I think we are doing much the same thing when it comes to our style of worship. We hear about the church being seeker friendly. We want the pagans to be able to come in, feel at home and be prefab Christians because the church has adjusted to what they want. Flying in the face of this is Romans 12:1-2. Let me point out how it is expressed in some other translations and paraphrases:
(Romans 12:2 ASV) And be not fashioned according to this world...
(Romans 12:2 BBE) And let not your behaviour be like that of this world,...
(Romans 12:2 CEV) Don't be like the people of this world,...
I thought I would quote a few translations that do not use the word “conform.”
Most churches today follow the Burger-King model, “Have it your way.” They ask themselves, “What is it that people want in a church?” They have little crowns to put on visitors so they will feel special. The idea is that they are wonderful and we are glad to have them. We will be glad to change anything that will make them feel at home. This may work selling hamburgers and cars but it doesn’t work when you are trying to get people to admit to being sinners in need of grace. These churches seem to have forgotten the words of Paul,
(1 Corinthians 1:23 KJV) But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;It is the Holy Spirit that convicts of sin, not your worship team.
Traditional churches followed the McDonald’s model. Think of your VBS program and the way you run your Sunday School. These churches try to reach the adults by appealing to the children. Remember when your children demanded that you stop at McDonald’s? They wanted to get to the play area, climb on the statue of Ronald McDonald and get the toy in their happy meal. And it works, at least when you are selling hamburgers.
Out in California, and increasingly in other states we have a home-grown chain called In-N-Out. It was started by a Christian and last time I looked still had Bible references somewhere on the cups. The founder used a more Biblical model. First, he provided a solid product. Every since I was a kid, everyone in Southern California would light up at the idea of going to In-N-Out. They have the greatest hamburgers, the best fries, and shakes made with real ice cream.
That brings us to the second principle. They have a limited product line. Their idea of variety is offering cheese on your hamburger. They have three flavors of shake: Vanilla, strawberry and chocolate. The big choice you have is whether you want onions or not. If you add up the cost of the items on their combo you will find that it comes out exactly the same as ordering them individually.
They have limited advertising. They do some but most of their growth has come from word of mouth. When everyone knows where to get a great, reasonably priced hamburger, advertising just raises the price of the product. If I want a steak, pizza, a taco or sushi, I don’t go to In-N-Out. If I want a hamburger with peppercorns, jalapeno, bean sprouts or chili on top, I don’t go to In-N-Out. If I want a great, reasonably priced burger, served quickly and cheerfully, I know my first choice.
Which points out another factor: They treat their employees well. They are a legend on this. This is the gold standard of fast food employers. You see, to paraphrase, “If the cashier ain’t happy, ain’t no body happy.”
This has made growth slow. In-N-Out has been around longer than McDonald’s. They are not a world wide tradition. They are a Southern California tradition. I know that is not a great recommendation, but in the land of fruits, nuts and tofu, it speaks of the strength of their model.
Perhaps the church could learn something from this. We need to be more than “have it your way,” Happy Meals and fast service.
homo unius libri