I have been pondering for a while – several years at least – about the necessary congruence between The Model and The Message, particularly as it pertains to the church. I want to open my brain up a little and invite you to interact with me on this.
First, terms: The model is the context for the propagation of the message. The message might be anything you want to communicate, like how to tie your shoes, or 2nd-year calculus, or the importance of recycling, or the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
Whatever the message, there are consistent, effective ways to communicate it, and inconsistent and ineffective ways to communicate it. It is possible, in fact, for the model to entirely undermine the message.
In the church, there is mostly one model, with variations. The typical model is an institution – a building and a brand and a mission statement – with some few people who talk about things or perform, a bunch of people who volunteer to keep things running, and most of the people passively listening and watching and funding things. The message inherent in this model is that church is about listening to a few people perform and talk at events, learning what they are teaching, and supporting their efforts. Whatever other message is intended, it will be lost to the one the model communicates.
I believe the New Testament describes Christians as people who are learning the ways of Jesus and putting them into practice. Christians are learner-doers, aka ‘disciples’. The doers are not those who stand up front. The doers are everyone. If anyone stands up front, it is as an equipper so that everyone can do. If anyone really even needs to stand up front…
I think most pastor types would agree with what I just said, and they may even want it. But I think the evidence suggests that their good intentions are largely subverted by the system they are part of. You don’t get active doers from a program that depends on passive listeners.
The show, the once-a-week sit-and-listen, the plug-in-to-support-the-institution, the us-versus-them (our body of Christ versus their body of Christ?) mentality – these things are inconsistent with a living, visible, Jesus-exalting, interconnected bunch of disciples.
If the goal is more programs, more mini-kingdoms, more prominent pastors supported by passive parishoners, then Carry On! But if the goal is the church alive and visible in your neighborhood or city (please see my previous post), then we need to step back and examine the model and make some changes. That, at least, is how I’m seeing it. What do you think? What do you think The Church should look like in your town? Do changes need to happen? What sort? Please share your thoughts!