Friday, February 08, 2008

Intelligent Design and the Beatles

One of the strengths in the Intelligent Design movement is its close, conceptual proximity to common sense and scientific procedure in other fields of inquiry. In other words, we are naturally and deliberately always looking for order in things and inferring intelligence: archeology, information theory, freshman ethics papers, etc.

If the premises behind ID are wrong, why did NASA beam a couple of Beatle’s songs into the cosmos? Why not utterly random, meaningless noise? Why not just a simple, repeatable pulse? Because we know there is a substantial, even meaningful, difference between naturally produced phenomena and the artifacts of intelligence.

Even though the current scientific community continues to cudgel ID in the press, it relies on its basic principles to perform its most basic of tasks.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

McChurch: Not Lovin' It

Ironically, after dumping a bit in my last post about pastors and a corporate model for church, I ran across this item in the Out Of Ur blog. In “McChurch: I’m Lovin’ It,” a pastor in a church in Nashville is highlighted. He has wholeheartedly embraced a franchising model of building churches. He openly admits to following a handbook and rarely deviating from it. After all, who can argue with success?

He wants all the new churches to have the same beliefs, vision and mission the “mother” organization has. That way, thankfully, when church members move across country they can find a familiar church home right next door to their favorite and familiar fast food restaurant. Whew!

My first reaction was, how is this dramatically different from a denomination? And after a couple moments of reflection, I decided the difference may be subtle but monstrous. In general, denominations are grouped according to doctrinal issues. The reasons Lutherans are not Catholics does not have to do with a difference in mission statements. These new McChurches, however, will be characteristically marked without deep doctrinal issues in mind. The pastor highlighted in the blog was not concerned with theological or ecclesiological orthodoxy. He was worried that the hamburgers—sorry, the worship services—looked and felt the same.

This is a terrific gauge for where we are in the evangelical pastorate. I think it’s really pathetic. This is one of the reasons why Americans are staying home from our churches in apathetic droves. We are actually trying as hard as we can to offer nothing different from the neighborhood Starbucks. If I can have a good cup of coffee, read/listen to an interesting self-help book, have a stimulating conversation at Starbucks or at church, and there is no other substantial difference between the two, I will choose Starbucks 9 times out of 10. The coffee will inevitably be better.

The blog author closes by asking some really good questions:

Are Cumberland Church and other franchised congregations the wave of the future? Are Chick-fil-A and McDonalds the right model for the church to be emulating? Are franchised mega-churches going to be the denominations of the 21st century? Or, is this consumer Christianity taken to its logical and disturbing extreme?

These are good questions that need to be dealt with, but I am not sure the pastors enamored with this model feel their importance. This really is the shallowest form of consumer Christianity taken to its ludicrous extreme, but I am afraid that to too many pastors it is appealing and promising.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Pastors and Middle Management

My brother was recently telling me the latest “upper management” horror story to come out of his job. In stereotypical fashion, a once nice guy got a whiff at a higher paying job and more authority and became an idiot. My experience in the corporate world verifies his story as not atypical. No doubt, many of you have similar stories and could tell them with gut-wrenching detail.

Why is this important to me? Most evangelical pastors are trying to be just like my brother’s former boss. They are not sharp enough to know it, and they would deny it with every fiber of their being, but they are patterning their ministry careers after ladder-climbing middle management.

In fact, they are patterning their pastorates after the most successful of the ladder-climbers. And if you have any experience in the corporate world, you know that most of the most successful are not the kindest sweetest people you know. It is almost axiomatic that to advance in the business world you have to treat others as means to your personal ends and treat your customers as profit centers.

The patterning I am concerned with is almost as sure as imprinting experiments with lab rats and cheese. Ask your average pastor who they are reading right now, or who their favorite “leadership” authors or, or which authors their colleagues are recommending to them, and I guarantee you that there will be more masters of industry than pastors or theologians on that list. And the more evangelical pastors read and pattern their lives after these management types, the more our churches become half-baked corporations where the staff is treated as means to ends and congregations are treated as customer profit centers.

Far more than young leadership, far more than better marketing techniques (think Reveal), and far more than relevance, our churches need pastors who know what it means to follow a divine call to stand behind the sacred desk and see people as a shepherd. We need a renewal of what church means, beginning with God and his revealed Word, among the leaders of local congregations. We desperately need to recapture the title of “pastor” as a title that conveys real, spiritual meaning.