On a recent visit home to Oklahoma, my dad and I went to a grocery store that catered more towards natural foods for organic, crunchy people. We were looking for baby food and saw a whole section of different types of baby food with different qualities and contents. We poked around for a while and finally settled on one brand for my 15 month old daughter.
As we walked away, my dad remarked on the experience of buying something in a natural food store:
In a regular grocery store, they list the ingredients that their products have.
In a natural food store, they list the ingredients that their products DON’T have.
You can see this by wandering the aisles. Products in grocery stores often “have more bran” or “two scoops of raisins” or “has Belgium cocoa.” On the flip side, health conscious stories or natural foods are “phosphate-free” or “BPA free” or “free of growth hormones” and other icky things. Soon they’ll have Monsanto-free packaging, although that will likely be impossible.
My dad’s observation made me wonder: are churches the same way? In some advertising or branding, it seems that progressive churches focus more on what they are NOT rather than what they are.
- Progressive churches claim to be free of anti-gay social stances from the pulpit and leadership, so LGBT people can worship without fear of exclusion.
- Progressive churches sometimes claim to be free of blood atonement theology and won’t be singing “There’s a fountain filled with blood” on communion Sundays.
- Some churches (not necessarily progressive, but it’s still a progressive value) don’t exclude women from ordination or leadership and make that known.
- Some churches emphasize “you won’t be excluded” as if they need to point out the list of things that you could be excluded for in other churches (jeans, loud children, etc)
Traditional churches, on the other hand, focus on what they DO have and what people can expect.
- Traditional churches claim to have traditional family values, which is a focus on what claims they make about family, society, and church. If you are looking for this content, you will find it at this church.
- Traditional churches claim to have traditional worship content with fall/redemption worship of confession of sins, TULIP, grace, altar call, and benediction.
- Traditional churches claim to offer a whole package of beliefs that one can subscribe to, not wishy-washy questions like those progressives.
I realize that you can frame any of the above in “we have” or “we don’t have” terms. But like health food and grocery stores, I wonder if people look for certain qualities in their church shopping or if they look for what is NOT there. Do they attend reconciling congregations because they won’t be excluded or because they likely share the bundle of values that they want.
Further, I wonder if Progressives could better frame their values in terms of what they HAVE rather than what they DON’T have. Are people more attracted to what they will find in a congregation or more attracted to what they won’t have to endure in a congregation?
Just a morning musing. Thoughts?