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Consuming 'Church' without change

I have been reading Mark Sayers new book 'The Vertical Self'.  In it he examines how in recent years the source of our sense of self has shifted from a vertical one where we understand who we are in relation to God to a horizontal one where our self is shaped and endlessly modified by our horizontal relationships with the surrounding culture.  Here is an excerpt that connects with what I talked about last Sunday - doing church in the round (interactive accountable community) compared to church in the rectangle (sitting with others in seats watching a performance).

A respected pastor and I were having a conversation.  Because I'm involved with young adult ministry, she asked me about her son.  She was worried about his connection to his faith.  She told me she couldn't understand how someone who'd had such profound encounters with the Holy Spirit could seem to be walking away from his faith.  I told her not to overestimate the ability of young adults today to simply consume and then discard experiences without allowing them to have any effect on their view of the world whatsoever.  She seemed genuinely dumbstruck by my response.  But think about it.  Teenagers watch a horror film at a sleepover to enjoy the fear and suspense of murder without the carnage and cost.  A couple rents a steamy DVD featuring an adulterous affair to feel titillated without the emotional cost of actual relationship breakdown.  A group of guys watches a heavyweight bout to enjoy the thrill of physical combat without the risk of injury or personal cost.  The entertainment age and the horizontal self have led us to divorce what we believe from what we experience, see, and feel.  The elephant in the living room of contemporary Christianity is people's ability to simply sit in church, to consume the experience the way one would a great sporting event, a thrilling movie, or an exciting theme park ride, and then to dispose of it, totally unchanged at the soul level, as they leave the sanctuary.  Sure, they might feel challenged, encouraged, or even moved, but the horizontal self simply "feels" the experience and moves on.  Don't get me wrong: this can happen anywhere - in traditional churches, emerging churches, and contemporary churches.     (p51)

David Wanstall, 20/04/2010