I had an interesting conversation earlier this week where I found myself explaining how sometimes I feel like church culture in America has reduced evangelism to spiritual recruitment. In some situations the goal of the church becomes getting more followers of Jesus, by way of getting more people into their programs. All the effort of Church staff and members is directed toward that goal: how do we attract and drive more people into more programs. While I understand the internal logic of that approach, I fear that sometimes the method becomes the message and the great Church of God becomes merely another brand.
I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with brand identity, but when our relationship to the church becomes perpetuating a set programs that effectively recruit people to our brand, something really great gets lost.
There ought to be great freedom when we encounter Jesus, open-ended possibility and gradual or radical transformation; but not constraint. There are lots of ways churches can be constraining. But one way that often goes undetected is constraining us all to the goal of world domination. Churches don’t need to take over the world, Jesus already did that. Our goal ought to be authentically living under his reign as much as we can. Churches ought to be the place where we’re encouraged toward and reminded of that goal; not busied with activities to perpetuate brands.
When Zacchaeus met Jesus, he transformed from a thief to a philanthropist. When Saul met Jesus, he turned from a persecutor to an evangelist. When Lydia encountered the Gospel in Paul’s preaching, she kept selling cloth. Paul specifically taught people not to leave their jobs and become recruiters, but to stay in their stations of life and live them well. As we move toward a new gathering spot and start a new season of life together, one of my prayers is that the Cross will always be a safe place where you encounter the Gospel and then are sent out to live creatively, passionately, purposefully under the reign of Jesus.