Thinking Out Loud

June 27, 2016

Host Church Syndrome

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:12 am

Outreach events

Host Church Syndrome is what happens when a local church decides to do a major event that is open to people from other churches in the community, but in the end, the majority of attendees are from the congregation which sponsored the event.

In our years living in this town we have seen this play out over and over again. Yes, the evidence is anecdotal, but there’s no denying it; some people simply won’t attend an event in another church in town. We’re the exception, but then the enterprise for which I work is interdenominational in nature, and therefore equips us with a different mindset on these things.

What made the event we attended more interesting was that the church in question had sought to open their event up to a wider demographic — including non-Christians — by holding it in a community hall. We ourselves — who attend different churches — were actively involved in helping promote this to the broader Christian community.

On the other hand, the event was a benefit for a charity, and the head of that charity had been a speaker at the church recently; so their people were more than motivated to support the fundraising event.

So about 80% of the people were from the one church. Nice that they supported it. Sad that the event didn’t have further reach.

Why is this?

Do our own events keep us too busy? Do we look on the other churches in town with suspicion? Do we not get disappointing with it’s our turn to promote something really big only to find the people showing up are just our own congregation?


People really wrestle with this. Here’s a comment on a forum for Christian moms where someone asked if it was okay to attend a Bible study at another Church:

I wish more people and churches would feel free to interact with each other.The building you attend is not the church. The church is the people of God. We should support the local church body, obviously our tithes should go to our “home” church body so they can grow and do God’s Work and our time and service benefits our “home” church body but “breaking bread” and “fellowshiping” with other church bodies should not be looked down upon. I know we are often made to feel we are somehow being disloyal to “the church” if we find something we need in a another part of the body of Christ but part of Christ’s plea in the garden was – “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17.21-22).

The Church as a whole needs to learn to work together, support and encourage one another, and loose the us/them mentality that is so prevalent. We are all Christian and Christ’s prayer was that our unity would speak volumes to the World. Just imagine if every church body were willing to pool resources and work together to build the Kingdom instead of holding on to “their” resources to build their buildings. Those churches who had great teachers but little money could be helped by those who have great resources but little time. Those who have strong leaders could help struggling smaller churches grow and train leaders. If we would all be willing to look beyond the walls of our local or “home” church building a lot more could be accomplished for the LORD.

 

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January 19, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Enjoy this week’s links; there’s ice cream at the end!

  • You Give Me Your Shows and I’ll Give You Mine Department:  Canada’s Christian television network, CTS has put together a reciprocal deal with Robert A. Schuller’s American Life Network to share programming and media platforms.  Currently a limited list of CTS programs are available on the NRB Network.  Read more at BDBO.
  • Tattooed Pastor Department:  Jay Bakker has a new book out, Fall to Grace (Faithwords) which Tony Jones reviews at Take and Read.
  • Read This One For the Gipper Department:  Here’s another book review, this one for The Faith of Ronald Reagan by Mary Beth Brown, reviewed by Darrell Dow.
  • Biting The Hand That Feeds Them Department:  The Feed-a-Friend program in downtown Houston, Texas is now being required to purchase a $17/day permit from the city to carry out its mission of feeding the homeless.  The group is trying to avoid an us-versus-them mentality.
  • Killing Me Softly Department: Dee at Wartburg Watch takes a trip down memory lane profiling a not-yet-published book by Irishman Charlie Boyd, and reminds us of The Jesus Movement, Arthur Blessitt, Larry Norman, The Late Great Planet Earth, the Shepherding Movement, Calvary Chapel, and so many other times and places worth remembering.
  • Big Bang Theory Department:  If your tastes run to quantum physics, Michael Belote’s recent posts at Reboot Christianity might be just what you’re looking for, starting with the most recent, Schrodinger’s Christianity. (This makes a good forward for your science-type friends. Spoiler: Our souls are like quantum particles.)
  • Ministry Copycat Department:  We all know of churches which offer conferences and seminars for pastors to learn how the big guys do it.  The seminars aren’t free; the churches are basically selling their expertise.   Now comes word that one megachurch actually charges a fee just to see the wording of their staff job descriptions. Yikes!
  • Dialing for Doctrine Department: At The Arminian Blog (caption line: Theology in the Dutch Reformed Tradition of Jacob Arminius) comes this article about inconsistencies among Southern Baptist Calvinists when it comes to missions.
  • Glass Houses Department: We all have a public persona and a private persona, but what really goes on behind the closed door of our houses when it’s just us and the fam?  It’s a question worth considering in the light of this homespun article by Trey Morgan listing ten things you’d notice if you were a guest. Not sure why I’m attracted to this article, but after reading it, I feel I’ve already spent time with Lea, Trey and the boys.
  • Church Plant Withers Department:  This is a link to Jamie Arpin-Ricci’s blog, selected because it takes you to all four parts of Jason Coker’s blog where he describes the final days of the Ikon church plant in San Diego.  Or you can also get there from David Fitch’s blog along with much additional analysis. The similarities between Jason’s experience in southern California and my own experience with Transformation Church an hour east of Toronto are rather striking.
  • Authors of Confusion Department: Keith Brenton lists some indicators of bad theology in a December piece I missed earlier, How To Spot False Teaching.
  • Higher Education Department: At my own alma mater, The University of Toronto, a couple of local churches and ministry organizations are lending support to a Jesus Awareness Week. Oh, to be a student again, and be part of the events.
  • Interfaith Dialog Department:  Mark Galli at Christianity Today suggests that step one in starting the conversation with people of other faiths actually lies in evangelizing ourselves.
  • Truth is Stranger Than Cartoons Department:  We leave this week with two, count ’em two links to the blog American Jesus.  The first is a 40-second mystery video about church pageantry and formality gone wrong.  The second link gets you an explanation for the picture which appears below.  See ya in seven days with more links.

