The Mumbo Jumbo, part one
Several days ago, I was in Greensboro NC attending the annual Anglican Mission in the Americas' Winter Conference. The thing I like most about Winter Conference is hanging out with my friends and making new friends. The thing I like least is the Mumbo Jumbo.
I am really happy to be a part of the AMiA. I love my bishop and the clergy in my network. I love that the AMiA focuses on the mission of the Church. Unlike any other American form of Anglicanism I have ever experienced, it is solidly committed to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Most folks in the AMiA, including myself, are evangelical. By “evangelical” I mean that we believe in the uniqueness of Christ, his atoning death, this resurrection and return, and the necessity of personally putting your faith in him. There are also folks in the AMiA who are Evangelical. By Evangelical, I mean part of the American Evangelical movement. They are theological committed to the Good News (“evangel” in Greek), but they are also part of the Evangelical Christian subculture.
The Evangelical subculture is the source of some good things and some bad things. Some of the bad things I would describe as “the Mumbo Jumbo.” Part of the Mumbo Jumbo is the idea that church congregations should use marketing tactics to increase the size of their Sunday attendance. This is sometimes called “Church Growth.” It is a very important part of the Evangelical subculture.
There are things which are marketing ideas that are helpful. For instance, I think churches should have good looking and helpful websites. We should use communication tools, like e-mail and facebook. We should have decent signs pointing to our church buildings. These sort of things are, I think, good and proper.
There are, however, problems with some marketing tactics. Sometimes these tactics are actually antithetical to the Good News. They are dehumanizing and manipulative. They come from a worldview that sees the Gospel as a product and human beings as buyers. While the way of Jesus is love, the way of the marketer is control. Those two things just don't seem to go together.
Another major problem is that most church people don’t have the slightest understanding of what good marketing is. It is one thing when a church uses some awesome marketing tools to sell itself. It is another thing when a church misuses marketing and therefore harms itself as well as its “customers.” This happens when churches fudge on Word and Sacrament in order to become more hip and cool.
If you had been in some of the sessions at this conference, you would have heard some speakers say, in effect, "the bigger the church is the better." If you had been in the hallways, you would have heard people talk about the methods they us to make their churches bigger. Sure, bigger churches mean more people know Jesus (supposedly, but that has been shown to be a whole lot less true than your megachurch would like to believe). But there is a certain devaluing of the Holy Spirit that happens when conversion stops being a miracle and becomes the end result of a "good close."
Enough for now. In part two, I will give you two examples of the Mumbo Jumbo; first one that made me angry, and then one that made just shake my head.
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