Jake Raabe: Keeping Church From Becoming a Show

About a year ago, a friend, who only recently moved to the United States, was asked by an acquaintance if he wanted to come to “a concert and a speech.” This was how the invitation was worded.

As you may have guessed, he was tricked into going to church.

The person who invited him was certainly being coy with the sneak-invite. But I wonder if he felt he gave an accurate description of a church service.

Church as a show becomes church as a commodity

Churches certainly seem like performances sometimes, with ministers taking the role of performers on a raised platform and congregants acting as the audience watching the performance. Elements of the service, like music and preaching, are determined by what the audience wants to see and hear.

In short, the mentality that church is just “a concert and a speech,” which just happens to be religious in nature, makes church become a commodity like any other. Church offers goods and services of a spiritual nature for consumption as desired.

When church becomes a commodity, we shouldn’t be surprised when people stop showing up. Whatever spiritual commodity the church can offer them—inspiration, comfort, moral guidance—can be attained from a variety of other places.

The “concert and speech” church, in other words, is church that will inevitably lose to better concerts and better speeches.

Involving the people: Communicating the purpose of the church

How do we keep church from becoming a show to be consumed rather than a community in which to participate?

First, as I wrote about in my last column, we must think hard about why the church exists.

What does the church offer that no other institution or organization can offer? What do people gain from being a part of the church that they can’t gain from being a part of anything else?

These are the questions we need to answer if church is to avoid becoming a product like any other.

Beyond developing and communicating these answers, those of us in the ministry should avoid making church seem like a show. If the congregation never participates in what is happening in the service or feels like their role doesn’t have the same significance as that of the pastor, why wouldn’t they think church is a type of performance or show?

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Source: Baptist Standard