Weekly Meditation for July 27
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
Though I was all by myself, I laughed out loud when I came to the end of a recent NYT article about Facebook partnering with churches to further their impact online. At the end of the article, one of the mega-church pastors said he was partnering with Facebook, "to directly impact and help churches navigate and reach the consumer better.” This pastor then corrected himself, saying, “Consumer isn’t the right word. Reach the parishioner better.”
Oops. It is funny when people say out loud what they should keep to themselves.
Is this what the church has become? Are we just another business offering products and services to 'consumers'? Are the people in the pews and those who join in online 'consumers' of everything the church has to offer? If so, then we have truly failed Paul's advice and become "conformed to this world."
On July 11, 1993, I preached what is called my "Trial Sermon" here at the church. This is the final step before the church holds a congregational meeting and votes on whether to hire a pastor, or not. Thankfully, this church voted to hire me. During the meeting, I sat downstairs with the interim minister at the time, Lindy West. It was very apparent he and I were as far apart theologically as could be, yet he gave me perhaps the best advice I ever received for ministry.
As we chatted about the church, he talked about some of the recent history and some of the church's struggles at the time. Then he said, "This church just wants a pastor who will love them." Even though I was at an age where I thought I already knew everything, I came to see the wisdom in those words.
Providers of goods and services do not "love" their consumers, regardless of what they tell you in their ads. They love your business. They love your money. I do not believe they love YOU.
The heart of the church must be love. It is only through love that we are transformed, and renewed, and can discern the will of God. If Facebook and email and rock bands in worship serve that purpose for the church, then all the better. But if they are just gimmicks to reach more 'consumers' we have failed. It is through the love of God and loving one another that parishioners, the church as a whole, will discover, "what is good and acceptable and perfect."