I love the church
I’ve heard it said that the church is the hope of the world—and I agree! The church is the Body of Christ and the Light of the World. I firmly believe that it is through the church – God’s people – that He will bring healing and redemption to the brokenness of the world.
And so we celebrate with joy churches that are growing as people in their communities come to faith in Jesus. We rejoice in the many ministries of healing and restoration that churches provide through which individuals find wholeness for their lives. Churches provide many wonderful ministries that do lots of good in our lives.
And, yet, we have to acknowledge that one of the greatest dangers of church ministry is that, under the pressure to grow our churches or produce results, we run the risk of forgetting that the people are people, not mere consumers of the spiritual goods and services. Those whom we serve each have their own stories. Each person has their own struggles, their own joys, their own hopes, their own fears.
People Are Not Gears in a Machine
I was guilty of this. At times I forgot that my congregation didn’t exist just for the sake of making my church look good. And that their sole purpose was not to simply invite other people to church, or to serve as an usher, or to volunteer for Vacation Bible School.
The people in my congregation were not gears in the church machine.
And what about those outside my church? How did I view them?
Sometimes I was guilty of viewing them as objects, too. Not always, but sometimes.
Sometimes—in my mind—the people in our neighborhood existed for the sake of sending their kids to our preschool. Or they existed in order to attend our Christmas program; or to be a part of our Community Garden; or to hopefully start going to our church so our church would have higher attendance and a bigger budget.
Unfortunately, though intentions are almost always good, it’s not unusual for a ministry strategy to objectify human beings by viewing them as mere consumers of the latest church plan or ministry program.
Treating People as Persons
Thomas H. Groome, in Sharing Faith, calls this approach to ministry “thingification.” “Thingification” is the objectification of human beings, thinking of them more as objects than as people. It is the refusal, as Groome puts it, to “treat some people as persons.”
“Thingification” is what happens when we don’t listen to one another. (And there’s a lot of not listening in the world today, isn’t there?)
So what’s the cure for “thingification”? Well, if “thingification” is what happens when we don’t listen, then the cure must be listening. When we listen—really listen—to the people in our congregations, in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, it becomes much more difficult to objectify them.When we listen—really listen—to the people in our congregations, in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, it becomes much more difficult to objectify them. Click To Tweet
Listening forces us to understand others as real people rather than as objects—as things—whose purpose is to consume whatever the church’s latest spiritual “product” happens to be. As we learn to listen and know the individuals in our churches and communities, that’s when we will begin to get a sense of how God might be calling us to join him in the work of healing the world.