I believe that in our consumer-driven, materialistic society, we fall prey to the habitual re-creation of an entertainment encounter. And just because I use the term “entertainment,” doesn’t mean I’m referring to a particular style of encounter; contemporary, progressive, traditional, post-modern, blended, etc. Rather I’m referring to the fact that we try and dish out what gives “our people” what they want.
We spend an amazing amount of time calculating what will drive the numbers up and try and meet those expectations unequivocally. If that’s a rock band or pipe organ, we’ll do what brings in the numbers. After a season of positive encounters, we say that things are going well, budgets are in the right place, staffing is secure, and things are generally healthy. However, when these encounters leave us uneasy, we quickly blame the ministry staff, begin questioning the church’s stewardship, and eventually go down the road of, “oh, remember how things used to be…”
It’s a natural place to go. This line of thinking is very normal. However, the fact that we got there in the first place illuminates the real failure. The fact that we can, (in one week and one worship encounter), determine the encounter’s success by the ministry staff’s hard work, excellence and spiritual maturity, and the next week call it a failure, without any hesitation that just perhaps the encounter has something to do with how we arrive, the preparedness of our hearts, and the willingness of ourselves to be challenged, moved, and disrupted, shows how far the church has gone and how we’ve allowed the gods of culture to infiltrate.
The encounter is good when we sing our favorite setlists, see our favorite video clips, don’t allow the services to go too long that we miss kick-off. In contrast, the encounter is bad (or at least sub-par) when we don’t do these things. And right then and there we have fallen into idolatry – in both scenarios.
But no matter what, the perception is that good or bad, the overall success or failure is dependant on the staff. Good pastors don’t have off weeks – right? If not, then a strong man or woman of God, wouldn’t allow these encounters to suffer. That’s what they were hired to do – to deliver an encounter. And when we outsource this encounter away from the conditions of our own hearts week after week, month after month, and year after year, the cycle becomes endemic and customary to gauge our encounter by the perceived success or failure brought about our so-called outsourced ministry staff(s).