Sunday, 2 June 2013

Thank Jesus it's Sunday?

As the first service of the day slowly creeps nearer I find my self thinking about the various responses to Sunday that I have encountered thus far in my life. Here, for brevity's sake are four (bet you know more):

The Enthusiast
They've jumped out of bed and can't wait for church. This is one of the high points of the week for them - a chance to share with their church family and break bread, sing. listen (and hopefully learn, and pray!

You know the sort, they're always excited about church and God and stuff.
One of the  people in a church a few churches back one pointed at one of these and said, in a non-approving tone, 'That's N, he's one of those enthusiastic Christians!'

The Dutiful
A few years back, at one of the early communion services, someone said to me,'I wouldn't have come this morning but I had to to because I was handing out the hymnbooks!'

These are the people for whom church has become a commitment that has to be met and to be honest, I think that we (me and them) both wonder why they come at times. They have something to do and so they come and do it (for which I am truly grateful, for many who have things to do don't) but they have lost the joy of living with God and generally just work with Him.

The Habitual
A discussion with a church member from another fellowship led me into the knowledge that 'They've always come to the church,' and so they continue to come. They were brought by their parents (who were brought by their parents and so on) and it's what they do on a Sunday.

As I discussed Christian things with them I became aware that they might have some miles on the clock in terms of church attendance but that they'd rarely brought their brains and emotions with them (essential if 'church' is to be of any value I fear) and the sermon was the place for drifting off and planning lunch or sorting out the handbag and the like.

The Pressed Men
Doing a service somewhere recently I met a couple who obviously didn't want to be in the church building. Throughout the service the mumbled the responses, barely sang the songs and couldn't wait to flee.

So (of course) I tackled them at the door and asked a few questions and it turned out that:

They 'had' to be there to have their banns read and having taken the medicine that is church were keen to leg it before they were collared by some one (so that worked well, didn't it?). Going to church was the price that had to be paid for the use of the their building on their 'big day'.

Another similar looking couple (at another service) were there because they 'had' to come because they were having their child baptised. Again there was no engagement from them - they were doing what had to be done.

The Consumer (a late addition)
I've been asked to include this by others as so can but oblige. Here we have those who arrive, take in a service and then leave with no mark made either by them or on them. The Sunday slot is something that serves to fill a need and nothing more. The 'consumer' is perhaps the most difficult to deal with because they come (and often have always done so) and yet are the people that can be least counted upon to make an impact or hold a belief).

One of the hallmarks of the consumer society is that they are seeking to be 'blessed' and are very sure about what they don't want from church, being challenged appearing to be the biggest turn off - 'ask what your church (and God) can do for you, not what you can do for it (and Him)' is their mantra.

The question for me as a dogcollar is what I can do to make those who come through the doors of our church (the word 'our' indicating membership not possession) engaged and the experience meaningful and enjoyable?

How do I turn habit into enthusiasm and make the usual Sunday experience into something unusual and extraordinary?

How do I rekindle the passion that has turned to duty and set people on fire for God?

How do I make an honest, welcoming and disciple-making environment for those pressed men?

How do I turn consumers into converts?

You know what? I'm not sure - so I'll go next door and have a try with the early communion.

Catch you later - Christ is risen! Hallelujah!


Anonymous said...

As one with a church full of consumers I can only say that they are the most demanding and least reachable of all the people I have pastored in my 20+ years of ministry.

Been here two years now and the full church I encountered when I came is still full and still looking to have their ears tickled with by the "worship band" and be entertained by the "talking bit". They pay well and do nothing and I sometimes wish they'd be doing and hard up.

Is this the curse of the comfortable church I wonder?

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

So very sad to see this post - I hadn't put the 'consumer' category in when I first wrote the piece and was encouraged to do so because of a few emails regarding it.

I wonder how we might work with this group to bring about some engagement - seems to perhaps be the curse of the 'comfortable church' striking once again.

thanks for your honesty - be assured of my prayers,


Anonymous said...

Not just the 'comfortable' church - ours is less well off than that described by anonymous, but we still have our share of consumers.

7 years of trying to encourage discipleship has not touched them, and I truly doubt anything ever will. They come to church as somewhere to have their needs met and honestly don't see anything wrong in that. The hall mark is: it's all about me! and nothing is sacred - anything (worship style, time of service, doctrine) can be changed to suit me; and if it doesn't suit or if I have something better to do, then I don't need to turn up, even if I'm on the rota (which I only check when I walk into church anyway).

Soup D said...

A comment from our DCC last night: people don't come to the regular prayer meetings because they are afraid they might have to be committed... says it all!

DrJ said...

Soup - Can I recommend Milton Jones book of Ten Second Sermons, which includes: Some people see Church as like a helicopter; they don't want to get too close in case they get sucked into the rotas."

DrJ said...

Hmm, I've been wondering which of these fits me best.
Have to say I probably identify more with the Dutiful than any, much of the time. But don't decry the Dutiful too much. C S Lewis has Screwtape, talking about what he calls the Law of Undulation, say:
"Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never in more danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which all trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."

And I am definitely a Consumer, of sorts, too, but that may not always be a bad thing. An old friend used to admit to frustration because he saw the Church as an army barracks, but realised deep down that it also had to be a hospital ward too. There are times when we need to consume the healing that should be on offer.

Soup D said...

I think, if we are honest, there is a little bit of all of them in all of us -and that's not necessarily bad. The question has to be which is our 'normal' mode of operation? There is a time for dutiful service, for joyful enthusiasm, for considered habitual behaviour and even for desiring church to fulfil our needs; but the bottom line has to be that we have been bought at a very high price and we dare not treat that cheaply. His sacrifice demands something from us in terms of effort and even hardship for His sake. If we go through our Christian journey not contemplating what God requires of us, but only what we might get from Him, then we treat the cross and all it means with utter disdain - and do so at our own risk!