Starbucks realizes that coffee drinkers are looking for local, unique, responsible, and sustainable. Independent coffee houses can be all of these things. It’s a lot harder for the mega-corporation, though. They’re too concerned with things like quality control, efficiency, brand, and, of course, money. The things that make Starbucks Starbucks are causing it’s current identity crisis. Now, the global giant is trying to re-invent itself as the Mom-and-Pop cafe it’s overshadowed for the last sixteen years.
The megachurch is following the same path. For all its effort in creating an “experience,” it’s size, culture, pragmatism, and impersonal nature will leave thousands of megachurch Christians wanting for something local, unique, responsible, and sustainable.
Let me introduce you to the Mom-and-Pop Church (yes I’m just making this up as I write). This small(ish) operation looks like this:
-The Mom-and-Pop Church is a spiritual nuclear family. It is small, informal, and personal. The small size allows the group to be in touch with everything the church does. The informality keeps time together comfortable and prevents worship from becoming a performance. The personal nature of the group insures real accountability and ongoing involvement in the lives of other church members.
-The familial structure helps the church know how to behave when they’re together. Brothers and sisters. Moms and Dads. Even the logistics are affected- children sit at a “kiddie table” (just like at Thanksgiving with the relatives), some serve, some make decisions, some sit on the couch and watch football.
-Just like people are born into their families, Mom-and-Pop church members are called into their spiritual families. There’s no “shopping,” “hopping,” or “targeting.” People don’t leave their families when they disagree- they work it out because family is important. Children learn from elders. Responsibility is expected. Discipline is integral. Love is unconditional.
-Church members see themselves as church planters. As they share their faith by talking about it and living it out publicly, they don’t invite new believers to join their group. Instead, they disciple friends in the context of their spheres of influence with the goal of seeing a new Mom-and-Pop Church started (complete with its own leadership and familial structure). New churches don’t carry any brand identity and are therefore free to develop their own personalities based on gifting, affinity, and experience.
- Mom-and-Pop Churches hold tightly to the identity of the church, and loosely to its form. Church doesn’t need to meet congregationally (at a regular time, or all at once), teaching doesn’t have to be sermonic, and worship doesn’t have to include singing. Their identity is that of a local church which is part of the Universal Church. Their Kingdom mentality means that growth happens at the city level- not the local level.
-Kingdom focus also leads them to pray for other gatherings of the church. Churches keep up with one another through the same social network that planted them in the first place.
-Mom-and-Pop Churches don’t have (or need) buildings. Instead, they meet wherever they live- in homes, parks, cafes, restaurants, and schools. They have no overhead; no facilities, no sound system, no rent, no insurance. Their tithes and other giving goes to ministry, generosity, social action, and the food they eat together. Pastors aren’t salaried, but their part-time income may be offset by personal gifts.
-At least two elders. These are (relatively) older, spiritually mature men (if you must) who take responsibility for the total well being of the local church. This would include insuring that the group gets sound doctrinal teaching, and that it engages in regular worship, service, prayer, and fellowship. Elders guard the unity, identity, and sanctity of the local church. (By the way, “sound teaching” may include sermon podcasts, video, etc.)
-”Church” is what they are, not what they do. Belonging is not tied to activity. When you’re a member of the family and you don’t show up for dinner, family members are disappointed, but you’re still part of the family.
Tune in next time for the final part of the series.