Saturday, September 20, 2008

Brave New Church

It's reasonable to define yourself and your function by accepted norms. That's why Bill Hybels has defined his pastorate as being a pastor. Dig it:

“Pastor Bill Hybels did not give his life to the development of the local church just to gather a bunch of casual Christians, he says. He gave it to see people far from God find the love of Christ and fully devote themselves to God and what He is doing.”

You see? Bill Hybels became a pastor so he could do what other pastors are doing: lead people into a devoted life under Christ. Isn't it nice that this celebrity Christian can garner so much attention in the media by being all pastory and stuff? Or is there more?

“Expressing similar sentiments, Pastor Tim Gray of Bridge Community Church, a congregation of 400 in Leadington, Montana, says, 'We're called to make disciples ... not members, not pew-sitters.'"

Very good. Membership does not equal discipleship. Has any of this struck you as newsworthy, yet?

“Many pastors would agree. But since the early Christian church, pastors have only had three ways to measure the spiritual growth of churchgoers and assess how effective churches were in developing Christ followers and not 'pew-sitters'.”

Really? Only three? Hmm...

“Those three methods were attendance, baptisms (or conversions), and resources (ie tithing), at least according to Cally Parkinson of Willow Creek Association.”

Attendence. I suppose. But if I miss a Sunday because this-that-or-the-other thing happens, I can get off lightly with a venial sin in the Catholic Church. So no harm done, really. I mean, if my heart is in the institution, and Christ is only on the periphery of my spiritual life, then I suppose skipping a Sunday really can't amount to spiritual shrinking, can it? Christ's ubiquity in the hearts of all believers... meh. A trifle, really.

And if I'm a good anabaptist, then heaven forbid I miss hearing the pastor's admonishments, and hortatory remarks. For there's nothing like a good pacifist leader to wage war on an absentee regular! But perhaps there's refuge in the mainline traditions? Not so. Instead, missing a Sunday is met with a stern glare, or a shake of the head, a crestfallen glance from the local shepherd who in his spiritual sojourn has somehow misaligned regular attendance with numinal expansion. Again, that pesky notion that the institution can see clearly into the hearts of believers and track their growth – by attendence! Bunk. Pure, unadulterated, shame-faced bunk.

Baptism is a good point. Infant baptism (paedobaptism) gets some people's stomachs roiling, but that's okay. They're allowed to be wrong, too. And beliver's baptism (credobaptism)... well, that's kind of obvious, isn't it? There has to be some growth to get to a point where such a confessional measure happens.

Resources? Is that the early church term? Whatever. I do like the id est (ie) 'tithing' thing, however. Nice touch. I wonder if Ms. Parkinson can establish the biblical warrant for tithing in the New Testament, or if she'd just spout the same old institutional bastardization of “render unto Caesar what is Caesars”? Or draw on the temple robbery happening in Malachi as the fulcrum for tithing now?

So what do we have here: individual spiritual growth is thrown into the hopper with church attendance, statistics on baptism, and how much an overall congregation contributes to its coffers. Hence we can measure an individual's spiritual growth by the fluctuating data of a congregation. Spiffy. Glad that pastor thing is working out for you, Mr. Hybles. We wouldn't want you to have to get on level with the individuals of your congregation and, oh I don't know, talk to them, and learn who they are for real. Tip 'o' the hat to your good Ms. Parkinson for homogenizing people into statistics and data, and then proof-texting her “research” with eisegetic meanderings through the patristic period. Are you really trying to stave off personal accountability via a three-tiered growth chart?

"'Those were your three ways of measuring because you really had no other way to figure out whether or not what you were doing was really helping people become increasingly intimate with Christ and increase their love for God and of others,' said Parkinson, one of the leaders of WCA's Reveal research.”

Ding, ding, ding! And the answer is: yes! You are trying to categorize people's growth by charting their participation in the three 'methods' above.

Interestingly, Ms. Parkinson is not the pastor at Willow Creek. Bill Hybels is, however. And both Bill Hybels, and Ms. Parkinson both missed the glaring point that talking to your congregants, hanging out with them, just simply being with them will give you a better indication of their spiritual wherewithal than trying to spy out their attentions to the 'three historical ways'.

But let's just follow along with the delusion and see where it leads, shall we? Where were we? Oh, yes! There were no other ways to see if people were growing spiritually.

“That is, until now.”

Duh-duh-duh-dah! Ssssssssssuper Church!

“Parkinson and a small team at WCA have recently made available to all churches what has been called a groundbreaking study that provides a “vivid picture of the 'unseen' hearts" of congregants and their spiritual growth. The Reveal Spiritual Life Survey serves as a "lens", as Parkinson explained, for pastors to be able to view where congregants are spiritually.”

Right. Because previously, it was too difficult to just ask. Now, with the advent of Parkinson technology, we can combine a global advertizing strategy with several questions that'll let you know how far under the yoke of the law you should be! Wanna work for your spiritual supper? Here's how you can do it, folks. Just sign up now, and take the Reveal Spiritual Life Survey to find out if you're passing or failing in God's eyes. Then, once you know, you can turn up the heat, or kick up your feet. It all depends on how well Reveal says you've grown. Isn't it nice to know someone out there can see you better through a 'lens' of paper than your own local pastor can by taking a moment to meet with you?

