Habit 1 – Focus on God
Church is for God. For spirituality. For meditation. For prayer. For liturgy. This should be self evident.
Κύριον τὸν Θεόν σου προσκυνήσεις, καὶ αὐτῷ μόνῳ λατρεύσεις
Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him. Matthew 4:10
προσκυνέω proskyneō worship God
If people want the experience of a café, or a club, or group therapy, they will go to a café, join a club, or enrol for group therapy – because those do that better. Church is about God.
Let the focus not be on health, wealth, peace, etc. Those may or may not be results of focus on God…
And let the focus not be on some sort of super, invisible sky fairy. God as an invisible imaginary friend is often a nice place to start the journey, but the church’s focus needs to include the immortal, invisible, in-light-inaccessible-hid-from-our-eyes God. The One who is closer to me than I am to myself. The one who is my existence, our existence, the mystery at the heart of reality. Not a being. But Being.
There doesn’t need to be a gimmick to try and lure people in. I recently watched a video clip of the start of a Christmas “service” in which the pastor drove onto the stage (you could hardly refer to it as a “sanctuary”), dry ice came out of the car as he stepped out of it onto the stage while the lead guitarist did an amazing riff. The theme of the service was “what car would God drive?”
There is nothing wrong with a gimmick occasionally. There is nothing wrong with the occasional hook. But let it not even be the icing on the cake. It is the decoration on the icing. If the cake is foul, non-existent, or not nourishing, and the icing is poor, people quickly tire of the decoration. Those who come for the gimmick, the decoration, might turn up each year when it is “wear-something-red Sunday” or “funny-hat Sunday” or “animal Sunday”.
Some become addicted to gimmicks and novelty. A priest colleague had a nervous breakdown when he could no longer keep up with the relentless demand he had set himself to constantly better last time’s gimmick. Yes, as I said, the gimmick may bring some to God – but when our trust shifts from God to gimmicks the alarm bells should be ringing loud. Bait and switch has no place in church. It so often does.
Church might have programmes, but the programmes ought not to dominate the God-life. Too often the latest trendy programme takes the church’s energy. Those who have seen them come and go know that this too will pass to give way to the next burst of enthusiasm for the next favoured programme.
Prayer, meditation, the Daily Office, the Eucharist – these are the “programmes” that should dominate our church life.
Habit 1 of highly effective churches is focus on God.
To be continued…