Who we are, as americans, plays out like this…
Since we’re reactors…
1. We have very little or no respect for history
of course, there are tons of churches in the US who are way into history — some even too much! remember i’m talking about ‘the pop-culture church’ — that part of the american church that is most influential in the US; mostly conservative evangelical, often contemporary; the part of the church represented in and by media, in christian bookstores, leading in seminars and training events, and exporting their “stufff” to other countries. this is me, by the way.
we, the pop-culture church, don’t have much interest in or use for history. this is a grand travesty and a huge gaping hole in who we could be. disconnecting ourselves from history is disconnecting ourselves from our own story!
an example: the pastors of my church were sitting in a planning meeting a couple years ago. my church has a tendancy to see easter and christmas solely as evangelistic opportunities, not worship opportunities (i don’t mean that as cranky as it sounds — it’s just an observation). the middle school pastor (oh, irony!) was frustrated with this, and pleaded: this christmas, could we consider doing something to acknowledge advent? the worship pastor (the guy paid to think about worship all day long, and who had been in this role for about ten years at this church, plus time at a previous church) responded: ok, i know i’m supposed to know this; but what’s advent?
sure, that’s one guy. but i think it’s indicitive of who we are. this robs us of texture and beauty and depth and connection and context and chapters 8 through 23 of our story!
2. We have no desire for moorings or anchor-points
we sure like our freedom, don’t we? and sometimes we’re so obsessed with our freedom — and when that’s combined with our reactionary nature, it results in anchor-points being anathema. even the slightest suggestion that someone would tell us what to do causes us to react and say “you’re not the boss of me!” yeah, i’m exaggerating a tiny bit — but not much. why do you think nondenominationalism has grown so exponentially? why do so many pop-culture churches have some structure other than a board of elders?
3. we have no respect for moderation – the pendulum must swing wildly
we americans don’t react subtely or in small ways. when we react, we swing hard and far! we’ve spawned more denominations than any other country in the world. when we call a new senior pastor, the norm is to find one who’s clearly the opposite of what we just had.
the seeker church movement in the states (i’m not criticising — just observing) started, primarily, as a reaction to churches who were not reaching out and were holding onto ‘forms’ that didn’t have any connection to today’s world.
some of the emerging church movement is a reaction. actually, i think it was originally MOSTLY a reaction — against the (perceived) non-essential excesses of evangelicalism.
i suppose it’s fair to say that this pendulum-swinging has brought some great fruit (including both the movements mentioned as examples above). but i think it’s wise (i know i need to do this) to stop and analyze my impulse to react. what’s making me want to swing that pendulum? and, if change is necessary, would minor change do the job — or is it really necessary to completely re-invent the wheel?
up next (part 5): since were simplifiers…