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The Rise of Smorgasbord Christianity

As a pastor, I try to balance what we do as a church to be “attractional” and “missional.” What are we doing to see people drawn to our worship services and ultimately to Christ? And what are we doing to equip and launch people into the mission of Jesus?

Some churches swing the pendulum to one extreme or the other, but shouldn’t we be doing both? And shouldn’t we do them well? We should worship with excellence in a way that connects with the unchurched, and we should disciple people with excellence so they are on mission with Jesus.

What we don’t want and what we should be leery of is to be a “Consumer Church,” as described like the following:

 *Church is more about what I get out of it than what I put into it.

*Church is about what I like not what I do.

*Church shopping (and hopping) becomes the norm.

*Church is like sitting in the stands critiquing the game rather than being on the field in the game.

*Church is about being fed rather than learning how to feed myself.

*Church is about preference more than mission.

*Church is about my needs rather than the world’s needs.

*Church is a place to receive services, not a family where I belong.

These descriptions reflect the rise of what I call “Smorgasbord Christianity.” Here’s how this affects a typical “church-going” family: “I like the way the preacher at First Church preaches, so I go there every other Sunday, but I like the music in Second Church, so I go there on the off Sundays. My kids like the youth program at Third Church, so I drop them off there, while my wife likes the teaching in a women’s Bible study of Fourth Church, so she goes over there.”

And all the while, the children never see “church” as a place to belong . . . as a family . . . on mission with others . . . for Jesus Christ.

How does the New Testament describe a church? Not a place centered on programs, preferences or personalities. The church is a “household of God” (Ephesians 3:19); a “holy temple” (Ephesians 3:21—not a building, but the people are the temple); a “dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:22); the “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27); and a “family” (1 Peter 2:17).

I’m convinced that the more we make Christianity something we consume, like a smorgasbord, the less we connect in deep, meaningful relationships as a spiritual family. Wherever you “attend” church, make it a place where you—and your family—get rooted in relationships, established in the faith, and equipped to serve. Turn church hopping into church helping. Make your church the kind of church you WANT to be part of instead of looking for the next church flavor of the month. And I guarantee you will find a deeper joy as you walk with others on this journey of faith.

The Last Word with Blake Park

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Hey, Blake. Great to speak with you! What’s your role and what ministry area do you work in at E91?

I am the E91 Students Pastor and I work with both the middle school and high school students. 

What’s your typical day-to-day look like?

A lot of what I do is attempt to help small group leaders and volunteers, develop and adjust the teaching calendar, coordinate in events with small group leaders, and connecting with new small group leaders. Typically on Sundays, I am focused on pushing the program along and engaging with our students.

Why have you been called into this ministry?

I am in Student Ministry because of a few specific instances in my life. Growing up I always had connections with my elementary pastor, middle school pastor, and high school pastor. As weird as it sounds, I had people coming up to me in 4th grade and saying, “God’s going to do great things in you.” Next, I was at a church camp my freshman year of high school and I was attending one of the teaching sessions. At the end of the session, they had a call for people who wanted to go into full-time ministry and that was very interesting to me, so I went up and prayed with them.

My high school pastor also took me in and saw leadership potential in me. He gave me opportunities to lead in our youth group, whether it was recruiting fellow students to sign-up for mission’s trips or packing the van for the mission’s trips. There were a lot of great teaching moments with him. All this to say, these little moments pushed me and developed a desire to serve in Student's Ministry.

The best thing about your ministry?

I love it when a student accepts responsibility for their faith. Instead of just going to church because of their parents or friends, they attend because they have a desire to do so. This shows me that this student has the potential to stick with their faith for the long run.

Any suggestions for a new family?

I like to ask students to come for 4-weeks in a row. I encourage them to try it out and expect to connect with others If they don't like it, at least they gave it an honest effort. To the parents, I would say to make us a priority. We live in an age where we all have 9,000 activities going on. We realized with our students is that we get 30-40 opportunities to connect with a student so we can’t connect with them if they aren’t there.

What going on in E91 Students currently?

We have a lot of great summer camps coming up CIY Move for high schoolers, CIY Mix for our middle school students and Camp Allendale. To any parent that is interested in getting to know me, let me know! Let’s grab coffee; let’s chat because I would love to demonstrate what E91 Students are all about. You can email me at . Reach out and let's talk!

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