Missions Misunderstood » Blog Archive » Who Does Your Church Look Like?

Posted June 24th, 2009 by E. Goodman

060214_lookalikes_hmed_9a-hmedium-300x215-2998676They say that, over time, we begin to resemble our spouses.

Maybe it’s convenience- we use the same products, shop at the same stores, eat the same foods. Eventually, you can’t tell whether those are your glasses or hers. You just grab whatever set of dentures you find lying around and put them in. It might have something to do with personal taste- that we “rub off” on one another and begin to like the same things. Perhaps the key is environmental- years of sitting in the same chairs and sleeping in the same bed is bound to give you the same stooped posture and creaky joints as your significant other. Maybe the fine people of Kentucky are on to something – we all end up married to our sisters anyway.

Most people, including pastors, choose a church that looks like them. Everything from racial and socio-economic profile to parenting style to theological bent. All around the world you’ll find hippie churches, yuppie churches, black churches, white churches, Hispanic churches, affluent churches, traditional churches- you get the idea. In missiological terms of segmentation, that’s good for the spread of the gospel; people can interact with a body of believers that “looks” just like them. They can see examples of Christ’s life-transforming work in their own culture.

In terms of discipleship, homogeneity isn’t a good thing. As people grow in their faith, they necessarily need to move away from those cultural attributes that are contrary to the values of the redeemed. Segregation, isolation, prejudice, ignorance, fear, disunity- these are not of God. Maturing churches shouldn’t look like new ones, because maturing believers don’t look like the world from which they are being saved.

I’m convinced the changed-appearance phenomenon happens with churches, too. It doesn’t take long before a congregation begins to look like its spouse. The church, of course, is supposed to be the bride of Christ. It stands to reason, then, that it should grow to look more and more like Jesus, taking on His attitude, His values, His reactions, His perspective.

Yet when I visit churches across the country (and around the world), churches tend to look a lot like their pastors (or the pastor’s wife, or the head deacon, or whoever may actually run the show.) I see churches that put academic knowledge above everything else- just like their pastor, Dr. So-and-So. I’ve been in churches that worship Worship (at least, the singing and music part,) led by former-ministers of music and aspiring Christian rock artists. Churches that focus on fighting the cults and cultures their leaders have been saved from; churches that react to whatever bad experience their pastor had as a kid. Churches that cater to families (usually while the pastor has young children)- then they move on to being a youth-oriented church. Angry churches. Discouraged churches. Political churches. Proud churches.

Who does your church look like? When people see and interact with you, who is it they’re seeing and interacting with? Is it your pastor? Your leadership team? Your critics? Or is it Jesus?

Tags: homogeneity, look-alikes, personality, spouses