Friday 15 May 2009

Birds of a feather?

ASBO Jesus frequently hits interesting nails on the head with cartoons such as this morning’s. I've been reading Bill Bishop’s book The Big Sort: How the clustering of like-minded America is tearing us apart. This shows the devastating effect on social cohesion of gated communities in many areas of American life. But this is not just a sociological problem; it’s a missional issue. What hapens when we do Church like this?

Well, I suppose, we are saying that we believe we can only do our Christianity with real people if we get the option to pick the kinds of people they are. And that doesn’t include all the people whose homes we drive by on our way to Church.

Drive-In Church seems ludicrous, but this is Drive-by Church.
We proclaim the reconciliation of heaven and earth by the power that raised Jesus from the dead working in us, but then hedge that process about with an insistence that we get a veto over who’s on the bus. If we believe we need to be like this, we’ve pretty much made it happen anyway. Doesn’t make it true, though. Thank God he doesn’t take that attitude.

And however convenient it is for birds of a feather to fly together, consider the missional credibility issue this attitude and behaviour raises:

“God is putting together a new reconciled humanity in Christ, and you could wake up and embrace your part in this glorious process. Come and join us!”

“How do I do that?”

“By ignoring and excluding at least 6 out of the following groups of people: the old, the unsexy, the Radical, the emotionally needy, people without cars, the sexy, the poor, the young, Classical Music wonks, the rich, the over-excitable, the Conservative, Rock music wonks, the married, the divorced, the people with buggies, the people without buggies, the people who like/ don’t like the Vicar, people with big houses, people with small houses...”

And people on the street, many of them looking for ways out of their own ghettoes, may be illiterate about religion, but they’re not all idiots, and most of them can spot this one for a pup from a mile off...

Or have I missed something?


Graham said...

Wow- I am with you on this.

I understand the motivation (I have 2 kids and no workable weekly worship/discipleship activity for them at present)- but it always depresses me slightly when I hear of friends moving to a new area saying that they have been driving around looking for a 'good church'.

(on the other hand- would I have the guts if I wasn't ordained to 'tough it out' in a church that ignored/was hostile to mission? Hmm... what would Jesus do? I think I know- that's why I wonder if I would have the guts...

Matt Wilson said...

I wonder did this start with the church 3 miles drive away.


the church round the corner where they did actually ask you to dress different/talk different/be different

Huw Richardson said...

One of the problems with "relevant" liturgy is that it breaks into these little camps. One begins to see the sense of our ancestors in providing a liturgy to which all were expected to adapt.

But even that can be exclusionary.

Where is the middle?

FrDarryl said...

Buddy Christ hawks Starbucks! Dude! Awesome!

So I guess 'Doing it 3D: Daily Drive-in Devotionals' is not your choice for best 'Fresh Expression' in the next Church Times?

Sandy said...

I'm familiar through story with the drive-in church in the photo (it's in Florida). It's part of the denomination I stumbled into a few years back (Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)). the church literally around the corner. The drive-in church tickles my funny bone just because it's been there for years, and where else but America? From what I hear the pastor has a great sense of humor about it and deep relationships with his 'car congregation.'

What doesn't tickle my sense of humor is the church-shopping. I agree 100% on that.

The CC (DOC) is a small but diverse denomination. But what attracted me was the instruction to 'not leave my brain at the door'. I engaged in a big way, especially when my church became Open and Affirming, supporting the rights of gay people to live and love whom they please, and also to have full civil rights. My heart hurts after yesterday's ruling in California re: gay marriage but I know that my church, and all of us, will keep on working for our brothers' and sisters' civil rights. We also gathered last November when Prop 8 was passed and wept in the sanctuary as we agonized together. Those are my people there, all diverse yet everyone brings so much to our church life. Excluding that diversity makes us poor in spirit.

That's only part of what describes my church. Yet I've had people visit who say they like it because 'it looks like a church!' Really. They don't want to hear the Jesus stuff, the mission stuff, the social justice stuff, or study responsibly. I sense that even as they join us, if something 'better' comes up as they shop, they'll be gone.

It's disturbing to us of a certain age and above, the lack of commitment, the emphasis on outside and what it can do for me vs. the inside (heart) and what it can do for us.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Many thanks to all. It's particularly good to get a fix on this drive-in Church itself... The bigger question for me is whether we're in this for us, as a feelgood thing, or even as therapy. Jesus calls us to give up our lives, and become disciples. It's something like the difference between a demo and a full app. The full app actually costs! At some point in the Christian life what we're in it for has to give up its place to a less self-centred, more God-centred attitude.

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