i am embarking on a mission: to communicate to you, my faithful readers (i think there’s at least two of you), how the abundant community: awakening the power of families and neighborhoods by john mcknight and peter block (a thoroughly secular book) affected my thinking about the church.
block and mcknight begin by decrying the move in our society from citizens in a community, to consumers in a system.
The essential promise of a consumer society is that satisfaction can be purchased…in our effort to find satisfaction through consumption, we are converted from citizen to consumer.
One social cost of consumption is that the family has lost its function. It is no longer the primary unit that raises a child, sustains our health, cares for the vulnerable, and ensures economic security. In a consumer society, these functions are removed from family and community and provided by the marketplace; they are designed to be purchased. We now depend on systems to provide our basic functions. For example, we expect the school, coaches, agencies, and sitters to raise our children, we expect doctors to keep us healthy, and we want social workers and institutions to take care of the vulnerable.
What this means is that the space that the family and community were designed to fill has been sold and is now empty.
Our relational connections can often be undermined by great corporate, governmental, professional, and academic institutions. By their nature as systems, they say to us, “You are inadequate, incompetent, problematic, or broken. We will fix you. Go back to sleep.”
next time i will attempt to define (according to the descriptions in the book) a “system” and an “association. here’s my question for today.
let’s assume block and mcknight are correct: that we (the culture at large) have shifted from productive, self-sustaining family units to individuals with problems that require specialized, professional intervention. how does that affect the church? could that be why we hire so many specialized staff members (counseling pastors and administrative pastors and pre-adolescent pastors and creative arts pastors)?
and how is discipleship (equippng the saints) affected? are we communicating to potential volunteers that unless they have an advanced degree or a specific area of experience/competency that they are not qualified to serve?