Magnify the Lord, our God! Bow low at his footstool! He is holy!
Psalm 99:5 CEB
Like a sleuth, I was following a trail. My starting point was the current state of new church plant. We're told not to follow a formula, and then we are given this contemporary church formula to follow. "Don't let people tell you how it's done, but this is how it's done. No use reinventing the wheel." How did we get here, where we take the easiest way to fill a church, and follow the rules to get there? When did this become evangelism?
It led me to reflect on the industrial revolution. Mass production had to become common place or it would hurt the bottom line.
Right now, I'm hand stitching a bag for my mother-in-law. When I'm done, it should be a beautiful bag she can use to hold her bible and loose papers for church. It should be durable, and last her for years. It has taken me weeks to make. I pick it up in my spare time; maybe only stitching a little before putting it back down. It hit me, handmade items can no longer be sold to the public. It would cost too much to pay a fair wage. If one couldn't streamline their process, they couldn't make money selling their goods.
Why? Everything seemed to go back to a very large clan, the Gilbreth family. Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, the parents of 12 children. Two of their children penned the book, Cheaper By the Dozen, which is nothing like the 2003 movie by the same name. Frank and Lillian created something called Motion Study. Along with Time Study, Motion Study discovered ways to cut out unneeded actions to speed up assembly lines, among other things. It was Frank Gilbreth who created the process the military uses to disassemble and reassemble a weapon, even blindfolded. What the Gilbreth's created is used in factories, businesses and even schools today.
While researching I was at first horrified to learn the parents used the same techniques in their home to keep order. Simple tasks, such as brushing teeth, or combing hair was filmed to see which child could most effectively do the chore. If one of the children could find a faster way to do something, they could be paid to present it to their father. It felt so utilitarian and cold. Then, about a third through reading Cheaper By the Dozen I changed my opinion. Frank and Lillian always saw the humanity in what they were doing. They loved their children, and wouldn't have implemented anything that would have been strictly industrial.
It led me to wonder, what would Frank Gilbreth think of how his life work is being used today? Would he marvel at the assembly lines of robots, pushing out a car a minute? Would he be horrified to see his work in sweatshops in third world countries? What would he think about how his work seems to sneak into non-assembly things like school and church?
I will never know his opinion, but I definitely know mine. When it comes to church, doing a specific action because it worked for "General Christian Church", is wrong. It's basically Copypasta church. It takes the easy way, while ignoring the people. From what I learned in my brief exploration into Motion Study, is remembering the purpose. Motion Study is specific to a particular action, for a particular company.
There was something that used to annoy me when some would discover I was a minister of an online congregation. "Doesn't [this specific group] already have an online church?" My answer was always the same. "We both have a different congregational base. I know Fig Tree's congregants would not be comfortable worshipping over there, and I doubt their congregants would be comfortable worshipping over here. We both understand our community, and we specifically reach them."
This "one size fits all" mentality has to stop. I truly believe, because of the Gilbreth's work on Motion Study, we are trained to find the easiest path to success. I think this path was never meant to be made by cutting out the humanity in the process, especially in the church. We are not trying to find the perfect music for worship, we are trying to find the best way for our community to worship God. See the difference? Choosing the right music, lighting, design, etc. is the easy way. Figuring out how we can connect to God through worship is difficult. The easy way cuts the human/Divine out of the conversation. The hard way gives us something real.