From consumers to disciples

“Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life… then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you” Matt. 28:19-20 The Message

Move around the bar

CHURCHES are much like pubs in a lot of ways. Often accommodated in large Victorian buildings with inadequate parking, the clientele wait to be served with their ‘usual’ and make a cash contribution, while hard-pressed staff do their best to keep everyone happy. Somebody is an opinionated talker while others pretend to listen. What is served is what is expected, but it is not always healthy

It is at least a social environment so in that sense it beats the typical Sunday morning experience.

What if the regulars went the other side of the bar and took in turns to do the running and serving, under the watchful eye of the bar manager and chef? Training would be given of course, and the place given a good clean and makeover to attract a new crowd who were not previously pubgoers. No smoke or fruit machines now, though, and the new scheme has produced a really relaxing atmosphere with quality live music at times from the pub’s own band.

Meanwhile different teams from among the former regulars take turns in manning a soup kitchen and drop-in where everything is free, funded by the rising profits of the original hostelry under its new management. There’s even talk of a job club and legal advice for those battling the benefits system.

Those that formerly propped up the bar, complained and drank too much, are now enjoying a new sense of purpose and they’ve got to know one another well through being on the serving teams. They are being transformed and they feel good about making a difference for others who are slowly being drawn in and coming “on team” themselves.

Fiction or reality?

It’s fiction and fantasy, of course, but however inadequate the parallel, it makes a few points.

  • Not everyone wants to be a consumer, but if that is the expectation, consumers they will stay. With consumer rights… and complaints!
  • Where people have opportunity to serve, they have opportunity to experience ownership and a right kind of pride about what they are creating.
  • When people share a challenge, they become more mature in outlook and attitudes change.
  • Everybody wants somewhere to belong, be accepted and experience friendship, but it has to be seen as welcoming to all, not cliquey. Pubs are better at this than churches.
  • Purpose or even a daring vision can be uniting in a way that’s difficult to achieve by other means.
  • Jesus might have resembled the pub landlord more than the priest the other side of the street.
  • People who don’t fit in, get to find their fit by being alongside those who do. And feel valued, which is transformational.

TO REFLECT

  1. What is realistic and what is unrealistic about this sketch?
  2. Taking from what is realistic, what disciple-forming principles can you identify that would be good to adopt in church?
  3. Why do pubs feel more friendly than churches? (Does anyone ever ask why you are there…?)
  4. How much do you agree that not everyone wants to remain a consumer, and everyone wants somewhere to belong?
  5. What opportunities to serve and gain new skills alongside others would you welcome? What are the common barriers to this?

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