Parkview: a model or one of a kind?
As I reported last month the session has decided to continue with our exploration, not as five groups but as a single group to which everyone is invited. The meetings will be a blend of social time and some discussion. It will be a good event to invite newcomers to. Session also said they would like to see a book discussion group that would focus on issues relevant to the church, e.g. leadership, youth culture , worship models.
To stimulate your thinking on the future of our congregation, I would like to ask: is the way we do things at Parkview (informally, multiculturally, inclusively, non-dogmatically, non-guilt based, collectively, family-style, with a food-oriented approach, attentively, holistically) a model for other churches? Or are we a one-of-kind congregation surviving the way we think is best in our specific context? I thought about that this last month as we attended mass in the Notre Dame in Paris and when I sat in the pews in the old Protestant church in The Hague where the former Dutch Queen often sits in the balcony, just a few hundred feet from the city hall where my parents were married. Would a Parkview “work” there as well as in different places in the US?
I would like to raise two sub-questions to this question. A. Do we exhibit any of the pitfalls of the contemporary congregation Jim Tautger identifies? Here they are: 1. Worship wars. One or more factions in the church want the music just the way they like it. Any deviation is met with anger and demands for change. The order of service must remain constant. Certain instrumentation is required while others are prohibited. 2. Prolonged minutia meetings. The church spends an inordinate amount of time in different meetings. Most of the meetings deal with the most inconsequential items. 3. Facility focus. The church facilities develop iconic status. One of the highest priorities in the church is the protection and preservation of rooms, furniture, and other visible parts of the church’s buildings and grounds. 4. Program driven. Every church has programs even if they don’t admit it… The problem is not with programs. The problem develops when the program becomes an end instead of a means to greater ministry. 5. Inwardly focused budget. A disproportionate share of the budget is used to meet the needs and comforts of the members instead of reaching beyond the walls of the church. 6. Inordinate demands for pastoral care. All church members deserve care and concern, especially in times of need and crisis. Problems develop, however, when church members have unreasonable expectations for even minor matters. 7. Attitudes of entitlement. This issue could be a catch-all for many of the points named here. The over-arching attitude is one of demanding and having a sense of deserving special treatment. 8. Greater concern about change than the gospel. Almost any noticeable changes in the church evoke the ire of many; but those same passions are not evident about participating in the work of the gospel to change lives. 9. Anger and hostility. Members are consistently angry. They regularly express hostility toward the church staff and other members.10. Evangelistic apathy. Very few members share their faith on a regular basis. More are concerned about their own needs rather than the needs of the world and community in which they live. Although we could dedicate more of our budget to mission beyond ourselves and although we would not get a perfect score, I do not see a red flag in any of these areas. So we are doing something right.
B. Do we read society well? It is possible that we could “get church right” even if we do not understand society. The odds are against it, however. For example, do we as a congregation grasp that because of the busy life of people n their twenties, thirties and forties, the Church is largely for the young and the over-fifty? Do we understand that youth are so busy meeting all the extracurricular requirements for college entry and engaging in sports that church activities are often a luxury? The pressures to succeed in an economy with a widening achievement and wealth gap are getting greater every year. Do we understand that in the seventies the Church was losing the educated while holding on to the less educated, but that now that statistic has flipped? The educated are more likely to be in church and the less educated are getting exhausted trying to survive. Do we understand that the youngest generations are less interested in rock band style worship and more in mystery and in what’s real? If you have an opinion, let me know. Thanks for all you do. May God bless our ministry. Aart