the weblog of Alan Knox

Seeing the contradictions… or not…

Posted by on Jul 2, 2007 in blog links, definition | 2 comments

Darryl from ‘The Dash House‘ has written an interesting post called ‘The Drew Marshall “We’ll pay you to go to church” experiment‘. In this post, Darryl discusses an experiment by Canadian radio host Drew Marshall. Marshall paid several unbelievers to visit different churches on Sunday mornings and record their responses. While unbelievers should never dictate what happens when the church meets, it is interesting to read their observations, especially as the observations deal with what is said during the meeting versus what the people actually observed. Consider this description of one church meeting:

Why should the institution be rich, and the congregation not? If you really believe you should be living the ascetic life led by Christ and his apostles, why aren’t you doing it? If money and possessions aren’t important, why aren’t you meeting to discuss the meaning of Christ’s ideas and life in the local park? Notwithstanding the need to broadcast to your rather large congregation, and obviously you’d have to come up with a solution during the winter months, but really: why the son et lumiere? I found the medium more than a bit out of whack with the message.

Which brings me to another point: all that razzmatazz kind of unsettles me. We live in a culture where distraction is often misdirection – like a magician who gets you to look at his left hand while he’s disappearing something with his right. I found myself wondering why a group that liked its preacher so straightforward felt most at home in a medium of flashing lights and sound. Maybe it’s a generational thing – 30-45s are mostly Gen Xers, after all. But I still felt disconcerted.

Compare that description to observations from the meeting of a different group of believers:

My fear had left me, there was a calm sense of wonder now. We met the pastor first, he was wearing an eccentric yellow Hawaiian shirt with the usual brightly colored flowers, he spoke very calmly in a quiet voice that exuded a wisdom only achieved through many years of heart wrenching reality. He introduced us to a fellow who looked like he had seen a hard time too many, as it turns out he used to be homeless and had it not been for the Sanctuary who knows where he would be. I could tell then and there we had found what this experiment was set out to accomplish, a church that saw past the money, power and the heighten sense of moral superiority that we have grown accustomed to…

This place gets it, there was no collection plate that I ever saw and what they gave back to the community could not be measured. There isn’t enough good things to say about this place.

Notice that these observers had little to say about what happened during the meeting. Instead, they saw blatant contradictions (in most of the meetings they visited, by the way) between what was being said, and the way the people conducted their lives and the way the organization conducted its business.

Could it be that we are often saying one thing, but living differently, even when we meet together? Could it be that outsiders see our contradictions while we do not?

(HT: len)


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  1. 7-2-2007

    Very interesting, Alan.

    Gives me a lot to consider.


  2. 7-3-2007

    “If money and possessions aren’t important, why aren’t you meeting to discuss the meaning of Christ’s ideas and life in the local park?”

    Interestingly enough, the last church I was a part of before I got married and moved has been doing just that this summer.