An Observation of the Church as it Stands.
One of the things that I do when I drive back and forth from Raleigh to Durham or Raleigh to Cary on a regular basis is listen to podcasts. If I’ve listened to the most recent lectures that my classes have, I pop on a podcast which I can stream directly from iTunes to my phone sans downloading. The audio plays in the background and I’m able to use my phone as a GPS navigator as well. I mean, this is 2010, and this is awesome.
My podcasts if choice are almost always one of three: Macbreak Weekly, The Talk Show (John Gruber on 5by5), and The Engadget Podcast. Because the tech world moves so quickly, and it is hard to keep up, I look forward to listening to these every week.
Something occurred to me today though. I asked myself, what are these podcasts talking about? The answer is easy enough, technology. Current, upcoming, and old technology. Every single podcast refers to the news points of the week: what Apple is doing right and wrong, why Microsoft is so far behind in the mobile world, and why Google is so different and trying to challenge everything. In EVERY instance, the commentators talk about their own reviews and personal feelings regarding the tech industry. It is awesome.
But it occurred to me, I am in seminary. Learning about God, the church, Christ, and anything else having to do with those concepts. And yet, I listen to tech podcasts to and from school nearly every day. So, I searched iTunes for the words “United Methodist”. You know what I found? Any and every sermon you’ve ever wanted to find from any United Methodist Church the world over. I mean seriously, there are tons. But you know what they are? They are the opposite of what is encouraged in seminary. And before you go and and get all upset so quickly, I’m not referring to preaching, obviously preaching is encouraged. But in the act of preaching, very little dialogue goes on. (Sadly)In a TYPICAL church, on a typical Sunday, the pastor gets up to give his sermon, the people listen, shake his hand on the way out, and go home.
Sunday School numbers are dropping.
If you’re lucky (and I hope you are) you’ll discuss the ideas and challenges of the sermon on the ride home or over lunch. Or you’ll think about what teams are playing that night.
Here’s the thing about the tech podcasts, it’s all discussion.
Theres not one person saying what is right or wrong.
It’s discussion of why a product will or won’t fail.
Because it is such an exciting time for the industry, things aren’t failing as much as they are succeeding.
But, the church, by almost all accounts in America, is failing.
And in seminary, it seems to be all that people can talk about. These conversations are happening.
But in the real world, we post podcasts of sermons. With little discussion. Where are the podcasts where Methodists discuss why the UMC isn’t Wesleyan? Where are the podcasts that have commentators from several denominations trying to explore what’s going on with the church as a whole? Why aren’t we publicly discussing ways to fix it?
Because here is the thing: Seminarians will graduate. Many will either find a church or be assigned a church. And slowly, the depth, consistency, and frequency of the discussions will slow. They’ll get bogged down with families, parishioners, and making sure the lights get turned off every night. They’ll be discussing “long range plans” and how to get more people to attend their services.
And with that, two things happens. The conversations slow and therefore won’t be as fruitful. And those meetings where we try to discuss how to better welcome visitors will stay inside the walls. And we will put some sort of plan in place to make it work, but we won’t tell the world how hard we are trying.
I’m ready for the Church podcasts. I’m ready for the things the church is doing to spark so much excitement that debate ensues. I’m ready for the conversations about a church that is past its prime to leave the walls of Duke Divinity. I’m ready for some sort of open, honest, conversation to open up in the Church that becomes so vital to our being that rumor sites open up. So vital that we forget about the devices in our hand and think about what is going on in our hearts.
Why is our image based around sermons and not discussions?