from thirty feet away she looked like a lot of class. from ten feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from thirty feet away.
i ran into this quote in a book i’m reading right now, and, initially, it just cracked me up. raymond chandler was a defining author in a massively popular genre of books in the early part of the 1900s called pulp. eventually this spawned all the stuff we would currently call “pulp fiction”, but, at that time, it was all crime fiction — and, more specifically, slightly-outside-the-law private investigators.
anyhow, that’s not the point of the post (just the original context of the quote).
within seconds of reading the quote and laughing to myself, it struck me that the quote is an excellent metaphor for so much of what’s going on in the church (at least the american church) these days, as well as, more specifically, the arena of youth ministry.
i’ve blogged about this before in terms of both church and youth ministry. i attend a seeker-sensitive church (they don’t use that terminology anymore — does anyone?), but they’re reasonably free-spirited and not willow- or saddle-clones. really, there have been SO many good things that have come as a result of the seeker church. that’s important to remember. but there are also, unfortunately, so many natural results that suck.
focus on programming over people (which is a semi-ironic and truly sad outcome, since it’s the exact opposite of what this movement set out to do)
obsession with numbers
re-introduction of the idea that the building is the church (most seeker-types would violently disagree with this. but here’s my thinking: by placing so much emphasis on the parking experience, the lobby experience, seating comfort, lines of vision, big screens, kick-butt lighting, bullpens, crazy-high stages, disney-esue play places [or at least mcdonalds-esque], we’ve created a new blind embracing of the pre-eminence of the space. it’s not about creating a worship space like it once was — which was still an overemphasis on the space, by the way — but is still a re-emergence of the centrality of the building in representing the church).
acceptance and affirmation of consumerism (this is a tough one, because it’s a vicious cycle — certainly the modern seeker mega-church movement can’t be blamed for american consumerism! but by being so committed to the guiding principle of “what does the church attendee — especially a seeker — want?”, they [actually, i should be saying “we”, because i have been very much a part of this, and can’t stand to the side and lob grenades] have given in to consumerism. in creating programming and ministries [and buildings] that are responsive to the seeker’s desires, they/we have ushered consumerism right into our center aisle [“clean up on aisle three!”]).
boy howdy do i love the church. she’s my life-calling. i want to serve and encourage and resource and nudge.
but i have to figure out to to encourage her to wear a bit less make-up, so we can see her natural beauty from 10 feet away (or, even, 18 inches away), and not just her hollywood/tbn beauty that only looks good at 30 feet.