Wednesday, September 07, 2005

People From the Planet Church

At a staff meeting at our church, someone remarked how a visitor found it hard to "connect" with the people in our church. At first it seemed odd because one of the things that makes our church so attractive is that people come and are accepted there. On the other hand there are over 1000 people who attend multiple services every weekend. I began to understand.

Then I began thinking about all of the people everywhere who visit churches. I thought of what visitors must see and think when they encounter a group of church people. I live in the Northeast and there is definitely a church "culture" that can be identified. If culture is the way of life of a group of people then yes, there is church culture for sure. It's almost, in some cases, that people are from a different planet. There is a language that is spoken. There are customs and sometimes in extreme cases, people look a little eccentric.

My experience with some church people is that there seems to be a time line of transformation that takes place. First of all if you are not a Christian you are not "in" with the church people. Of course to the people from Planet Church that is not good. You must come to their planet. Once you make a commitment to serve Jesus Christ you get your new citizenship. After that you are taught how to talk, dress, act, live and to stay away from people like you before you were changed. Now the goal is to huddle on Planet Church and not bump into anything else in the universe. To have anything to do with people from other planets is at least dangerous and at most treasonous. Of course I'm using absurdity to illustrate the absurd here.

I have been forced to look at reality. If the church is to be at all relevant in our postmodern culture then we must communicate with the people of our culture in ways that are familiar to them and speak their language. How many churches use "Christianese" in their services where non-believing visitors wouldn't have a clue what they mean? No wonder they feel like they can't connect. They say things like "slain in the Spirit" and "come and get filled". They say things like "you have to be washed in the blood." I mean that just sounds disgusting to a non-believer. What a mental picture that conjures!

I read that the word "communicate" comes from a Latin (?) word communus which means "common". Instead of pointing out the differences between sinner and saint and speaking our church culture language, it would make much more sense to just find some common ground, some common interest with people we're trying to reach.

Imagine that. People would think that we are really and honestly bona fide people from the same planet as they are instead of some far away place that can't be reached called Planet Church.

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