Great article here from the New York Times on the challenges church leaders face in an increasingly consumeristic age. Here are a few excerpts:
The pastoral vocation is to help people grow spiritually, resist their lowest impulses and adopt higher, more compassionate ways. But churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them. It’s apparent in the theater-style seating and giant projection screens in churches and in mission trips that involve more sightseeing than listening to the local people.
At their courageous best, clergy lead where people aren’t asking to go, because that’s how the range of issues that concern them expands, and how a holy community gets formed.
Ministry is a profession in which the greatest rewards include meaningfulness and integrity. When those fade under pressure from churchgoers who don’t want to be challenged or edified, pastors become candidates for stress and depression.
I think the big challenge in all of this is that we want to have good relationships with people and we want our church community to be a significant source of friendship, but to poke people out of a ‘what I want’ mentality will undoubtedly jeopardise those friendships.
We also recognise that much of what ‘people desire’ is actually good. Its great to have a competent music team, a well run kids program and a healthy youth scene, but when these then become KPIs for visitors to gauge our attractiveness by we find ourselves back in the consumer trap.
I am not sure if its avoidable and that is something I constantly wrestle with. Doing things badly is nothing to be proud of and yet doing things well can see us then ‘playing the game’.