I was at a church yesterday (and would prefer if it remained nameless) where I couldn’t help being drawn back to that concept of ‘the medium is the message’.
I have no beef with these people and don’t write this to embarrass them, but rather to make the point that the way free monster squad the we do things communicates as much as what we do.
As we arrived there was a sign out the front… a sheet with writing on it in texta. The sign said ‘Ch- -ch What’s Missing?!’ A bit lame and tacky I thought… but each to their own.
During a break in our meeting I wandered up to the main auditorium to go to the toilet. The women’s toilet was clearly signed in the foyer, but the men’s was nowhere to be found. (Turns out it was outside and around the back!) I finished up being a woman for the next 30 seconds…
From the foyer I wandered into the main auditorium… just kinda curious…
The messages it sent were many and varied. The front 10 rows were old style pews and the rear were plastic chairs. A few crocheted lap rugs lay on the ends of the pews. As I wandered down to the front I was genuinely curious as to the various items that occupied the ‘stage’.
In the centre was both piano and organ. To one side was a small but formal table I am guessing for communion. Alongside it were two flags. One was Australian and other seemed to be Irish, but I couldn’t tell. These were big flags and prominent. I wondered about what this was communicating. I wondered what would happen if I were the pastor and removed the flags…
The decor said ’70’s and quite happy with it. The small wooden pulpit was slightly off centre and the only anomaly in the picture was a set of drums on the other side of the stage.
There was much more to observe – the style of bulletin, the literature available in the foyer, the signs around the place.
It all sent a message.
As I said, my intent is not to poke fun at this church as I’m sure they are genuine people, but rather to ask the question, ‘what do we say to people by the medium we use?’
I know it confronted me again yesterday that the medium speaks loud and clear. It made me wonder about what our lounge room, barbecue and trakky daks medium says to those who join in.
What does your own medium say to people?…
Not sure what “trakky daks” translates into over here in the deep south of the USA but the lounge room & bbq says, “come on in, you’re welcome here” to me.
Things like that dont happen…they evolve.
And the people that cant see it, are those immersed within it.
Do we keep our loungerooms like that? or do they change as we put new hd tv’s in there and the like?
How would you feel if someone said, you cant change the carpet, or the furnitue, or make the sound system and tv better?
Apply those to the church. Mind you, someone has to pay for it.
Maybe this decor says:
“We’re a bunch of disparate people – some traditional, some contemporary.
We have a history and we’ve grown into where we are.
We’re comfortable with each other and where we meet.
We don’t overspend our budget (or, don’t have a large budget to spend).
We’d like to reach out to people and know that Jesus wants us to but we feel a bit uncomfortable and so are trying out some ‘slogans’ to see what style of outreach fits us.
Our Celtic (?) background is important to us and tells people what kind of a culture our congregation comes from.
We’re a group of struggling, but determined long-term Christians who are hanging in there as the Christian world (and the world in general) changes dramatically while we feel a bit left behind.
Oh, and some of us get cold during the service.”
Or maybe I’ve completely mis-read this description of a church…admittedly I wasn’t there to see it myself. I do, absolutely, take your point that the way we do things tempers our message, but, maybe the people that this church attracts are comfortable with this style.
The church I grew up in was a bit like this and it was the place where the deep base of my faith was developed. We were small and older and embarassing (to a pre-teen and teenager) and cheesy and mostly from a Celtic background but there was SUCH love in that place. (And I think we didn’t have a sign up to tell people where the toilets were either. *grin)
Our expectations for ‘church’ have changed so much over the last decade or so, and for churches that are (or have been) comprised mostly of older or traditional congregations that have been meeting together for decades it’s not an easy thing to figure out ‘what people want’, or what will seem unfamiliar (and thus uncomfortable) to a visitor.
My feeling is that there is so much ‘keeping on’, ‘running the race’, ‘fighting the fight though we’re so weary’ in these places that I have a very soft place in my heart for them.
Again, Hamo, I’m sorry if I’ve mis-read your description of this church. I wasn’t there and you were, and I highly value your thoughts and feelings about issues of faith, but my impression of this church from your words was different than yours was.
No problem there. I have been very careful not to name them because I imagine they are a quality bunch of people and I am not wanting to offend.
I actually find much less to cringe about in a church that is unpretentious than in one that is trying to be something its not. These guys were not ‘trying’ to be anyone!
I probably could have chosen any church for this post, but I happened to be here yesterday and it was in the forefront of my mind.
Mike – takky daks are tracksuit pants or ‘sweat pants’ in your language 🙂
Hamo, like your ‘takky daks’ typo *laugh*
yeh.. nah i get ya. what ur basically saying is that all that we do communicates something to somebody, whether or not we consciously communicate it or not. I guess it helps if we have checks in our ‘system’ so churches allow themselves to be open to the various ways they might be viewed by different guests or potential members. i dont imagine that you suggest we become crowd pleasers either, cos there is arguably a fair amount of that going on in churches and that can be a dangerous path i guess. its not about pleasing people as such. Its about communication and its about awareness of others. What i am kind of thinking is, how can a church keep the balance between, decking their place so that it shares with outsiders something about their community but yet welcomes them to come and share in it and contribute to it?.
Another point i have in mind is…. how do you try to ensure that the way your church is decked out does attempt to honestly and sincerely communicate what your church is actually about, and what it envisions itself to be in the future….
just some thoughts…
i knew it was you as soon as I read the first sentence 🙂
Talk about writing like you speak 🙂
I didn’t know you’d been to Wynnum?
bbq, trakkies and couches…….as long as you dont have meetings about the type of sausages and call in experts to help you improve your bbq technique……sounds good to me.
Knee jerk reaction – virtual church experience that “translates” what we want to “communicate” in the “language” we individually understand – but wait!!!! Wouldn’t that be the Holy Spirit? As our experiences become more and more diverse we will need to have a universal translator of sorts (Star Trek). Kind of like the Holy Spirit…….. :0)
Hey stop that!!! – you’re talking about a Church I pastored in the 80’s and we thought that was fine – back then!!! If you had stayed back for the “Gospel Service” we would of shown you the movie – Thief In The Night.