The church in the United States has a major “image” problem. Now I don’t mean the kind of problem that might be solved by hiring a marketing firm or image consultant. I am speaking of the kind of image, or metaphor, that comes to mind when people think of the church.
What are the images that come to mind when you think of church? What images do people envision when they think of the nature or essence of the church? What images do you hear people use to describe and define the church in America? Complete the phrase: “Church as . . .”
I recently asked that question on my Facebook page and I received a variety of thought provoking responses:
Church as hospital
Church as civic group
Church as social club
Church as fortress
Church as election headquarters
Church as moral compass
Church as singles’ pickup joint
Church as daycare
Michael Goheen, in his book A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story, offers a few images of his own that illustrate how we often think of the church from a consumerist perspective.
Church as shopping mall
Church as food court
Church as motivational seminar
Church as classroom
Church as theater
The point of this discussion is that we must offer alternative images and stories to capture the missional imagination of people. Otherwise, we continue to allow non-biblical, consumerist ideas to rule the day. How can we better present a picture of the church as the sent, missionary people of God? What alternative images can we offer to create a more accurate vision of the essence of the church?
One possible alternative comes from Reggie McNeal when likens the Church to an airport terminal, which is meant to connect travelers to their destination, but it is not the destination. Using another flight analogy, McNeal has compared the Church’s mission to an aircraft carrier. It’s not how many planes are stacked up on the flight deck, he said; it’s the kind of missions that are being flown.
What other images might we use today?