Will we ever be free of Shmoos?

Dan Dick would really be a pretty interesting blogger if he got over his obsession with pleasing people and saying what they want to hear.

(That, by the way, was a joke.)

In his latest post, Shmoo Church, he writes that 85% of the membership of most congregations have no interest in actually being Christians.

85% of The United Methodist Church membership is passive, complacent, perfectly happy to sit in a pew (occasionally), be served (regularly) and otherwise be left alone (perpetually).  The small head exists to serve the large bottom — the 15% at the top doing everything in its collective power to keep the 85% at the bottom happy, satisfied, and content.  The energy in the church today moves from the most invested to the least invested.  Is it any wonder, then, that new people seeking a life-transforming relationship with a world-transforming deity are less than thrilled with what they find?

Unless you did not catch the bite in that, here is his conclusion:

So, what’s the solution?  A good first step is to admit we’re Shmoos and not tolerate it anymore.  The complacent 85% can’t call the shots anymore.  What do the 15% need?  What will take the most engaged, most gifted, most passionate, most ready to the next level?  What can we do to equip, enable, and empower the head to lead the tail?  What can we do to shift the flow of energy and spirit from the bottom to the top?  Prayer comes to mind, as does actually taking the gospel seriously for a change.  A commitment to excellence and world-class performance wouldn’t hurt.  Some standards, demands and accountability — actually expecting people to ACT like Jesus the Christ — might be fun.  Taking our faith seriously as call and vocation for the priesthood of all believers instead of hobby and leisure activity when convenient could be interesting as well.

Dan has written this before and gotten a hail of “Amens!” in the comment section. Actually, I recall Dan in the past writing that 90% of Christians fall into the Shmoo category, not 85%. Maybe we are getting better.

It does appear that this is not a new problem. John Wesley’s ministry was more or less motivated by the same observations. Paul’s letters were often aimed at the same targets. The letters to the seven churches of Revelation sound a lot like Dan’s Shmoo churches.

Is there a way around this?

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14 thoughts on “Will we ever be free of Shmoos?

  1. I do not want to sound over simplistic, but often the beauty of truth lies within the simplicity of truth. It is just a little too easy, in my observance, to recognize the lukewarm state of the majority of congregations throughout the various churches, and not to speak out just as truthfully the condition of the majority of church leaders. Lost by so many is the plain Gospel message. In my observance, the trap-pings of this world have captured the church. God’s righteousness is being replaced by political correctness. Spiritual quickening is being replaced by emotional gratification. Signs and wonders are being replaced by high tech entertainment.

    The way around this begins behind the pulpit. Prayer and fasting are not an option….it is an expectation. I speak to all church leaders from the seat occupied by one in your church ….its time to burn away the chaff…..and lead your people back to the First Love. Because…..the simplicity of the truth is….those 85% have likely never known the Love of our Lord Jesus Christ. And without having known His love, with what love can they possibly love our God Almighty. Narrow is the Way…..and few will enter…..give your life to increase the few.

    Thanks so much for lending me your ear.

    Peace be with you my brother.

  2. Duane, I acknowledge your observation, but I would say that it would behoove all of us who claim to follow Christ to be in prayer, not just the pastors. We are all part of the body, not just those set aside for leadership.

    1. I agree entirely that the whole body does need to be in prayer and fasting. And it is my assumption that the 15% “at the top” are put into that category because they are praying and fasting. I believe, however, that it would be accurate to say that 85% of church pastors do not pray and fast for the wisdom to lead according to God’s purpose and will. Perhaps the problem is rooted in the truth that a large number of those claiming to be “set aside for leadership” were not truly set aside. Would that not that be the very reason why we are warned in Scriptures to beware of the false teachers, false prophets, and wolves in sheep clothing.

      My response and thoughts are basically to reduce the tunnel vision of the author of “Shmoo Church” and all that would so quickly give an “amen” to his words. The problem is that so many in the body neither pray or fast with any consistency, and even more rarely do they pray for the lost, especially the lost within their own congregations. Couple that truth with the truth that even fewer with even less frequency examine their own heart before God.

      This of course goes for the entire body….but especially those who have been “set aside” for leadership. The question posed was “is there a way around this”. There is no way around it. But, there is a way through it. And that way demands strength, truthfulness, vision, accountability, and courage by the Pastors of our churches.

      Perhaps if the doctrine of praying for our leaders was a fundamental truth of our church doctrines the percentages stated in the original post would be much different.

      As it is……only “15%” of those who claim to follow Christ even have the potential of being “behooved”

      Thanks for your insight Wayne

      Duane

  3. John, you are right in saying this is not a new problem. The Methodist Episcopal Church began drifting in this direction about 160 years ago and our decline as a fraction of the church going population began then. Somehow our church histories typically skip much of what happened between Asbury and 1968. If you want to learn how we got into this situation the book “The Churching of America, 1776-2005: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy” (http://www.amazon.com/The-Churching-America-1776-2005-Religious/dp/0813535530/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1378589453&sr=8-1&keywords=the+churching+of+america) describes the early Methodist miracle, our subsequent decline, and the reasons for it. You and Messrs. Dick, Warren, and Cook, and others are right. However, the United Methodist Church appears too set in its ways to change. It is likely that future Christians looking for a Wesleyan Church will be Nazarene.

