In a recent article, church consultant Tom Ehrich suggested several things that church leadership can do to overcome “business as usual.” One of his suggestions was that leadership (he used the Episcopal term “vestries”) “needs to listen to the marketplace, the broader context in which the congregation operates.” Such listening requires not only adopting a new strategy but a new paradigm as well.
The paradigm under which we tend to operate is an adversarial one—us against the world. Too often the church is in denial about what is happening around it. We see changes around us, but they often cause us to be defensive rather than creative. We would rather retreat from the environment or culture in which we live than engage it.
We experience this on a regular basis. I encounter it when someone bemoans the spreading influence of the Internet. Certainly, one can spend too much time with Facebook or gaming or blogging, but I can remember when many churches condemned TV and the movies. An individual can become obsessed with anything—even reading books—but that does not make the medium itself intrinsically evil. Morality is not in an object or a medium but within a person. How do we use the creation—positively or negatively? Use determines value.
Rather than retreating from what we find around us, we can discover how to use it for our personal edification and for the service of others. We should reject it only if we find no valid use for it. In doing so, we follow the lead of Christian artists and writers of the past who used their preferred medium to proclaim the message.