Monday, November 21, 2011

More Than Stage Ministry (Part 7: Values & Practices Unpacked)

More than Stage Ministry is so simple we left it off the original values list. We value all forms of ministry equally. Specifically we don't treat stage presentations (i.e. preaching, leading singing, dramas, etc) as more valuable or important.

What you probably just thought was my thinking. Who doesn't already agree with that? How is that a special core value defining us? We've all read Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-26 about the different parts of the body of Christ and how one gift type isn't better than the others.

When I looked closer, though, it became clear this was not as universal as I thought.

True, I've never encountered a church leader who elevated group presentations over the other ministry expressions--at least by what they said. But when you examine their behavior, a different story emerges. Only group presentations are given regular time when on Sunday mornings, for example. Not to mention what their budget allocation and staff hierarchies say about their values. (If you want to know what someone really values, examine their calendar and their bank ledger.)

And it's not just the leaders. Honoring stage gifts more than the other spiritual gifts pervades the church. I have heard, time and time again, the "lay" members who sit quietly in the seats on Sunday speak in reverent awe of those few who are allowed to speak/sing/perform in front of the whole church on a regular basis.

Hear me clearly, It's not that honor isn't appropriate for those who minister well--that's not what concerns me. It's the lack of similar honor for anyone else! Think about who is most honored in a typical church culture. There's a direct relationship between how much stage time they get on Sunday morning and how much honor as a spiritual leader they receive.

So while I don't know a church leader who would say that they value stage gifts more than other gifts, their actions send a very different message to their members.

"But it's just not practical to do anything else when we all gather! We don't value one gift over than the other. It's just a logistical planning thing." This common response actually reveals how deep are the assumptions about presentation-style ministry.

We have gatherings without group presentations all our lives. Think about it. If they wanted to, Christians could design church services to operate like family reunions, block parties, or even sports team practices. But typical churches don't use those formats.

Why not? Why do they believe that the "right" use of their time is inspiring presentations to the crowd? Because despite the rhetoric about all gift types being equal, the last 1500 years of church history have trained us to view spiritually inspiring presentations as the most valuable--the most spiritual--way to spend our time together.

Let me be very clear, I am NOT trying to eliminate or discourage the stage gifts. The member-driven model of church isn't anti-group presentations. In fact, those are my gifts! I'm a teacher/musician. We work hard not to just swing the pendulum to the opposite imbalance where we devalue stage gifts in favor of non-stage gifts. That's not an improvement at all.

Our value isn't Less Stage Ministry, but More Than Stage Ministry. It's stage ministry-plus.

Still skeptical? Having a hard time seeing how this works practically? Check out the next posts on some of the practical ways we live out our core values, including this one. It's not even complicated to do.

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