Thursday, April 25, 2013
The Parish is Perishing (PART III)
HOW DID WE GET HERE? (The Structures of Modernism and Outsourcing Faith)
You don’t have to look much further than the tags on your clothing, computer, fruit, or vehicle to understand that the cultural practice of outsourcing is alive and well. Outsourcing is the mechanism that allows us to continue to live out our deeply consumer tendencies. Outsourcing came to being as its modernist society embraced a systematic way of doing life. Rather than spend time and money to understand and accomplish a trade or task, one can outsource that trade or task, and still call the final product, his or her own. It can certainly speed up production and efficiency, but outsourcing isn’t all positive.
As numerous the reasons not to outsource may be, as demand rises and consumers are willing to pay, it is the inevitable consequence. But this is not merely a phenomenon of the for-profit sector. This is a cultural reality that began in modernism, became pervasive in the church, and is now finding itself crashing into the post-modern church.
The notion of outsourcing one’s faith is alive and rampant in St. Louis. Because of the structure that runs the Catholic and mainline denominations, this attitude of expectancy, commodification, and consumerism has engulfed the church and plays out no different than in private companies. Our “church shopping” culture has somehow forced the hands of leaders to play into the power of the executive business models, where we now treat ministry as an assembly line. The more people we can turn on and turn out, the better off we are. It’s a numbers game, and quantity seems to be the driver. The church, unlike the rest of the world, has often turned the inclusive vision and call of being Jesus’ hands and feet to the world, into an executable machine, with certain 10-step programs guaranteed to grow your congregation. But this isn’t completely a get-rich-quick scheme of the church. Its not an evil plot sought out by seedy church leaders. It’s a deep and interconnected problem that society expects and the church caters to. The modernist structures simply do not work with post-modern individual thinking, learning, communicating, and relating. The result is a growing un-churched population that sees “church” through a definition of the past - one that thrives on outsourcing development, discipleship, and engagement to the paid professionals.
Post-modernism is rising from modernism and the changes are significant. These changes will require rethinking and re-ordering the way we go about, and lead in ministry, and will eventually create a broader dialogue that can shift this culture away from its modernist, outsourcing, and consumerist tendencies, and begin to create a healthy, user-generated, creative, and dialogue-driven environment, participating in missio dei.