The choir director’s words startled me out of my caffeine lacking coma. “I don’t think the audience would like that hymn.” Who was she talking about? What audience? I wondered. Ohhhh, the congregation!
There it was again. The veiled (or maybe not so veiled) reference to the church congregation as pew fodder. Pew fodder are folks who just “sit and listen” to the assigned pastor’s message and motivational music and then continue to do nothing with it. They go to the building called “church” every Sunday and return home unchanged, not moving…not acting like the church was truly meant to be.
Church was never meant to be a “place” but rather, Jesus manifest. The church is in fact, the Holy Spirit moving in and among the people and doing what the Gospel asks of us. Each person IS the church. Together as one Body, we are called to be church. We are each called to ministry or mission and to have our spiritual gifts nurtured and brought forth.
I can’t help but wonder how many gifts of the Spirit are sitting wrapped and unopened by church leadership today because the people on the opposite side of the pulpit are disguised as pew fodder. What is keeping today’s church stuck and focused only on wondering where future members will come from, how they will pay for the church mortgage or continue to pay the salary for the pastor and other assigned staff members?
And so the reluctant prophet in me steps forward. Some years ago, I made a suggestion to our homeless ministry nonprofit board president. The topic of T-shirts for our volunteers was brought up. I balked at the idea. Why do we need to be “different” than our homeless guests? Ultimately, my only suggestion was to print a simple statement on the front of the T-shirt that said, “Jesus has left the building…” and on the back of the shirt, “and gone out into the streets.” I was emphatically told that I might offend a church partner if we did that so my idea was tossed. (sigh) She and I both knew it would not be the first time I had offended church leadership. I was also told that in my communications, I could not write the word “sigh” when I was trying to make a point. (For the record, I have retired from that particular ministry.) 🙂
So yes, I will offend some church leadership folks with this posting, but that is not my intent. I simply want to call the question and rhetorically ask the leadership if they are truly focused on drawing out the spiritual gifts in their church members. Are they leading the church as it was meant to be…which is drawing on the spiritual gifts of the people and not focusing on a building or program or simply providing a “show” for an audience?
It is painful for me to hear stories of corporate churches that can’t allow a sermon to go beyond the carefully programmed 27 minutes because their members might think church has lasted too long. I wonder, if the Holy Spirit were to become most powerful at 28 minutes, what would happen? Or worse yet, for a church leader to remove a homeless person because they are disrupting the “audience” with their mental illness. (Insert another audible “sigh” here please) Is it possible that someone in the congregation has the gift of healing and might be called to help that homeless individual find peace at minute 28? Will they ever know? Probably not. Bottom line, the people in a building called church are not an “audience” to entertain. Rather, they are the Body of Christ called to use their spiritual gifts to serve in our hurting world. The role of any church leader is to draw out and nurture those gifts in their congregation members.
I suspect there are many church leaders wringing their hands as to why people who come in the front door of their building, often just as quickly go out the back door.” Perhaps by calling the question here, they will begin to realize that the dying of today’s more corporate model church is really a seed falling into the ground…only to be resurrected into new life. We can always hope and pray this is so. At least that’s what this reluctant prophet is doing.