Church, Inc. and Why Imitation is No Strategy for Lutheranism
I received a postcard in the mail yesterday from "Church.Inc" [note: The material in quotes in this blog post are exact quotes from the postcard]. The front of the postcard showed a silhouette image of a stereotypical family: Mom, Dad, daughter, son [so much for people who are not in a stereotypical family].
The card said "Church. His presence purpose." Then it told me that this group is having an "opening celebration March 29!" And at the bottom of the card it said: "There's a new church and it's made just for u." The back of the card told me that "Ur: unique. creative. passionate. family. needed. church. determined. loving." And then the card told me, "we want to be who you are, because when that happens, the world becomes a different, better place. Church. —come just the way ur." Then it said: "casual dress. contemporary music, kids ministry for all ages"
This is modern evangelicalism today. Summed up in one post card. Everything right and wrong about it. Right? Passion for outreach, getting people involved in a church who are not involved. Can't criticize them for their intentions and wanting to get people in touch with God. OK, fair enough there. No point in arguing that point. Can we Lutherans do better? Of course we can. Yes, we must. Yes, got it. Check. Wrong? Pandering to the lowest common denominator. The statement "we want you to be who you are, because when that happens, the world becomes a better place" is wrong, dead and deadly wrong, on so many levels. What this postcard illustrates dramatically is pretty much exactly what Michael Spencer had to say recently about the coming collapse of Evangelicalism.
And the good thing is that Spencer is an Evangelical, not some old, fuddy-duddy, stick-in-the-mud, dogmatic, confessional Lutheran like me who is obviously totally out of touch with real ministry, real needs, and the real world. [At least that's what people like to say about guys like us].
Now, here's my question. Why would The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod want to imitate these trends, techniques and gimmicks? I see this happening in my church and it always leave me baffled and puzzled and scratching my head in confusion. Why, when we have groups and churches popping up all around, sending out postcards like the one that appeared in my mailbox yesterday, would we want to give the impression we are basically "into" this kind of thing ourselves? It never makes any sense to me.
I've said it before, but I'll say it again, no business in the world would think of rebranding themselves simply to try to be a carbon copy of their competition. It's institutional suicide. They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, but it is no strategy. So, here's a wild and crazy idea. How about we Lutherans focus on finding creative ways to put the message out to the world that Lutheranism offers something distinctly unique from what one will find at any "big box non-denominational" church down the corner and around the block. Let's help folks learn and understand what the original "Evangelicalism" is all about.