The error of church programming

Programming.

That is the contemporary Church’s answer to relevance. If we can just come up with relevant, interesting programming, the Church of today thinks, then we can bring people into the church.

This is a complex issue, but there are at least two problems with it:

1) An error of ends – The end that the addiction to church programming points toward is a larger, more “active” congregation. The hope is to bring in young singles and families, making the church look more like the megachurches that appear on TV. So the church adopts programming that is designed to do just that (and which is often published by the very churches that supposedly deserve emulation). This is an improper end, of course. The only end that any church should aim toward is the salvation of its members and those outside the church to whom it offers the gospel. Salvation is a holistic process and may involve certain kinds of programming. But the end must be salvation – through the church – and all ministry efforts should be geared toward that end.

2) An error of means – Programming may be a useful means, but the church has bought into it as the absolute key to “success.” In actuality, programming should be third or fourth down the line. Participation in the church should be understood as a way of life, the primary arena for human activity by those who call themselves church members. And that way of life must begin with a Eucharistically-oriented worship. Small-group prayer and bible study should be second. (Holy Communion, Scripture, and prayer, after all, are Wesley’s three primary means of grace.) After these, I would suggest that outward-oriented mission should be third. Only after these should programming be listed. Interesting or fun activities and studies are great as far as they go, but they should never take the place of a form of church life centered on worship, bible study, corporate prayer, and mission.

I write about this in my current column in the UM Reporter. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

 

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