What stuck with me after class today was the combination of several elements of modern society, namely commodification and spectatorship, with homogenization a loosely related correlate. The impact upon the church has been one of great magnitude, and I wrote 'damn it, damn it, damn it!' in my notes on commodification.
Here's what's been brewing since then. People in modern societies have been largely socialized to become spectators. One of the biggest challenges in the conversion of traditional church structures to kingdom communities is that of reprogramming this instinctual reaction to 'count on the professionals' and become passive receptors.
I see two primary types of spectators in the church. While the two types may look very similar during a large worship gathering, the differences primarily become visible in the aftermath, in their interactions with other persons.
Some people are socialized to believe that they have the right to demand certain things from the 'professionals,' and tend to be come hypercritical consumers of religious goods and services. Entitlement is the term I'd use. In an economy of grace, there's no room for entitlement, and I'm prone to flipping these guys the bird and telling them to go to hell.
However, treating everyone who appears to be a spectator in this fashion is a terrible mistake (although it may be one that only I am ‘super’ prone to); while it's the natural assumption when looking at a culture defined by its center, it's not the whole story.
The second type of spectator is much different, with different roots beneath their spectatorship. These people have come to believe that they have nothing worth contributing. Their offerings are at best subpar, and at worst unwelcome, and they tend to perceive themselves in this light. Shame and oppression are the words that come to mind. Tell these people to go to hell? That would crush their spirits even more. What is needed is a restoration of dignity that being made in the image of God affords, and this involves encouragement and affirmation of their voices.
My hunch is that you find out where someone is on the spectrum when you get to know them and spend hours around them. Listen to their language, to their voice, and you may have to draw it out first (an indicator in itself). What do we hear? Arrogance or worthlessness?
The challenge for discernment comes when both sides of spectatorship are found in the same person, and this isn’t as far fetched as it might seem. Educated Americans who are social outcasts, or groups that have been deemed second-class, such as blacks, latinos, and women, very well fit both definitions, and both forms of spectatorship could well show up in the same person within a short timeframe.
Notes to self: PRAY.
wisdom, discernment, gentleness, patience, and clarity of perception considering a person.
Christlikeness in this manner, and look at Jesus' interactions with folks.
Friend of sinners, yet despised by the self-righteous.
Remarkable tenderness with some, fearless in confrontation with others.
Follow me...and the standards of kingdom goodness.
This is daunting stuff.
Cannot be done alone...need for divine involvement, as well as compass of the spirit-guided community of believers.