Over the last number of years, largely out of habit, I’ve serviced my car at my local dealership. The mechanics at the dealership always did a great job. Not once did I have a problem with the quality of their work. I must admit, however, getting my car serviced at the dealership always took some coordination with my schedule. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Even if the only thing you need is an oil change, you might be 2-3 hours without your car. Sure, the dealership shuttle takes you back to work (or home)…if it is available. When your car is ready, the shuttle comes and picks you up. Even still, you’re without a car for 2-3 hours. I’m not sure if this inconvenience bothers many people because we eventually get used to it. Besides, I remember my mom having to do the same thing with her car when I was growing up. That’s just the way the deal works…isn’t it?
The other day I drove into a Mr. Lube and immediately they were ready to service my car. They encouraged me to remain in my car. They brought me a cup of fresh coffee and a newspaper. They were friendly. They worked efficiently. Twenty minutes later and I was on my way home.
I don’t know if you’ll regard this as a strange analogy, but I wonder if, on some level, the difference between your traditional church ministry and a ministry that is highly attentive to the customs and preferences of people can be likened to the difference between servicing your car at your local dealership and servicing it at a place like Mr. Lube.
There are people, I am sure, that have never ventured beyond traditional church settings because that’s all they know. That’s all their parents knew. I also wonder if we’re inherently suspicious of something that presents itself as a more comfortable alternative……especially when it comes to the church. By way of example, most churches that I’m connected with still have wooden pews for seating (hugely uncomfortable). Call me crazy, by why should comfort and convenience within the church be regarded as a bad thing?
In my last post, I wrote about how ‘seeker-sensitive’ ministries are often accused of ‘watering down’ the message. I contended that congregations can minister sensibly to attendees without changing the message. We can add small comforts to our physical environment; we can introduce some efficient elements around the message without actually altering the message itself.
At Mr. Lube I got a real oil change. It wasn’t a partial oil change. The oil they used was in no way inferior to that used by the dealerships. However, that same oil change got flanked by a bunch of great conveniences. Some traditional inconveniences were stripped away. I left satisfied, and with my car in great shape.
Surely the church can learn a thing or two from Mr. Lube. We can deliver the timeless message of salvation even while we strip away cultural elements that are no longer relevant/helpful. We can deliver the timeless message of Christ’s supremacy, even while we’re gathered within a physical space that offers modest comfort and conveniences.
When The Well launches in September of this year, we will be seeking to offer the people of Central Etobicoke (West Toronto) an irresistible environment. Presenting a comfortable environment is part of what it means to be a good host, and we’re committed to being good hosts.
I’ll be the first to admit that comfortable chairs, familiar music styles, parking facilitation, friendly faces, fresh coffee and muffins do not posses the power to change lives for eternity. Nonetheless, if these things communicate care and concern to our neighbours, then maybe our neighbours will be more inclined to show up. And, in showing up, they’ll be positioned to hear a message that does possess the power to transform their life forever (Romans 1:16).
Related to the analogy employed above, you may find the following video (commercial) humourous.