Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Casinos and Discipleship?

Written by: on April 4, 2013

Disciples and Casinos?  

In the course of consulting with various churches, some very interesting dynamics are occurring in one particular church.  The leadership has determined to make some changes to the church model which has resulted in the departure of most older believers (generationally and spiritually).  The leadership team discusses the changes privately and very little communication takes place outside the ‘board room.’  The church is on course toward a financial melt down because most of those left in the church have little ownership for the operational aspects of the ministry.  Discipleship is the purported primary ministry in the church, but little time or resources are given to that ministry.  The Sunday morning show is prime time.  A number of adherents visit the local casinos on Saturday and the church on Sunday, and they even post their experiences on Facebook!  Someone’s imagination is at work!
How and why is this kind of change taking place?  If Charles Taylor is right about a new moral order being established in Western Society, then we can ask how that moral order is impacting local faith communities and how the market economy, the social sphere, and self-governance is at work in those communities.  Unfortunately, I think Taylor’s observation characterizes the modern North American church, where “the underlying idea of society as existing for the (mutual) benefit of individuals and the defense of their rights takes on more and more importance.”  Loc 56  The decisions being made in the church of my opening paragraph are for the purpose of benefitting everyone’s self perception at the cost of real discipleship.  Again, if Taylor’s observation can be applied to the church, it seems some form of ‘equality’ is achieved at the expense of Biblical teaching.  
What was once anathema in that church is now commonly accepted.  How did this occur?  Did the ideas of the leadership infiltrate enough people so that they, the social imaginary, gave legitimacy to new practices?  I do know this.  Initially, some lifestyle practices were looked at askance, now they are largely embraced.  It is my observation that the lifestyle practices were given legitimacy primarily by strong leaders with aggressive personalities.  They are very concerned about their own individual freedom to practice their faith their way.  Since they received little push back, others joined.  It is also interesting how the ‘public sphere’ has played a key role.  Most of those leading the change are strong users of social media which seems to give them a perceived, if not real, sense of momentum.  
Reading Taylor and thinking about this church has been interesting.  The group of change agents have largely been successful to separate their everyday life from their spiritual life.  They have no problem embracing questionable practices because they see those practices as taking place in secular life.  It seems they have already embraced what Taylor describes as a “decisive stage in the development of our modern predicament, in which belief and unbelief can coexist as alternatives.” loc 1887.  
Many would say that orthodoxy holds that all time is God’s time, that there is no place or thing that is truly secular.  Taylor states, in contrast, that “Modernity is secular, not in the frequent, rather loose sense of the word, where it designates the absence of religion, but rather in the fact that religion occupies a different place, compatible with the sense that all social action takes place in profane time.”  loc 1964.  Perhaps this is what is happening in the church to which I referred.  Certain activities are religious and certain activities are secular.  
If the new moral order dynamics are at work in the church, then the question of how to unleash social imaginaries to bring about positive change is important.  In the context of personal discipleship, are we challenging one another to imagine Kingdom living so as to promote that lifestyle?  Are we having those discussions regularly in our gatherings?   

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