But wait! It gets better. Once all the data is in on your congregation, you can tell if your church is close to God, or far from Him. Because, hey! when it all comes together, and you've answered a series of static questions designed to tally up the dynamic person you, and others around you are, you'll have a clearer picture of you and your congregation's proximity to God. Hell, throw in a psychometrist or two, and have them apply the Flynn Effect over a generation or two and we'll be able to see what side of the bell-curve people are falling on over time. It's not an IQ test. It's not even an EQ test. It's a spiffy, hopped up, revolutionary SQ test – the Spiritual Quotient test!

“So far, more than 500 churches and half a million congregants have taken the survey and many have found the results surprising.”

I'm surprised they've been able to sucker this many congregations and people into this neo-gnostic crapolla.

“Willow Creek Community Church was the first to take the survey in 2004. At that time, the influential megachurch in South Barrington, Illinois, was at a crossroads, according to Parkinson, as they were in the midst of building a new 7,200-seat auditorium but was also at the end of their strategic planning cycle.”

So, naturally, being at the end of their strategic planning cycle...

"'It was like where is the church going next?' Parkinson said.”

It was 'like' that was it? I fail to see the simile.

I do see the similarity, however, between building a new 7,200 seat auditorium, coming to the end of a strategic planning cycle and wondering how the %$#% you're going to foot the bill for such a colossal building. Sly. Very sly.

The Catholics did this sort of thing, too, when they were building St. Peter's Cathedral off the backs of the peasantry.  Luther was pissed, made it known, and the church hasn't been the same since.  So let's forget about history, hey?  Let's just repeat our mistakes and chalk it up to innovation.   Awesome.

“Then out of what Parkinson described as a divine, extraordinary coming together of circumstances, the Reveal study was born and soon survey findings at Willow Creek and six other churches across the country rocked the megachurch.”

It's always nice when some crafty little plan to garner money from unwitting believers can be tagged with God's divine approval. Must boost one's sense of overall importance. It's like popular escatology that way, I suppose.

“Among the findings, what 'really caught us off guard' was the discovery that involvement in church activities does not predict or drive long-term spiritual growth, Reveal's leadership stated in Reveal: Where Are You?".

You don't say. No, you did say. And you wasted everyone's time with the obvious on that one, too. Who woulda thunk that the whole argument for measuring spiritual growth by overall attendence in church would turn out to be bunk? Pure, unadulterated, shame-faced bunk.

Anyway, the article goes on at torturous lengths citing quote after quote of rabid stupidity from these hyped-up uber-leaders. Their pride over their spiritual life inventory has all the plush and glow of one of Huxley's evenings at the feelies, and all the invasive qualities of a finger in the eye. This kind of spiritual gobbledygook really grates on my nerves.

With all their crackpot notions of 'It', and their misinformed slants on leadership, I'm sure they'll attenuate their spiritual eugenics program and divide the Alpha Plus Spirituals from the Epsilons any day now.

Brave new church, indeed.


suneal said...

Here are the prices Chris quoted for "footing the bill," for the Survey, off of the Reval website:

"Product Option #1: Three-Survey Bundle:

We highly recommend investing in a bundle of three surveys (one benchmark survey and two follow-up surveys). The true power of the Spiritual Life Survey is in its ability to help you not only capture a snapshot of the spiritual life of your congregation but also provide you with a proven tool to monitor over time the effectiveness of changes your church makes to enhance their spiritual growth. The best way for you to keep tabs on the spiritual growth of your people is to take a series of periodic snapshots (we recommend surveying entire church once every 12 to 18 months).

We feel so strongly about applying the Spiritual Life Survey as a tracking tool that we have bundled three surveys together at a discounted price. The surveys can be activated at any time at your discretion.

Product Option #2: Single Survey:

If you prefer, you may also purchase the Spiritual Life Survey on a one-time basis. The price for a one-time survey is approximately 50% higher than the price for individual surveys in the three-survey bundle. Whether you purchase the Spiritual Life Survey as a three-survey bundle or a single survey, the price varies depending on the size of your weekend adult attendance.

* Church Size
Single Survey Three Surveys
Less than 250 $375 $750
250-999 $750 $1,500
1,000-2,499 $1,875 $3,750
2,500 or more $2,250 $4,500 "

Statistics and spirituality meld to form a URDC- a Unified Revealed Diagnostic Check, which can later be EFE- Environmentally Friendly Efficient in its RUF- Recyclable Usability Factor, as a church stays on a scheduled YOYMB1.5- Yearly Or Yearly Multiplied By 1.5 URDC period. All of this for the low prices quoted above can lead to the result of B.S.MB1000000.

An exact interpretation of the above data can be obtained for the low price of $250. Or, if the WACA- Weekly Average Church Attendance varies, so the price will rise or decline. Take advantage quickly!

Gregory said...


So, instead of heeding Jesus' instruction to "Judge not lest ye be judged", Hybels et al. have endeavoured to pharisaically presume to have the heart-searching ability of Jesus Himself--and to have attained said ability through...a standardised test???

Is anyone paying attention?