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Pimp the Church

28 July 2007

Nobody actually reads this blog, but if they did, they might wonder what “enculturated” means.

What qb means by enculturation is nicely (if a bit blandly) phrased by WordNet: “the adoption of the behavior patterns of the surrounding culture.” It’s a sociology word often used synonymously with “socialization,” as in children learning to play nicely by learning the norms of their surroundings, but qb is using the term in the more loaded sense, as an epithet.

Not as in, “becoming all things to all people, so that by all means I might win some,” as Paul put it; but as in, “making every effort to be as indistinguishable from commercial American culture as possible so that my Christianity does not threaten or offend…and in fact proves to be profitable.”

* * *

This morning’s reading in Kenneson’s _Selling Out the Church_ got me to thinkin’ about what happened a couple of years ago when our Bible class, of which I was chairpersyn at the time, decided to put together a brochure for internal use only. It was two-color and stripped down with lots of text, which violates every principle of modern marketing. We had no intention of using it to market King’s Couples (that was our class’ name) to people who were not already in the room; we just wanted to use it to explain what convictions underlie our teaching and our class activities.

To demonstrate good faith, I floated our brochure by the staff member overseeing Adult Education. He thought it was OK, so we went with it – again, for internal use only, after the fact, for folks who visited our class and might have questions about what they had seen and heard. But it wasn’t long until I fielded another call from him. Turns out the Powers That Be (PTB) up the food chain a little bit wanted all of the Bible classes now to put together their own brochures according to a graphically similar template so that the PTB could put them all in a rack out in the foyer. Our class leadership wasn’t interested in that – let me use the technical term for my reaction: peristaltogenesis – but the PTB were persistent. We held our noses and went along.

That sequence of events came to mind this morning, uninvited, and something clicked. What is the true (as opposed to the stated) motivation for positioning a church in the religious marketplace and adopting what Kenneson and Street call the “marketing orientation” for the way we conceive of the church?

I think it’s this: we want lives to be changed (a good thing), but we want our church to get the credit for it so that other people – people hunting for “authentic Christianity,” or something – will think that what we’ve got going is the real thing. (After all, if it weren’t the real thing, lives wouldn’t be being changed, now, would they?) And they’ll come and join us. Cynics might add: and they’ll bring their children and their debit cards with them.

In other words, we make it about the church: what we can do for people, if only they’d come and place membership with us. And then we can say – as our Senior “Pastor” and our elders have recently said, multiple times – look, we don’t have time for your little snits, we just had 50 baptisms last week, so we must be doing something right.

It reminds me of a scaled-up, corporate expression of what Paul was decrying in the church at Corinth.

For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. (1:11-17, NASB; emphasis added)

When Christ returns to take us home, I kinda doubt that Harvey Porter and Bobby Hise are going to have a sign printed that says, “Montgomery Avenue Church of Christ was where qb was baptized back in ’76; ain’t we the cat’s meow!”

Yeah, I secretly loved it when people voted with their feet and came to King’s Couples. But it ain’t that big a deal, and I don’t get any feathers in my cap for it. In fact, I’m more than a little embarrassed by it. (If folks came to our class for any human reason, it was for SW’s great teaching, nothing I’d done.)

My main concern is that you come to know Jesus. Throw in with Him, then find a group of people who love Him and walk through life with them as witnesses of what He’s done for you.

And you folks who think you have to differentiate yourselves in the religious marketplace in order to grow your numbers: would you ever consider rethinking that whole deal? Kenneson and Street would be a pretty good place to start.


One Comment leave one →
  1. 31 July 2007 7:27 am

    qb… when is your book coming out? My wallet lays wide open!

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