August 26, 2010

The Cultization of Calvinism

It happened again yesterday.

My son got a package in the mail from the Christian camp where he did a four-week leadership training course, containing a magazine and other resources.

John Piper was on the cover of the magazine, there were advertisements for Crossway Books and the ESV Study Bible, a couple of references to Mark Driscoll, a reference to the Together for the Gospel conference.  And many such clues that this was not really a mainstream Christian publication.

I’m okay with that.   I told him he should make an effort to read every article.   I’m glad the camp took the time and expense to send it to him, along with an encouraging personal letter from the two directors of his leadership course.   We actually worshiped in a Christian Reformed Church just two weeks ago.

But it was another reminder how there are different clusters of people, belief and thought; and how, just as Calvinists of previous generations were somewhat segregated by Dutch ethnicity, today New Calvinism has emerged as a dominant (especially online) cluster.

Some of you probably like the word cluster over the word cult, but in fact, any identifiable group fits the dictionary definition; the problem is that we’ve tended to use it in the last 30 years or so as an abbreviation of false cult, which is another matter entirely, usually involving unique books and writings considered to be divine, and often the presence of private compounds and Kool-Aid.   However, of the eight definitions of cult at dictionary.com, only #6 indicates “a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.”

The decision by the largest online Christian book distributor to set up a separate site just for people of Reformed doctrine is another example of this.  The company has massive buying power, and has a large share of the Christian book business, but surveys revealed it was seeing only a trickle of commerce from Calvinists because they preferred to buy from their own sites, where presumably materials are carefully filtered.   The larger company had no choice than to do that filtering.

But this is something that neither Charismatics nor Catholics have ever propelled them to do.    The Charismatic and Pentecostal world — as any visit to the Elijah List site will confirm — has its own authors and a large supply of its own worship music, distinct from the mainstream worship we hear on Christian radio.

But Calvinists are readers, and as the blogosphere indicates, many are also writers, though a good percentage of the bloggers employ more of a ‘cut and paste’ approach to content generation.   (With, I might add, a great overlap into another emerging subgroup, the Academics.   American prosperity has permitted large numbers of U.S. Christians to enjoy advanced and continuing education, but much of the writing, as Acts 18:15 and 2 Tim 2:14 reminds us can consist of quarreling about words which leads to strife.   See also this post.)   On the other hand, other brands (or cults!) of Christianity tend to be more about about doing which is why the internet has, just as one example, a critical shortage of Salvation Army bloggers, as I noted in back in May ’08.

But because of the fragmentation taking place, I suggested to the senior editor of Christian Retailing magazine that instead of just having Charismatic and Catholic specialty bestseller charts, they should also have a Calvinist or Reformed specialty list each month as well.   Really, if they’re going to do the former two, they might as well do the latter.    But what if he takes my advice?

The result would be distinctively Reformed shelves in Christian bookstores (which probably already exist in some) where Calvinists could browse the shelves untainted by titles which disagree with their views.   And what is the result of that?

The larger picture is that it takes Reformed people and Reformed literature out of mainstream Evangelicalism, and takes mainstream Evangelicalism out of the Reformed sphere of awareness.   It increases compartmentalization; a kind way of saying it advances what I’ve termed here the cultization of Calvinism, which, I would think from God’s perspective at least, is rather sad.

What is, in a discussion like this, the better part?

I believe one of the healthiest dynamics of Evangelicalism has been the cross-pollination that takes place through inter-denominational dialog (Br. – dialogue) and worship.    Instead of conferences where only one theological brand is raised, we need to encourage events in which a variety of voices are heard.   Instead of bloggers posting blogrolls where they are afraid to list someone who is outside their faith family, we need to be familiar with the much wider Christian blogosphere.    Instead of encouraging Christian young people to only read certain authors and one or two particular Bible translations, we need to encourage them to study the wider compendium of Christian thought.

Basically, we need to avoid situations where our personal preferences lead to being cut off from the larger, worldwide Body of Christ.

Paul Wilkinson

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