A continuation of Monday’s post.
Bruce’s recommendations for churches were spot-on. He had too many ideas for me to list them all here but this is what I would have to add if the idea of non-theist consultants was to ever catch on:
- Ditch homogenous small groups. Or at least make them 100% optional. It’s kind of weird to me as an outsider that people would ever be separated into groups based on age, gender, or marital/family status.
- Do nice things for your neighbourhood without bringing up god. Confession: I’m always a little suspicious of church groups who come out into the community. Too often this ends with a tablespoon of proselytization just as you begin to settle into the event. When this doesn’t happen, when the festivities end without anyone pushing the god issue they earn a little bit of trust. Build up enough of it and I’ll happily talk to general-you about anything.
- Don’t make us a pet project. By that I mean don’t treat the people who do not attend your church like something you need to fix. We can tell the difference between someone who wants to spend time with us because they enjoy our company and someone who wants to evangelize us. I can’t speak for every non-theist but I avoid anyone who gives off even a whiff of the latter.
- Date pop culture but don’t marry it. It’s good to know about current recording artists, television shows, books and other media. Some of it is actually quite entertaining. Please don’t scrape up similarities between your religious beliefs and what I’m reading/watching/listening to, though. I’d much rather hear about that great new album or book you just discovered, secular or otherwise. There’s always room in my mind for new ideas if they’re well thought out and crisply written.
- Read your worship songs. Seriously, sit down and read the lyrics. Do they match your church’s theology? Are they (more or less) grammatical? Have they at any time invited your deity to come and enter your sacred place? I once heard a worship song whose lyrics included that phrase. Even as a (at the time) nominal Christian who had grown up with the concept of the church being the bride of Christ I was unnerved by that imagery. Someone who doesn’t have any exposure to Christian theology may very well be even more weirded out than a former preacher’s kid.