Tuesday, February 19, 2008

don’t bite the social club that feeds you*

*yes, this is a blatant rip-off of this similar report exactly one year ago

As mentioned earlier, I recently played a decent paying gig. That gig was a private function at a local church.

I work fairly hard at promoting my act as “unique music for your wedding, reception, dinner party, or art opening”. Instead, I mostly end up entertaining church people at their private, quirky functions. Yes, this is kind of funny, mostly because my music isn’t particularly churchy in the least.

But, this was a good paying gig despite it being part of a youth group fund-raiser. That has to be a huge irony. I keep thinking that all of their proceeds went to pay me. I’m not the one who set the price, by the way.

So after setting up early, I took the opportunity to re-familiarize myself with the church culture from within the bowels of their own operation. I gave myself a tour of their facility, reading all the corkboard messages and other signs.

Which brings me to the conclusion I came to over five years ago: church is a social club.

I know, I know. “Church is us – the body of believers”. Yeah, well bullshit.

This particular social club in the fair mother city is probably the least popular of all the denominations (you know, the one that has no hang-ups on alcohol). And I’m guessing their membership probably was 150 at best (that’s about average around here, but fairly small for being one of about two of their denomination in town).

Yet everything I observed pointed inwardly: the fine facility, its minimal uses throughout the week, its location in the city, the playground inside the security fence, and their brochures promoting various social services for the social club. All of this pointed to maintaining the club and keeping this ship afloat.

This social club didn’t appear to be struggling. This was a less than five-year old facility built directly in the path of the fair mother city’s version of white flight. It had the aura of “we’re a community building” with its day-care and gym and all. But they were located far out of reach from most people who might benefit from such a place.

In keeping with the mantra of the agent b files, this report is merely a discovery, observation, and/or confession. But I would like to prod this particular report in the direction of discussion: someone out there PLEASE prove to me that churches are not social clubs for an elite gathering of well-to-do’s. I want to believe that there’s hope in this trend being reversed, even though I have no desire to join their ranks ever again.


dbulibrarian said...

What about the more blue collar charismatic churches or the african american churches? Do they fit the country club personae that you are describing here?

Agent B said...

Do they fit the country club personae that you are describing here?

Unfortunately, yes.

I see no difference with socio-economic or racial backgrounds. Most every church has an underlying social club persona.

Very few churches I've known resemble something other than a social club. And those places/groups usually look far from anything church-like.

I should probably be more specific and list examples. That should be an report/post itself.

Anonymous said...

If you are interested in a church that is different, check out Freedom Fellowship here in Abilene. The neighbors and home less are being given ownership over the building. Granted it's not complete ownership, but almost all of the preaching (testimonies) is being done by the homeless and neighbors who attend. There is no one preacher in charge. They only meet on Wednesday nights, not on Sundays. Also, it's come as you are, not who you want to be like.

Agent B said...

Thanks for your input, anonymous. I met some homeless guys 2 years ago who hung around freedom fellowship when it was first getting started.

I'm curious to know more about ff. What all do you mean with "given ownership"? That sounds excellent.

I was under the impression that ff was the mere puppet/poverty church ministry under the mothership that is Highland coc, much like New Life coc is to Southern Hills coc, City Light is to First Baptist, The Mission once was to Pioneer Drive, and on and on.

In other words - in the end it's all about the mother ship and keeping it afloat. No one would dare think of giving a church to the homeless and poverty culture.

Unless of course, that's really happening at ff, in which I'd love to hear more. Please share.

PS - not to knock you or your church, nor add any cynicism to your needed input, but that "come as you are" mantra is the tag line of every church on the planet.

Everybody says that. But probably the few that don't say it really mean it. I guess.

Anonymous said...

PS: "come as you are" What I meant was that at ff we have men come dressed in business suits as they have not had time to go home and change verses a homeless man who you can tell has not showered in a day or two.

Anonymous said...

This may show up twice. I had trouble posting...the names have been changed...

Here's a little of what happens at ff on a regular basis.

We have trouble with "Order of Worship" at Freedom

D tries his best to publish an "order of worship" for our Saturday gatherings. He plugs people into the different slots and makes sure we all are aware of the schedule. The participants rarely get together to discuss their parts prior to our gatherings. After each service we have had, especially this last one, we get together and talk about how God lead us in a way that we hadn't expected. The scripture I read was a great fit for the speaker but it wasn't what I had planned. As I sat at Freedom around noon Saturday in a quiet moment God gave me a different scripture to read. It was the right one.
We had a woman from Faithworks come to us 5 minutes before we started and asked to sing a solo. As we prayed over our speaker before the service we felt lead by the Spirit to plug her into our schedule. She sang a song as she signed it. Twice she forgot the words and stopped. In the silence people from Freedom called out encouragement to her. She finished to a standing ovation.
As I served as usher during communion, I noticed that Jimmy (not his real name) had not come forward. Jimmy has become a regular at Freedom. The first time I met him D and I were asked to look for him behind a convenient store where he sat intoxicated with two other men. He struggles with his addiction to alcohol. This evening his breath suggested that he was still struggling. After all were served communion I took the emblems back to where Jimmy was and served him. He looked at me and said, "Why did you do that?" I think my answer was, "because Jesus loves you." After the service Jimmy came over and needed to talk. He was still overwhelmed with me serving him. He said he didn't feel worthy. I told him that none of us are. I'll never forget what he said next. He said, "I'll remember what you did tonight until they throw dirt on top of me." He said that with tears streaming down his cheeks.
It's amazing what happens when we respond to the urgings of the Holy Spirit and follow His "order of worship."

Where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is Freedom!

Anonymous said...

God this and God that, feed me fecal matter and keep me in the dark, call me a mushroom, and give me a mythical book that causes people to fight over, well everything,

You don't need a church, especially COC,

Man is a pack animal;
unfortunately we have a tendency to gather in groups,

I don't waist time with fake people, and the Fair mother city is full of them.

The simple truth is to believe in your family, share love with those that need it, given when you can, help those that cross your path and need it.
Above all don't put money into someone else hands with a blind faith that will never be returned.

All you need is love


Agent B said...

Well Vaughn, I can't totally agree with you there.

The CEO of the universe has been very real in my life and my family.

But oh yes, the social clubs that gather in his name can be rather fake. And I can see why they could help repel people from Jesus.

So it goes.

Anonymous said...

seek God and pray is my main advice.

not all things that are called churches are churches.

not all that are called Christians are Christians.

plus the fact that there are getting to be more and more definitions in this world of what a church is and what a Christian is.

do you want to worship with other believers?

do you want to talk and eat with other believers?

do you want to study and discuss the bible with other believers?

it is quite an interesting thing that we have signe up for...this journey with God isn't it?

since we are all sinners and broken in this lifetime...how are we to have a perfect gathering? well, we can not have a perfect gathering. if we put our focus on loving God and loving eachother instead of focusing on eachother's flaws or differences (at least the ones that do not matter to God) maybe we would be able to praise God in a social club as well as in an alley or in a living room or where ever people meet.

but, if we keep on nit picking about every little thing that bothers us...we will be divided and distracted from the main thing.

so if it is not really important...get over it...and get to loving.

Agent B said...

nancy - never meant for my questions and observations to be interpreted as judgmental finger pointing.

I for one am never looking for a perfect gathering. I think the gathering we currently have is perfect for this era of our lives.