That’s not a new question. Several months ago, everyone laughed at a video that asked “What if church was run like Starbucks?” A couple of years ago, I blogged about my irritation with churches calling their sanctuaries “worship centers” which I think makes churches sound more like WalMarts than places of worship.
But what if it’s deeper than that? What if churches really are run like Starbucks? It’s not just “Worship Center” that has infected our thinking of church. What if we aren’t worshippers, but just cogs in this massive, churning, capitalistic machine that we call “church?”
Today, I’ve got three words, seemingly harmless, that have become so trendy that they have changed what we think church is. If we want to believe that the church is more noble than a mere money making scheme, then we need to banish these words from our vocabularies.
Like I said, the words I’m picking on today are seemingly harmless. But I didn’t just pick them because they sound like nails on a chalkboard to me…though they do.
The word “launch” is one of those words. Why do we need this word?
Fact: we don’t need the word “launch,” because churches don’t put rockets into space, and that is the only acceptable use of the word.
Christians have started using this word to mean that a pastor is going to “plant” a church. What was wrong with the word “plant?” I don’t know. But someone, probably wearing skinny jeans, decided that “planting” a church sounded too boring and evangelical, and we needed a word that captured how awesome we are, like a rocket blasting off, or a mall having its “Grand Opening.”
Yes, I hate the word “launch.”
…But not as much as I hate the word “campus.”
In the old days, you could go to any town and know, more or less, what you were going to get if you went into a church branded with “Methodist” or “Baptist” on the sign. It was a complete package of theology, liturgy, music and preaching, with only minor differences.
But in a time when young, hip Christians hope that crusty old denominations go the way of the dinosaur, we need a word that means the same thing as a denominational label, but looks much cooler.
Enter: “Campus!” Yes, by calling your church a “campus,” it indicates to me, the loyal consumer that when I get a craving for some Jesus, I can go to five convenient locations across town and get the exact same combo meal of music, preaching, and hair gel with the same packaging, quality, and service I’ve come to expect. Just like it doesn’t matter which McDonald’s I go to, I know their food will be terrible (unless it’s a McGriddles.)
Instead of using the word “campus,” why don’t we just use “franchise?”
The reason I can’t stand words like “strategy” and “launch” is because of what they make people think is needed to have a church. To “launch” a church (thinking like a businessman) you need:
A ton of money, a lot of space, a charismatic “executive” pastor (“executive” is another word I hate), more money, and lots of strategy, well researched, to ensure that your church is launched in the right time and place for maximum “impact.”
If you want to launch a business, yes, you need all of these things. But it’s a lie that you need any of those things to have a church. If you can read, then you can lead a church. No strategy, no money, no charisma. Just you and a few friends and Bibles. You never know what will happen.
But we don’t believe that. A prominent pastor of a wealthy church in my city crashed his church into the ground with financial scandal this year. The church closed. The next week, he “re-launched” in a school. Was there any talk about doing something else, or savoring a time of “simpler” church? No. Immediately, strategies were formed to rebuild bigger than ever, to re-launch the television ministry, to have more financial “campaigns” (there’s another word) and have more impact on all the rich people in the city.
That’s not launching a ministry. That’s launching an empire. And that’s what so many pastors churches seem to be up to, while using a lot of idiotic words which make it more palatable to Christian consumers who are taught to hate “big oil” and “big medicine,” but don’t seem to notice that they’re supporting “big church.”
What do you think? Are they just words, or does using business-y sounding words make church more like a business? Any other words we need to throw out? Tell me about a church in your town that’s out to swallow up all the “Mom and Pop” churches.