Is the Church on a Broken Escalator?

I saw this video, which is for some health company and I can’t edit it to not show that part, at work the other day. It was being shown to demonstrate the new technology being added to our classrooms and the help that would come with it. Teachers need not fear the new technology for the tech specialists were always around ready to guide, lead, and aid them into the future.

Of course, as I watched it all I could think about was how might this be interpreted in relation to God and the Church. These types of things happen regularly with me, especially since I finished seminary a few years back.

It seems to me that many, many people are riding along the escalator their church has determined is the correct one. It is the proper path heading to the proper destination. Now, without going into the horrendous theology that makes the purpose of Christianity a destination, i.e. heaven, we’ll push ahead to another reality present in a large portion of churches.

Just as in the video, many people in the church are merely riding the escalator as passive spectators. Rather than being active participators many church-goers are simply that: church-goers. They religiously show up every Sunday morning for their hour and a half of churchly duty. They interact with each other and wonder who made the coffee this week because it is unusually weak. They sit as if at an entertainment venue (ever notice how even our architectural design perpetuates a passive stance?) where everything is done up front and on a stage. Emotional music, pseudo-therapeutic/self-help sermons, and tv screens all push us, whether we’re aware of it or not, into a passive posture. We come, we consume, we go home. We’ve been conditioned by our culture to be passive and, unfortunately, many of our churches are doing the same.

So instead of being able to simply walk up the escalator-turned-stairs, we become stuck and wonder where the help is. We idly stand by awaiting the professional with the answers. Unfortunately, again, when the paid professional shows up, he too cannot help. From a church perspective, why is this? Why do we get stuck in our Christian lives and await the paid professional (pastor) to get us out of our stagnancy, just to find out that he/she can’t get us anywhere?

I think the problem lies in the lack of discipleship within the Church. As passive spectators we expect the professional, gifted, ultra-spiritual ones to put on “church” for us. We expect them to “do” church for us. We show up, easily enough, for the worship service and head home. Discipleship is tacked on as a by-product or as a secondary result of the worship service rather than the other way around. As has been said elsewhere: You make disciples, you’ll always get a church. You make a church, you won’t always get disciples.

A reality that is becoming more and more prevalent, however, is the lack of discipleship within the ranks of those attempting to lead a church. I have spoken with many pastors, and I include myself in this group, who get to a point where they have graduated from seminary, have gathered people, have taught them, but then hit the wall. There is somewhere or something they have envisioned, but can’t seem to take others there. The problem? Most pastors, especially younger ones, haven’t been made into disciples who make disciples. We have become passive spectators. Just like the mechanic who came to fix the escalator, we get leaders who can lead, but who can’t make others simply walk off of the escalator because they can’t walk off it themselves. People end up hurt, confused, and, in many cases, walk away from their faith because it, like the escalator, seemed broken.

As I said, I consider myself in this group of undiscipled leaders. Discipleship was always a secondary thing compared to Sunday-morning-only “church”. Sure, there were moments here and there, but never any intentional discipleship. Therefore, I have made intentional steps to remedy this. I don’t want to be another Christian who “does church” instead of being the church. I don’t want to be able to put on the worship service and tack on discipleship somewhere. I want to make disciples and then go from there. Simply put, I want to be a disciple who makes other disciples. But I’ll get back to these steps at a later date.

Does this sound familiar to anyone? Does this resonate with you? What am I missing? Thoughts?


3 thoughts on “Is the Church on a Broken Escalator?

  1. Really enjoyed your post, here are my answers…

    Does this resonate with you?

    Yes! It’s one of the main reasons I now attend a home church.

    What am I missing? thoughts?

    In a typical church/seminary setting most everything is hypothetical. If you want to create disciples you’ll need to get your hands dirty. American Christians wake up on Sunday mornings, put on their expensive clothes, and drive their status symbol cars to a million dollar church to “worship” God. Along the way they pass by the homeless, the sick, the imprisoned, the lonely, my point is that worship and discipleship should be one in the same!

    Making people active, involved participants in ministry is what I’m talking about or as you said being the church instead of doing church! Tim Keller recently wrote a piece on how the “mushy middle” of Christianity is disappearing. People just aren’t interested in being part of a spectator congregation as much anymore, instead their moving toward extremes.

    This link is to the Tim Keller video


  2. Alton- Thanks for stopping by. I apologize for the tardiness in responding to you. If it’s worth anything, we just had our second daughter two months ago and life is pretty hectic with a newborn and another 2 year old daughter. Anyways…
    If I may ask, what drove you to a home church? What benefit do you find being there than elsewhere? We’ve been working on planting a church here in central NY and have been moving the route of a home church. Any thoughts would be great.
    Secondly, I completely agree with you on getting your hands dirty in order to make disciples. Again, if I may ask, what have you incorporated, or your home church, to intentionally make disciples?

    • I can totally understand you being extremely busy, what a wonderful time for you and your family!

      Scott, the story of how I came to be involved with a home church is a long one that involves many of the unfortunately typical reasons people leave churchs. A better question might be what keeps me in a home church and my answer is simply my appreciation of the intimacy it encourages between people that is hard to find in a traditional “scheduled” meeting or service.I feel our focus on discussion and fellowship better facilitates the critical relationship building between people and also helps create an atmosphere of trust and openness, of comfort and accountability, and of true edification between believers.

      I would say that our intention is not to make disciples per se, but instead to share the love of Christ with people through outreach which glorifies our Father and always draws people to Him so I guess you could call our approach “attractional”? We’re involved with going out into the community and meeting peoples needs on whatever level we can be it with a couple dozen eggs and prayer to visiting people incarcerated in our county jail. It’s exciting work for us because we see the Holy Spirit working and touching people. We’re happy to share the gospel with anyone through showing them what it’s about, in these troubled times the opportunities are everywhere you turn! It’s actually just as Jesus said…

      John 4:35
      Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

      Our time is limited as well as being “troubled” so we feel it’s time for the church to truly be about the Fathers business and make a difference for Gods kingdom. It’s not “church as usual” but neither are the results if you know what I mean.

      If you’d like to read my whole “transitional” story I wrote about it in a couple of my posts

      I pray all the best of health and joy for you and your young family and for you to find joy and meaning in the service of our Lord!


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