The Busy, Extroverted, Moving Church

book cover One way churches in the United States (and other Western cultures no doubt) mirror the consumer mindset is the emphasis on growth, speed, movement, newness, and the instant.  Today churches advertise using words like these: on the move, dynamic, exploding, vibrant, fresh, growing, alive, pulsating, energetic, and so on.  I appreciate how Adam McHugh criticizes this mindset in his book Introverts in the Church.

“Evangelicalism values the doer over the thinker.  The evangelical God has a big agenda.  It’s as if the moment we surrender our lives to Christ we are issued a flashing neon sign that says, ‘Go!’  There is a restless energy to evangelicalism that leads to a full schedule and a fast pace.  Some have said that, in Christian culture, busyness is next to godliness.  We are always in motion, constantly growing, ever expanding.”

“I’ll never forget the statements a senior pastor of a 300-member congregation uttered when I interviewed for an associate pastor position: ‘This is a really high-octane environment.  We’re looking for someone who is excitable and high energy.  You have to be totally sold out to work here.  We work full throttle.’  I double checked my surroundings to make certain I was at a church and hadn’t stumbled into an interview for the pit crew at the Indianapolis Speedway.  I was reminded of Eugene Peterson’s indictment of our brand of Christianity: ‘American religion is conspicuous for its messianically pretentious energy, its embarrassingly banal prose, and its impatiently hustling ambition.'”

“The innovativeness of evangelicals has shaped the landscape of American religious life in ways that testify to this motion, growth, and expansion.  We invented the religious twentieth-century landmark: the megachurch – an expression of the church that introduced the paradox of people worshiping together in anonymity.  …At its worst, it has produced a superficial, consumerist mold of Christianity that has sold the gospel like a commodity.  Many evangelical megachurches, in their hope to create comfortable environments for seekers, have stripped their sanctuaries and worship services of any sense of mystery and the sacred. …At the center of most megachurches is a big personality: a dynamic, larger-than-life pastor who is able to hold everything together wtih his charisma” (p. 26-27).

What does this emphasis on an active, high-octane ministry mean for discipleship?  Doctrinal teaching?  Sanctification?  Patience?  Worship?  Prayer?  Meditation?   If we want to follow Scripture, we should not judge a church based on its number of programs, fast paced ministries, dynamic worship, or on the pastor’s energy level.  We should judge a church on its faithfulness to Scripture and mature, biblical doctrine.

Back to McHugh’s book Introverts in the Church.  I gave a brief review of it couple of years ago (HERE).  In short, though I wasn’t completely captivated by it, it is a good book to own when thinking about the topic of introverts in the church.

shane lems