Oxymoron: ‘Shopping for a Missional Church’ | Part 1

Ugh. There’s can’t be many more phrases that make me sicker than “we’re church shopping right now.” It’s like all the things that cause me sorrow about the broken American evangelical church (just “Jesus and me” except when we’re an “audience,” ”attendance” to hear “great teaching” followed by “great worship") are neatly stacked into one phrase that layers the Body of Christ and the Mall into a food court spinach wrap that’s “right for our family.” Before I become boringly and repetitive on the Church Cynic scale, let’s be clear that I’m certain there is a growing mass that laments the same things I do, yet struggles in reality to effect change. This is not simply lack of organization or the right logo, but partially that incarnational, missional sketch of church is uneasy with the kind of crowd-gathering media approach that champions the large video screens (now in HD) you’d need to share the vision with more than a few at once. Jumbotrons mean consumerism, technopoly and a power dynamic that we natural post-moderns cringe under.

But the larger reason for being humble on the consumerism/individualism rant is that this is simply the story of the church in every age: she a guaranteed reflection of her surrounding culture with both its sins and graces.  Yeah, the role of redemption in the life of the church is undoing both cultural and personal sin, but while a lot changes, a whole lot stays the same. To employ the classic metaphor: the church in culture is like a fish in water. Once you’ve finally noticed its there, it’s still hard to see and even tougher to clean your own tank. At their best, missional critics identify how difficult large-scale cultural change really is, for the church or the culture she lives in.  Simply put:  it's easier to complain than to change things.

Which brings me back to church shopping.

Humility in theory sounds great, but there’s nothing like a bit of practicality to nail it home. Since my recent move to Orlando, FL, I’ve become the very thing I want to strike out with a big Sharpie:  a church shopper.

Granted, it’s taken me months to admit it. There have been phases of denial—probably more of those than anything else, actually. But I find myself in that unenviable position of absolutely loving the mission of the local Body of Christ, yet not even being part of it. My spare hours have been absorbed by Netflix and couch shopping (better than sitting?), and when I do make the effort to investigate a church, it’s typically been what everybody else does: a chip-on-my-shoulder visit to a 10:45am service where I absorb custom video, a worship drum solo, a charismatic story told from a stool, and a clapping send-off where I sulk out with my church full-color church brochure.

Ugh.

I’ve got more desperate thoughts on this. More to come.