4.17.2012

I was surprised

The Christian Century recently featured an article on new ways of doing church outside the confines of denominationalism and traditional ordination requirements for their clergy. Duh.

Sometimes I wonder about these mainliners and their disconnect with culture—stuff Evangelicals have been in-tune with since their inception—things like technology, modes of churching, trendy ideas about theology. In part it's their theology that limits their interaction with culture, right? On the other hand, it's one of the reasons so many of their churches are flailing. Surely we can update ritual and liturgy without the end goal being to bring more people to 'salvation.'

Regardless, this issue of the CC annoyed me for a few reasons. One of the ideas featured in the article was a young person barista-ing at Starbucks as a way to meet new people and hopefully invite them to Bible Study. Really? This is as far as we have come in our ways of re-branding church? I find this insulting to the regulars of said coffee shop and completely arrogant on the part of said barista. What happened to serving coffee just to serve coffee? Why do the motives have to be so calculated and manipulative? ...how...how...well, how Evangelical. Why must church center on bringing people in? And if that's the goal (which I'm not favoring), then why can't you be direct about it? Why use Starbucks? And like I said, realize that this is not a new tactic. My funda-gelical childhood church used Krispy Kreme donuts fifteen years ago.

Secondly, the conversation about ordination was intriguing. Many of the leaders of new church movements are young, not yet ordained, but serving in leadership that traditionally requires such credentials and set-apart-ness. The holy collars themselves are blessed, aren't they? As the denominations themselves are struggling to remain vibrant and relevant (mainline and evangelical ones), they are now forced into re-evaluative roles regarding the legitimacy of such 'unorthodox' leadership. I'm glad they are finally asking these questions, again, even if they are about  thirty years behind culture. Who knows what will come of it.

In the meantime, I'm beginning yet my second job in ministry (this August) that would normally desire one who is ordained, but because so many (out of the church) care less about parish life and ordination these days, I am the hire regardless, I suppose. Pickin's are slim. That's not forced humility. That's a statement about how I find it weird that they are so okay with the fact that I'm not licensed or ordained. The first draft of the press release listed me as Rev. I actually want to be ordained but can't make it happen (been working on it for about five years now) because of all the ridiculous stuff one has to do in addition to the degree. Where is the balance? Why are the reins held so tenaciously by those in power?

Your churches are dying people! You have young people with new ideas, and you won't let them in because they ain't allowed to wear the stole yet, and they can't wear the stole yet because you worship your rules and regulations. Stop putting the protocols before the relationships.

Alas, the church continues to miss the point. What's new? Perhaps my surprise at how those of us mainliners who still care about the future of the church cannot critically engage her more. So I leave half-empty/half-filled (still depressing either way) worship services wondering how much longer the numbers will dwindle and how many more churches-turned-condominiums New England and New York will see in the next thirty years.

I'll have an iced grande decaf light mocha, hold the inauthentic community bible study. Thanks.

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