Asking Questions in Good Company

Physician Rachel Remen says, “Life is about asking questions in good company.” Am I in good company? Can I ask you a question? Is it just me or does it seem to you like just about everything that is wrong about evangelical Christianity is facilitated by marketing techniques and our love of money? Don’t get me wrong, marketing can be an honorable & useful profession, but as applied to faith I think it has limited usefulness. Turns out God’s ways are higher than ours!

One, we go for big numbers when narrow is the way. At a sci-fi comic convention (Photo right) this weekend Lance Henriksen, star of the upcoming “Alien vs. Predator” film is quoted as saying, “There are 80,000 people who are going to pass through here, and there are only 35,000 at the Democratic convention. What does that tell you?” The Culturally Savvy Christian will reply, “it tells you we are amusing ourselves to death.” Why don’t we ask the “what does that tell you question” when “big church’ numbers are touted as an indicator of spiritual success? Have we forgotten that Jesus specifically said, “ “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Two: A growth oriented marketing culture sets measurable performance goals that then determine the evaluative questions by which progress is measured, but because it sets the wrong standards, it asks the wrong questions: Is our church growing versus, are people growing to Love God and each other more? Did the program or promotional plan generate bigger attendance versus, did the Lord add to our numbers? These may seem like hair splitting differences but they aren’t.

Three: When I first returned to Seattle I met with a friend who owns a large, “successful,” direct marketing firm. I told him of my vision to challenge the next generation to go deeper in faith and deeper in culture, and I pointed out the importance of “thinking.” He replied that my biggest challenge was, “there is no distribution channel for thinking Christians.” Think about it Christian radio, TV, magazine publishing, in general they have abandoned any pretense of intellectual rigor or a prophetic voice. They’re about increasing revenues, ratings, subscribers and profit margins. Our love of marketing-driven-results and money is the reason “there is no distribution channel for thoughtful Christians.” Ask those who have tried to build a viable business model around “thoughtful Christianity” and they will tell you, it is a slow and financially draining road.

Finally, why does any of this matter? Our shallow culture and shallow faith are starving people’s souls. The one result that matters is the one by which God measures us, and we are failing our souls are lean. In the good old KJV the clueless children of Israel are described as follows, “They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel: But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.”Last week I posted this quote by Joan Chittister, “We see people die spiritually every day. Sometimes they look very religious in the doing of it, in fact. They go on believing, reading, praying, thinking what they have always thought. In the face of new questions, they dare no questions. At the brink of new insights, they want no insights. They want comfort and a guarantee of the kind of heaven they imagined as children. They think that to think anything else is unfaithful.”

One final question asked in good company: In our quest for numeric results, bigger churches, better programs is God giving us what we “wanted” and in the process are we losing our souls.?”

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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