Thinking Out Loud

June 30, 2018

Knowledge Churches Assume You Have

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:04 am

There’s a place not far from our home where we pick strawberries every year. Our two sons even worked on this farm one summer. Occasionally it’s closed and you have to drive about 3 miles to their other location. That’s what happened on Thursday.

We pulled into the driveway but didn’t see any cars and as it wasn’t my turn to drive, I noticed out the corner of my eye a very small sign directing people to go north another mile and turn left. I remembered this location from the one time we had been there and we found it without difficulty, but this was, after all, our third attempt to get some fresh berries. Further, as we’d already done the majority of our picking for freezing, it meant the single basket we would pick was getting rather expensive vis-a-vis the price of gas.

When we got out of the car and politely told of our journey, the owner was rather indignant. “Everybody knows where we are;” she said. She did confess when we were leaving that a slightly larger sign had blown away — no mention of it being replaced — and had no response when I suggested the possibility that people new to the area might want to pick berries, too.  My wife pointed out that our second stop was in fact the address which appears online. There’s no mention of this one, which she described as “our main location” and the one which is “open every day.”


Do churches do the same thing? I think we do in two different categories.

First, like the fruit and vegetable farm, we assume everybody knows our location, our service times, etc. We can assume that on arrival people know where to park and where to take their kids for the children’s program.

Second, we can assume that people know basic theology. We can get absorbed in ‘shop talk’ or ‘inside baseball’ or even fall into the trap of using “Christianese” which we get but in an increasingly secularized society, few visitors would understand.

Our services can appear visitor-friendly with our neutral auditoriums, comfortable seats, contemporary music and relevant preaching; but when it comes to the actual content were communicating, we can fail to convey our message because for us, the doctrines and narratives we’ve grown up with all our lives have been ubiquitous to the point of being part of our DNA.

Furthermore, if we fail in visitor-friendliness, we are probably also failing to properly educate any children who are sitting in on the adult service.

The cure is to ‘spark it to life’ somehow with both passion and using the gifts Jesus employed such as analogy or parable. This can only happen when we acknowledge –generally, not individually — the spiritual newbies and seekers who may be among us. These teaching methods can actually be helpful to seasoned spiritual veterans, because it may give them some fresh vocabulary with which to engage with their own friends.

If you have any questions, everybody knows how to find me.

Oh, wait… that was the whole point, wasn’t it?


  1. Paul, I read your blog every day without fail and I love it. I am astounded mind you how churches in Canada seem to work. (And I do read other (Sarah Bessey etc) blogs from your part of the world. You seem so passionate (a good thing!)
    I am sixty years of age. First went to my church at 13. Had a long break (college, worked away etc) but now back. I will go to church tomorrow , say hello to the greeters, sit down, hour service, go home. That’s it. No discussion, no small talk, no big talk! You seem so centred and community minded it seems a million miles from English churches. I do not feel a part of my church. I do love it cos I talk to my God there. But that’s it.
    I think you are so lucky to have a different passion and some of your problems seem rather strange to our churches who don’t perhaps think so deeply about this as you do. I actually admire you and envy you.
    Seems like you got a pretty good set-up there. Wish we did.
    God Bless

    Comment by Mark Bushell — June 30, 2018 @ 2:45 pm

    • Hi Mark. Thanks for writing. And for reading each day.

      I think that even here our different church tribes have vastly different church cultures and are processing a variety of different issues within their own context.

      Is there a way you can get past the greeters/small talk/etc.? There’s a guy in my church named Jim. While everybody else is discussing the weather or how the sports team fared in Saturday’s big match, he walks up to people and asks, “What’s God been showing you lately?” (Or something like that.) I’m sure some people don’t appreciate it, but I really appreciate his focus. What I’m saying here — and this line isn’t original — is be the change you’d like to see. Hang around afterwards and look for someone else who is hanging around, perhaps for different reasons. Start the conversation. Suggest going for coffee (or whatever post-church-service thing you might do there) and say, “Tell me your story.”

      Or meet with the pastor/vicar/minister/priest during the week just to talk. No agenda. No particular topic.

      Conversely, find what we call a parachurch organization with which you can volunteer during the week. That way you’re serving the larger body of Christ beyond a local church context.

      Or follow the Michael Frost example and invite a few people to your place (or a suitable pub) for red wine and pizza to discuss philosophy, politics and religion. See where it takes you.

      I’m betting that in taking steps like this it will spark your faith to life in a different way.


      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — June 30, 2018 @ 3:49 pm

  2. Best observation I’ve seen blogged re the issue of ‘what’s assumed’ by church attendees/noobs in a long while. Thanks for this!

    Comment by Flagrant Regard — July 2, 2018 @ 12:36 pm

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