When life around our house gets hectic, we often slip into a bad habit: fast-food for our meals. Both my wife and I enjoy cooking, especially when we can try out new recipes. But when the work day gets long, that’s one of the first things tossed aside. That usually means a quick stop at a neighborhood fast-food place for a quick meal. I’m not here to debate the health issues, but generally speaking, what we consume in a hurry is not as nutritious as what we would prepare on our own at home.
Will Mancini, author of Church Unique and founder of Auxano, makes an application to many churches by using the fast food metaphor. I’m at the Exponential Conference in Orlando this week; with Auxano being the sponsor of the Intentional Leadership Track, I thought it would be a good chance to review some of the major parts of Church Unique.
With an early start this morning, the concept of vision vacuum is fresh on my mind. Let’s take a closer look at what Mancini calls “Soul Fast Food”. To set this up, consider the following Scripture from Psalms 29:18 in The Message version:
When people can’t see what God is up to, they stumble all over themselves.
Unfortunately, most churches today are living that Scripture out. There is no clear vision of what God is up to, and the result is a vision vacuum. And when a vacuum exists, something is going to try to move in to fill it.
The Heart of the Matter – what really happens in the soul of a congregant when left in a church’s vision vacuum over time?
- What is left to excite the heart of your church attenders?
- What then fuels the dreams of your people?
- What nourishes the identity of those who call your church home?
The simple answer is something does, even when vision is absent. People need vision and they need hope. If visionary leaders are not providing and nourishing it, where do people find meaning?
Soul Fast Food – According to Mancini, there are four substitutes for a well-balanced diet of vision. They fuel your most faithful people; it is how they get hope for a better future. Unfortunately, they are also four sources of a malnourished membership identity. Each of these junk food categories are not bad in and of itself. They all malnourish because they are used inappropriately as a substitute for a well-balanced vision. Here’s the first:
French Fried “Places”
The places of our encounters with God matter – but the space itself has addictive features, just like your favorite fries. There are spots where we encounter God; they are important. But in the absence of a vision that transcends our favorite nooks and crannies, the space itself becomes the vision supplement. THe primary use of the term “church” to connote place compounds the issue. The meaning of place reflects God’s design, starting with the Garden and ending with the New Jerusalem.
But space is essential, not central in the economy of vision.
Do not underestimate the gravitational pull of the physical place on both members and leaders. Is it possible that the building itself becomes a cheap substitute for real vision? If you put too much focus on the physical place, people can be robbed of the more substantial articulation of the church’s future. The result? Anorexic vision. What about your church?
Is it time to pass the salt – or pass over french fried places all together?