In his article British Christianity isnt dying. Its Sleeping, Evangelism can awaken it, Tim Stanley writes:
Put it this way. Imagine, say, that the Anglican Church was like Tesco. If Tesco stopped advertising, people would stop shopping there. If Tesco constantly banged on about how its own products are old fashioned and in need of updating, people would stop shopping there. If Tesco said that it would be nice if you’d visit once in a while but entirely understood why you don’t, people would stop shopping there. Christians have become their own worst enemy – killing their faith with silence.
You can read the full article Here, But Tim was responding to the article in the Guardian last week which asserted that church going, or belief in God is now lower than non belief in God. Tims article is a written version of essentially what he discussed on the BBC News channel in the ‘Papers section’ as the response. There is a serious point to be made about how the church advertises itself, and whether it should do at all, instead focus on the kingdom and world transformation that the church should be active in the process of, rather than nominal belief or church attendance per se.
However its bank Holiday Monday, and instead I wondered what would happen if the church really was like Tescos?
If the church adopted the tescos style approach, rather than the coffee shop style that in many places it is going for, then what might this look like, in the tescos model.
Shall we take a walk along to our local Tescos Church…..
As you enter the church you’ll receive the attack on your senses from the fruit of the Spirit aisle, a space of play of joy and boundlessness – where there is no law.
Moving around the church there’ll be the chilled section, Christians only fed on milk, a few bland packages of cheesus (this joke might be found later too, likely to be cathedral cheddar). A variety of ready meals, all ready for you to take home, microwave and share with your small groups. Less we say about the sour cream in this section the better.
Then there the Condiments section, the salt, the oil and the herbs. All there to make slight adaptations to your ready meals, though theres not as in use as they used to be, your ready meals dont needs them. They’re already included.
From the Condiments you get to the Deli -ght in the Lord-catessen counter. The speciality Chesses, Theres Feminist Cheese, Liberation cheese, deep cheese, Theres theology cheese, reformed cheese. These are expensive, so at most you can only have one at any time. To give your bland cheese a bit of a kick.
leaving the condiments section you get to the Butchers section, an array of meats sacrifices for you, first born cattle, young heifer, and slightly unusually lamb lying next to lion meat.
In the fish section, the actual fish is less appetising than the weekly changed banners that adorn the counter, these have included:
‘Go trout and multiply’, ‘Great is our Cod’ , Our Cod is so big’, ‘ Sing a new Tuna unto the Lord’ , ‘Find your perfect plaice with cheesus here’ Our tescos has received plaudits in the ‘advertising our fish section banners of the year’ receiving the silver award in 2014.
Of course there’s an abundance of Breads, Bread of abundant long life, Bread of the wheat (not the chaff), Bread of Heaven (for the welsh).
In the frozen section theres the all the products that have lasted forever in a frozen state. Some of them are built with strong material and old stones, the cathedrals of your tescos experience. Theres a few newly shipped over products in here too, like pizza-driven church, a boxed frozen bread product with a lots of everything else on top, neatly to be sliced and eaten by hand, you can choose the flavour – but the taste remains pretty much the same.
Also in the frozen sections is an empty space for the unspoken myths, frozen in time, you can open the door of this section, but it only leads to disillusionment to what you’ve got in your trolley. The most popular ones are ‘this tescos used to be full in the 1960’s’ ‘this tescos shop is never as exciting as the summer tescos shop when all the UK shoppers gather together’ ‘Keeping shopping simple will make shopping more popular’ or ‘because of the deconstruction of food by philosophy ‘i think therefore i spam’ then shopping will soon follow suit’ Dont ever open the door to this freezer section on a bad weeks shopping, only if you have an argument ready.
During your trip to tescos church there’s also announcements over the tannoy ; “Dont believe people when they say they can shop elsewhere, this is the only way to shop”, and for help for the non shoppers: ‘”to help people shop therell be 5 week courses for the non shoppers” , and “if you know of a small shop struggling not far away, then we at tescos church would like to
help, , make those shoppers aware of the new and exciting range that Tescos church has to offer instead, go an find those struggling shoppers and bring them to big tescos church”. “Next month we’ll have free mega shopping, on a monthly occasion, as well as shopping weekly, come back for a special big shopping night to buy some more, especially for the non shoppers, the tills will all be set to free, and people can buy all the best items on offer”
As you pay for your products in the trolley, you have two options , the Graham Kendrick (Hallelujah, ‘the price is paid’) option and the second the food for works option.
People should opt for the first, but most go for the second. Opt for the first and tescos church might become glorified in all what you do, and you’re free to eat, work and play and you give your food away telling people you’re love for Tescos. in fact you even get given a gift to use.
The second option causes guilt, burdens and fear, never quite knowing how much works is required to pay back the free shopping.
Both payments require sanctification, challenge and discipleship, involving witnessing to other non shoppers, attracting them with the freedom of the tescos food, whilst hoping that they too chose the second payment option to be burdened by the never ending repayment option. The second option means that you feel you have to come back, the first is that you want to.
Church of the Tescos also has a community board you can put on glamorous events to promote the freedom of the food, but charging people to enter to make the food more appealing. Theres a scheme for the Tescos church volunteers to spend 0.005% of their time involved in non Tescos related activity such as helping plant trees, or litter pick the river, theres an associated press pack to go along with this, so everyone can know just how community sacrificial the church of tescos is.
So, church can be like Tescos, and maybe one of the dangers of the UK church, especially if it has tescos, or even some of the mega churches of the US as a guide then it might assume bigger space, bigger gathering, bigger advertising, all encompassing shopping under one roof is the dream. However, if Tescos trajectory from small stores, to mega stores out of town, to local stores, to home delivery model is followed, then the church that acts in the home, the local small group and community will soon replace the out of town warehouse gathering church. To be authentic Church needs to be nothing like tescos, people are suspicious of authenticity itself, if we’re becoming a nation that is realising that supermarkets are having a negative effect on not only global market, but also farmers in the UK, then modelling church on tescos should be an alarm. not a wake up call.
If people are paying people to shop and deliver, then this is where church is heading. Convenience and local is shaping shopping, local church may have lost out to mega church in some places, but local church provides something more convenient in a local community, and that it local community itself, thats where discipleship in the everyday and where church should be active. Church should be the Co-op (without the Banking fraud) – rather than Tescos.
Church as Tescos- every little helps?
Maybe the UK needs both Tescos churches and Co-op churches and both need to learn from each other, not compete.