Culture is like Habit – you don’t know you have one until you try to break it.
And church culture is no different. In short, this is the way we are. This is the way we have always been. We happily accept it.
Imagine: You are in an eating contest. You are medium built compared to your competitors. You are a Japanese in an overwhelmingly American-dominated sport (if you can even call it that). And the current record is 25.5 hot dogs to be swallowed in 12 minutes flat. Yes, welcome to the “Nathan’s Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest” on the Fourth of July, 2001.
So, how did Takeru Kobayashi-san gobble down 50 wieners to take top spot? (According to wikipedia, the record was so unexpected that when Kobayashi got to the later numbers, the organizers ran out of signs indicating how many dogs Kobayashi had eaten and had to resort to handwritten signs.)
How? Simply by re-framing the same basic question, according to Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner in their best-selling book “Think like a Freak”. Instead of asking: “How do I eat more hot dogs?” he flipped it to: “How do I make the hot dogs easier to eat?” Apparently, he dipped the bread into water first to make it less difficult to devour (permitted under the rules). He went on to set records for chomping pizzas, bratwurst sausages, vegetarian jiaozi dumplings and roasted meat buns, among other hurriedly-disposed digestibles.
So what does championship eating got to do with Kingdom Culture? Very little actually but hopefully enough to allow for a few inchoate thoughts to arise.
Culture is like Habit – you don’t know you have one until you try to break it. And church culture is no different. In short, this is the way we are. This is the way we have always been. We happily accept it. And we leave our brains at the church door. Usually intelligent and successful people at the marketplace become unquestioning in church and comply meekly as lambs, “so as not to rock the boat”. But in kingdom thinking, the boat may not only be rocked, maybe it should be completely taken out of the water and over-hauled.
Mike Bickle advocates that people need to ask, “Holy Spirit what do You want me to do and who do You want me to reach out to?” He insists, “You don’t have to ask anyone’s permission. You don’t have to get a meeting with the pastors and say, ‘Hey can I do this?’ The Great Commission is the great permission. You’re already commanded to go do it.”
Space is given to a small group of people, who are like-minded laced with strong passion and compassion, to undertake a niche-approach, targeting a particular need or ministry or opportunity like the homeless in Singapore. It’s not every person’s cup of tea – but go find your own beverage of service. Yes, there is still place for the entire church to do church-wide events but in Kingdom mind space, each member must be encouraged to exercise his spiritual gifting and talent under divine leading.
Has the church adopted the consumer-centric approach as its solution? If it works for the malls, it can work for the halls. Let’s give them what they want. This may require a little marketing research but once we have a fairly good idea of what they are looking for, we can cater – even pander – to their likes and dislikes. So, hey presto, what used to be hymn-singing time is now a “light and sound” show, worthy of any modern tourist attraction. Four songs, two quick and two slow, repeated endlessly, climaxing with a 3-minute video that takes their breath away. We are all for first-class professionalism and top-tier presentations. Yet in Kingdom Culture, it is the Presence (of God) and not the Program that is the draw. Similarly, the pulpit is expected to release revelation: not just Information – but Transformation.
Don’t piously leave to God to do what He has clearly instructed you to undertake. Recall, Lord Jesus did not even suggest we pray for the sick. Instead He said, “Heal them” (Matt 10:8; Luke 10:9). That’s the way of the Kingdom.
Flip the switch.
Andrew Goh is the honorary Editor of Impact.