I read this article a week ago, and it disturbed me. I think it is great to have confidence to be the church, but to follow this guys logic seems to ignore one of the most fundamental ideas in scripture, winning enemies of God to Him.
Mr. Kee says about going to his favorite donut shop:
I’ve been here many times and nobody has ever complained about this place, saying, “This donut shop is too donutty.” It’s a donut shop; so you expect it to be donutty.
Yep, I do expect a donut shop to be donutty. But, I’m sure there are plenty of people who would complain about donut shops being too donutty. Actually, I don’t think they would complain, I think they would just never darken its doors. They may be trying to avoid fat or they may like kale instead of sugar. There are a number of reasons people may avoid a donut shop.
Which isn’t bad for a donut shop. There are plenty of people who like donuts thus a donut shop doesn’t need to cater to people who don’t like donuts.
But one of our jobs as Christians is not to get people who like church to continue to like church. One of the failures in our church is that we raise people to get comfortable instead of learning how to focus more on Jesus’ commission to us. That commission includes getting people who were once enemies of God to be his friend (II Corinthians 5).
Think about that, we are commanded as Christians is to find people who are God’s enemies, and lead them to do things they would never dream of doing. We are to lead people who don’t care for (and might even hate) the Bible to be immersed in reading the Bible as God’s Word. We are to lead people who would rather sleep in on Sunday to wake up and enthusiastically worship Him.
We are to lead people grossed out by God and church eventually liking, no, loving God and church. It’s like, well, getting Americans to like sushi.
I had a job supporting one of my ministries as a waiter in a sushi restaurant in a mid-sized town in Colorado. Which paid the bills and taught me a lot about ministry to people who don’t like church because of three things.
- Americans, in general, are taught that raw things are dangerous and therefore gross. Also, because undercooked fish is slimy and tastes awful the assumption is that raw fish is exactly like that.
- Americans, in general, have used forks since they were children and therefore are frustrated with chopsticks.
- While we could only try to satisfy people who traditionally like sushi, there weren’t enough Japanese, Koreans, or visitors from those countries in our area to support our restaurant with only their patronage.
In short, in order to keep our restaurant afloat, how do we get enemies of sushi to try it?
Often, I would find curious people who had never experienced eating sushi before. These people would be nervous, anxious, and mostly skeptical. But a friend had invited them and they needed to know what to do. My job, as the waiter, would be to put minds at ease. So I found myself doing two key things:
- I would teach people how to eat with chopsticks. I would teach technique, but I would also tie rubber bands around the chopsticks in order to get a more confident feel for the customer. If it was just too hard, I would get a fork (American chopstick) and let them know they tried their best without too much shame.
- I would explain sushi wasn’t raw fish, but that it literally meant “with rice”. I would introduce people to our cooked but cold options like shrimp or crab, or hot options like eel (which was almost as adventurous to some as eating fish raw). I would recommend deep fried rolls. The chef and I would never push raw fish, but we were always glad to oblige any curiosity after having the cooked options.
Did some people look down on us because we catered to people that never had eaten sushi before? Yeah. I would read yelp reviews of the restaurant. And while some of the negative comments were typical of any restaurant (Bad service, didn’t like the food, etc), I found many of the negative comments to be about how we weren’t a “real” sushi restaurant based on what we did to help customers get acquainted with sushi.
While that hurt (because yelp stinks to read if you have a rooting interest), I couldn’t care. We had too many coming in and loving to eat sushi with us.
Which leads me to my point. Many of the churches that try to be less “churchy” are not always aiming for being cool, though it seems that way. They are not aiming to be relevant, though I know that word gets pushed around to intimidate people who wish to stick to tradition. They are aiming to make Jesus a little more understandable because, like sushi, people have the wrong idea about Jesus.(Tweet this) They take various methods, even using some methods I disagree with, but I understand their motivation.
I understand the backlash as well, but the answer is not to justify our “churchy”ness. Maybe we have to figure out our own way of explaining our scriptures, our traditions, and other things instead of assuming that visitors know. If we try to figure out a great way to communicate with people who are enemies of God, I would suggest there is a greater chance that they will turn around and become His friend.