first push back from the Accuser, will burst.
What many of the church growth models promise is that growth will be quick. They can be very appealing because of the pressure we may feel from our lay leadership to "show progress". Those of us who struggle with impatient personalities face particular temptation to buy in and "do it like the others."
Kingdom growth cannot be built on a Madison Avenue business model.
I feel for ministers who have had no exposure to the world of agriculture. The husbandman cannot be impatient. He cannot rush the germination of the seed or the gestation of the livestock. It all happens in it's own time. Business models can be adjusted, manipulated, dressed up, and tinkered with. If a germinating seed is pulled from the ground so as to manipulate it to try to make it grow faster, the seed will die. The only thing that can be done with a planted seed is to cultivate it.
Cultivation involves three basic things: sunlight, nourishment and protection.
God provides or withholds the sun based on His good providence. But the husbandman must plant the seed in the manner and in the place that it can receive the proper amount of warmth and light. To do otherwise is to ensure failure.
The nourishment of water and fertile soil results from the goodness of God AND the efforts of the husbandman. If the rain is insufficient, the fortunate husbandman can, by the sweat of his brow, provide water, if it is available.
Finally, protection. Weeds and parasites will threaten the plant. Weeds will steal the water and nutrients from the soil. Parasites will destroy the leaves that are supposed to receive the sunlight and convert the light and nutrients into energy for growth. It is the husbandman's responsibility to protect the plant by pulling the weeds and destroying the parasites.
The combination of sunlight, nourishment and protection, plus TIME, will produce growth that will bring forth real fruit.
Madison Avenue takes the concepts of sunlight, nourishment and protection and says, "We can package and market that. The problem is, it takes too much TIME. If we get rid of that necessity we'll soar to the top of the market."
So I ask this question. Is your church "in trouble." Do you worry there's not enough time to save it. Forget about Madison Avenue. It has taken the necessity for TIME out of the model. Turn to the One for Whom a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day.