Sunday, November 16, 2008

#53 Making An Impact


Christian culture is obsessed with making an impact. Churches hire marketing teams and ministries hire strategists for this purpose. "We need to make an impact!" "We’re making an impact for God!" But any impact that is made for good is God's doing entirely, and the more we contrive to impact the more we get in the way. The church isn’t a business to be promoted, and Jesus isn’t a commodity. How well a church is really doing isn’t reflected in the number of people it draws. Concentrating on your impact can be a distraction, and then it's a warp tunnel straight to the core of Christian culture: Doing Things and Avoiding Relationship. Big numbers can make a church feel good about itself, but then God's purpose is lost. And then where is your impact? Probably up your arse.




Jesus said in Matthew 23:




"Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

Frauds! I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God's kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won't let anyone else in either. You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned. You're hopeless! What arrogant stupidity!

You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God's Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that's wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?"

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Stephy, So glad to see this fresh post. The scripture you reference proves Jesus is not "gentle" or "mild." In my former life, I did a lot of marketing on behalf of the commodified Jesus, and I'm glad He's a forgiver of Pharisees. Who are we kidding when we believe he needs our "help"? Good stuff, but scary, too.

Trev said...

Pefect. Just perfect.

Suzannah said...

this is the version I wish the Christian culture would read & consider in their methods of "impact"... thanks for the good read Steph, brings some rest to my brain & peace to my heart.

The Java Papa said...

Funny you wrote about this today, last night I was stressing over what to say in church this morning, being a missionary we get one shot to tell our story to the whole body. Having to rely on the support of others, I wanted to make sure I would say the right stuff. When I went to bed I had a piece come over me, as long as I am walking and acting under His authority, it dosent matter what catchy phraise I say or what visual I use to wow the crowd. I needed to keep it simple and speak from the heart. So I did, what a difference it did for my peace of mind. Speaking from the heart is right, competing with Holywood is not needed if church does it the right way...keeping it simple..

Mikey Lynch said...

"impact", and all other management speak, should have a swear jar fine attached to it.

Anonymous said...

Jesus didn't say go forth and draw up a marketing plan but "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another". My minister was at a regional ministers meeting when he was asked who was his target audience; his reply was "We'll have anyone".

Hugh (London)

Cabernet Leather said...

This blog is awesome. Everything is spot on! I have subscribed.

Bruno said...

Great post Stephy.
Great.

David said...

Doing Things and Avoiding Relationship. That should be the tag line on every Christian t-shirt and hip church.

Reminds me of all those people huddled together wearing WWJD bracelets in youth groups everywhere. What would Jesus do? Well he wouldn't be wearing that stupid bracelet, for starters.

Heather said...

"Nickel and dime"?!!! Since when is Jesus an American???

Probably another thing Christian Culture Likes. American Jesus.

Bruno said...

heather,

"if english was good enough for God, it's good enough for me"

Yeah, thats the attitude and altitude of "merikun krischuns" who catch the news, However, there is nothing wrong with translating the texts so the meaning is relevant to the culture. The reformation happened over five hundred years ago. I can only imagine how magical the wingnuts would hold the texts if we insisted they only be in the original language. They would probably still be divining their future and seeking signs and secret messages by opening their bibles and using the words as spells and magic,,,,, oh wait,,,, nevermind

Paul said...

Spot on, indeed. I especially like your use of The Message to quote our Lord. I'm sure he's so pleased about that.

And the line about "doing things and avoiding relationships." That describes several churches I know. It could also be "Doing Little & Avoiding Conflict."

stephy said...

I think that relationship = conflict; that you can't have one without the other. Conflict can be good if it's handled right! But it's very scary and so many relationships dwindle because people don't want to address their conflict.
(This is no news and I'm not the first person to say this, just thinking out loud here...what else is new.)

Mork said...

This post is high impact - I shall power point it and take it to our next business I mean fellowship meeting.

juls said...

"Jesus isn’t a commodity." agreed!

Heather said...

Hi, Bruno. I'm not a stickler for translation - I read the NLT myself, and I think in many circles that's highly frowned upon. It's the update that reflects only American culture when that translation is sold in most English-speaking countries that I take slight issue with. "Nickels" and "dimes" are exclusively American.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stephy,
I've been reading your blog for awhile now and loving it. You make a point and are quite witty in doing so.

