This past Sunday, Eastview hosted Dr Keith Ray (President of Lincoln Christian University); he taught a joint Sunday school class as well as gave the message during our corporate worship service. I was pleased with the content in both environments (as if that matters!!). Sunday school was a combo-pack: part LCU commercial, part bible study.
For the commercial time, he talked about the changing face of post-high school education in the United States. Here’s what I wrote down:
- Affordability: college cost increasing beyond inflation rate
- Accessibility: ease of information, 24/7
- Accountability: perform or else
- Wake up to the marketplace or pay
- If we are not in a destination location, we must chase them down
The similarities between the situation that colleges and churches find themselves in are astounding.
- Affordability- I originally struggled with this one. But, the more I thought about it, we could ask the following questions: What is the “cost” of belonging to a local church? What is the expectation set? Must I be involved? What’s in it for me? Am I getting a return on my investment? Am I going to have legitimate input, or am I merely a cog in the wheel? Perhaps the biggest question is, “Is there a cost?” When we buy things, we look for value. We perceive things that cost more to have a higher value, to be “better”…I submit that if there is no cost of membership, it is empty and value-less.
- Accessibility- It seems like everything that we do is built around the schedule that works for us. My youth ministry included. Fit in to my schedule, or else. I’ve been challenged recently to be flexible in expectations, and I see that there is value in that. A friend of mine has six meetings prior to their Summer Mexico trip, those going must attend 4 of the 6. This makes sense to me, and we’ll implement similar things ASAP. Accessibility is one reason that we’ve been podcasting our sermons. In the world of google, people can get the answers to any question at any time, the Body of Christ must learn from this.
- Accountability- Wow. This is a tough one. This is managing expectations from the other side of the aisle. In thinking about Old Testament worship, the people that gathered were met with tangible experience, in fact, on the Day of Atonement, they had blood thrown on them! My point is this, have we created an environment where those gathered might encounter the Living God? What might that look like? Are we approaching our corporate worship in anticipation of what God might say? Because I can tell you right now, some churches are. Which takes us to…
- Wake up to the marketplace or pay: Another tough thought. I don’t care who you are, there is a better minister, youth minister, worship leader and children’s minister than you. Chances are, they have a podcast. If I can hear Francis Chan from the comfort of my iPhone (Accessibility), and the environment in your building is not anticipatory of God, then guess what? You lose. Plain and simple. When I was at SYMC last month, I had the pleasure of talking to Mark and Michael Novelli. We had an offline conversation in which we discussed the following: “What are we providing that is unique to the situation? Would what we are doing happen regardless of who is in the room? That is, how does WHO is present affect the uniqueness, the what, of the situation, of what we do? If I can listen to a podcast of the sermon, what is unique about the environment that makes me what to be there on a Sunday morning?” These are valid questions to be wrestled with, and is related to numbers 1-3, above.
- Are our churches “destination locations” for the non-churched? To ask the question is to answer it. So is the question, “Are we chasing them down?”
In his message, Dr Ray talked about defining moments from Matthew 16. There were 3:
- A failure to see God in the midst of the times (vv 1-4)
- A failure to object to human tradition (vv 5-12)
- A failure to overcome popular conjecture (vv 13-14)
What have we learned? What has changed?
Unless we see how Jesus is functioning now, until we are willing to see how our human traditions and preferences get in the way of love, unless we understand who Jesus really is and His purpose, that answer to these questions is “nothing.” We will have heard a great theoretical and abstract lesson (at least those who came to Sunday school) that will have taught us that “we need to do better.” We will have just tweaked the environment, rather than seeking transformation.
In other words, nothing. We have learned nothing.