Friday, February 01, 2008


A few quotes from the introduction of a fairly new book on small groups called "The Relational Way"( by Scott Boren). Well I suppose it is not technically on small groups because the sub-title states "From Small Group Structures to Holistic Life Connections." Really it's about the concept that to really connect with our world we need to stop playing church and start living in authentic relationship with one another. It captured my interest because I have been thinking that there must be a 21st century structure parallel to the household model of the first century church. What is the key societal relational structure of our times? Where do people (outside of immediate family) connect with one another in meaningful ways? Scott Bowen talks about the fact that this actually doesn't happen much because of the McDonaldization of our culture. Here's the quote.

The fast-food industry and the drive-thru experience serve as metaphors for how life works today. The pace of life, the demands on time and the expectations of efficiency and production rule our lives. The fast-food way of life also acts as a kind of parable for modern spirituality. It paints a picture for how many people approach God and the church. For instance, some people treat God as if he is the voice coming through the speaker at a drive-thru sign. As a result, instead of sitting down with God and communing with him, they only set forth their requests of him. They drive thru whenever they need God to meet some pressing need, usually in the form of financial burdens, emotional problems, physical ailments, or the need to discover God’s will. God has been reshaped into the image of a provider of spiritual goods and services to meet individual needs. As a result, the Bible serves as a book for quick answers to modern-day problems.

In the same vein, this way of doing life has infiltrated the church. Pastors and church leaders find themselves under intense pressure to meet the expectations of people who are looking for the drive-thru God experience. Spiritual shoppers are looking for the “God-made-easy” church, and if one church does not provide the right goods and services, then the spiritual shopper drives down the road to another church.

The authors of the book Stormfront state, “What we, as discriminating shoppers of spiritual goods and services, finally want to know is, How will believing in this god improve my quality of life? Bottom line, what does this deity do for me?” Low-cost
spirituality, prepackaged words from God, limited time commitment and non-invasive programming will always attract a crowd because the crowd has been shaped by the fast-food life.

While there was no official link between church and state in North America, the church remained at the center of our culture. As the western church has developed through its various manifestations and denominations, the purpose of the church has morphed into an organization that attracts people and meets their spiritual needs. The center of the church has become the Sunday morning event with the goal of making that event attractive enough to draw in observers from the culture … the goal of attracting people has a limited return on its investment.

The church finds itself in the midst of a culture that it is no longer equipped to understand or reach. It calls people to Jesus by trying to attract them to events and services, but those very people now view the church as increasingly marginalized, irrelevant, and even unattractive.

Today is a day that God is reforming the church. He is calling the church from one place to another, much like he called the Israelite slaves out of Egypt to the Promised Land. The call is not to new programs or even to new ways of doing small groups. The call is to a new way of being the people of God. This requires transformative reshaping of both the corporate church and individual lives.

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