As much as I agree that marketing Jesus and focusing on impact and so on has become a major part of it all, I have to say I don't think people are necessarily avoiding relationships. I think one of the biggest factors of people jumping on Christianity right now is because it offers a community (in a world that lacks them). Maybe it's not the ideal relationships or community, it's filled with cliques and judgement and fitting in -- but people are creating relationships and that's part of the reason they're sticking with it. They worship together and create bonds -- the whole impact type church is designed so these people will and then consequently remain with that church. I was just doing a research paper on ecstatic states and one of the defining features is that it creates relationships and bonds between people. These churches are attempting to create an environment that encourages ecstatic states (with the music, the dancing, the atmosphere). It's shocking how close to traditional religions modern day Christianity has become.

I may have slightly veered off my point there, but in short, I don't necessarily think that these churches are lacking relationships. I think they're lacking the type of relationship Jesus was talking about.

And I definitely rambled more than I intended to. Thanks again for the great blog.

L.

stephy said...

Thanks L! Yeah, I agree with you that churches aren't necessarily lacking relationships, I think people definitely have relationships there, but like you said, I think that on the whole they're probably lacking the type of relationship that Jesus was talking about.

I don't think, as a general rule, that evangelical culture is in a habit of promoting authentic relationship where you can share with someone how you feel frustrated or like God isn't present with you in your pain. I feel evangelical culture doesn't have room for those feelings in the way it does for expressing more easily digestible emotions like happiness (whether that happiness is authentic or not). We weren't meant to have relationships devoid of authenticity and infused with b.s., and yet I think Christian culture leans perhaps more towards those kind of relationships. Again, as you said, not the kind of relationship Jesus was talking about.

Anonymous said...

Hey Stephy,
I definitely agree about Christianity leaning towards relationships "devoid of authenticity and infused with b.s." but in my experience it included being frustrated, talking about God being present or not, discussing your struggles -- but it all still fit the mold of what you were supposed to do within that community, and everyone was all about being "real". The new idea of Christianity is leaning towards this whole idea of being authentic and so on, but does that simply mean you have to say that you don't feel close to God once and awhile? "Being real" seems just to be another formula to follow. It allows you to vent your frustration to a certain extent, but with the understanding you'll be back on track within the week and "feeling" God again. It makes people more "approachable" and apparently gives them more credibility and right to ask you how your "walk with God is".
L.

stephy said...

L.,
wow. I really hope "being real" isn't just another formula to follow. That would be awful. I think that being real should allow you to vent your frustration not just to a certain extent, but to the extent you need to, with the support of whomever will come alongside you (hopefully it would be the church), and not with any understanding or expectation that you'll be 'back on track' in any amount of time, if ever. If you're not feeling God, you're not feeling him. If you are, you are. The authenticity of relationship comes when you are not judged for feeling God or not feeling him; that the relationship isn't threatened by this.

I don't know that there's a new idea of Christianity really, but some people are seeming fed up with feeling the need to put on a show for their fellow Christians.

Anonymous said...

My bitterness came out for a stroll, I apologize. I grew up in a community where it was very "cool" to be authentic/real/whatever you want to call it. But because it came not from them but rather from the person they so admired it reeked of fakeness as opposed to a genuine need for authenticity and within that community it became another formula.

I personally have never ever "felt God" as it were, and therefore when it comes to talk about that relationship and so on it generally frustrates me. It's a tendency to not believe what we've never experienced ourselves and so I find it difficult ever to see authenticity (even though I do think it is in some instances genuinely there).
L.

Anonymous said...

who told you that you were perfect?????

Steve said...

I don't know what's worse, the use of "impact" or the use of The Message. Both make me scream.

stephy said...

Really? I like it cause it's translated directly.

Roman de la rose and Pygmalion said...

I hate it when people turn nouns into verbs, and "impact" is no exception. I also just think that the word choice is strange. When I hear "impact", I think of a car crash or a meteorite hitting the earth.

jill said...

Haha, the name of our junior high youth group was actually called "IMPACT." Awesome. Before that it was called "RIOT," because teens are so extreme.

Mel T said...

Pray the Jabez Prayer that God will make an impact crater with you.

Mel T said...

PS That's addressed to the general dumb christian "you," not to Jill.