  4. Pessimistic?
    “85% of The United Methodist Church membership is passive, complacent, perfectly.”

    When is the last time an elder or pastor in your church spent a little time finding out who is who and who has what skills?
    When is the last time you encouraged one of the “happy to be left alone” types to contribute and explained to them personally, one on one, what the needs of the church are?
    Do you expect a visitor to your church will be encouraged to return by announcing their presence on their first visit, handing them a gift and sending them on their way with no follow up? Do you assume all visitors to your church know how to do church?

    Some people have time and that is what they contribute.
    Some have cash and that is what they contribute.
    Some like to cook and that is what they contribute.
    Some like to rule and rule they do. They like power.
    Some like to serve person to person.

    To say the Christian Church is content to stay the same may be true in the UMC but not all churches are so willing to be complacent as is evidenced by the many growing independent churches. As is evidenced by new thriving break away churches from Presbyterian to Lutherans who did not follow the crowd or popular opinion and are forming new denominations on old principles and doctrine.
    I understand even the UMC has a church that is striving for independence.
    St. Andrew UMC Frisco was recently in the news.

    1. d,
      I get what you are saying in part. I think the percentages given by the author of the UMC article is likely to be very accurate among all denominations. What is missed here is that there are NO denominations within the body of Christ. Galatians 3:28 reveals to us that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus”. Which also reveals there is neither Methodist nor Catholic…etc. ….etc.

      It is not pessimistic to say that 85% of those claiming to be Christians are not actually a part of the body of Christ. I think it is a sobering truth that manifests the Truth of Scripture which plainly says ” many will seek…..but few will enter”.

      I pray that “new denominations” are not being formed because ALL denominations are formed by man. I pray that the ones following after Christ see that they are not leaving a denomination because they are called to form a “new one” , but rather, that they see that God is separating the wheat from the chaff. There are no “old principles and doctrine” ……there has only been one all along. The creation of the Bride has already taken place.

      My prayer is this: I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Glorious Father, may give to you [us] the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you [we] may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your [our] heart may be enlightened in order that you [we] may know the Hope to which He has called you [us], the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.
      Ephesians 1: 17-19

      There simply is not room for territorial preservationism in any form anywhere within the body of Christ. Believe the Word of God…..Jesus has accomplished everything to ensure that His beloved Bride will indeed be protected and preserved as pure and spotless and safe from any and all assaults from the enemy. This all happened at the cross.

      It goes without saying…..the Bride knows her Lover and the Lover knows His Bride.

      peace brother

      1. D.W.,

        “What is missed here is that there are NO denominations within the body of Christ“

        I remember Paul‘s words in 1 Corinthians 1:12 and the reality is there are denominations in the Body of Christ just as there where different locations for the Early Churches and some divisions on how thing s where suppose to be done back then.
        To say there is only one denomination that is the only true church and the only denomination that shelters the only true believers in Christ is wrong IMHO.
        True followers of Christ, present and yet to be, are found in every denomination.

         “I think it is a sobering truth that manifests the Truth of Scripture which plainly says ” many will seek…..but few will enter”.
        That is a prophetic statementt Christ makes.
        The question is why will that be so?

        What I was responding to was the idea implied in the piece that most church attendees are lethargic. I don’t believe that. I have seen some of those quiet, sitting in the pew, persons come to life when someone opens the right door of opportunity. I have seen bible studies grow when the rumor gets out “Hey, Did you here what they are talking about….” and the curious come to see. I have attended meetings on the hot topic issues and seen the silent majority take a stand. Internally they may not be as lethargic as they appear.

        It takes some effort to get up and attend service. It takes a little sacrifice to give a little cash, time and energy but they keep coming so don’t be too hard on those sitting in the pews. Some people are coming to understand the vital role the Christian Church plays.
        They watch and read the latest headlines.
        I also remember John 5:16 & Amos 3:2.

        1. I agree that there are members from many denominations that are of the body of Christ. I agree even more that there is not any single denomination that contains the body. I was trying communicate that very same thing, basically that the body is not contained within a man made denomination.

          Yes….the early churches were labeled by location, but not denomination. But there was a single doctrine that formed the foundation of those churches. I understand that there were different cultural characteristics, struggles, wealth, and social confrontations between the locations, but the teaching that birthed these churches was one.

          “I have seen some of those quiet, sitting in the pew, persons come to life when someone opens the right door of opportunity.”

          I have seen “some” as well. My intent is not to be too hard on those sitting in the pews. I too sit with them. But, in the same way we examine ourselves in order to confess the true condition of our heart should we not as a church also be just as truthful when examining the true condition of the church today? Are churches at times more concerned with keeping their finances in the black and their membership count high with the tragic cost of diluting the Gospel message down to the point that one can no longer receive the power of the Truth that comes with it?

          All of my comments are from the posture of desiring growth and diligently seeking what is really going on today in the church. My personal experience has gone from a parched Protestant Reformed body as a child to the charismatic Assembly of God church in my thirties and early forties.

          I’ve sat in a church and lived through a hideous implosion and devision. I’ve seen the focus go from seeking Christ to seeking…..and subsequently manufacturing, “moves of the Holy Spirit”. I’ve heard so many “thus saith the Lord” to have it only turn out that God never “saideth” anything.

          My heart weeps……I’m simply looking for the church. Not a perfect church…..especially since if one existed they surely would not want me there because the moment I entered it would no longer be perfect.

          Between you and me…….I’m fighting at times just to press forward…..finding my only strength from hope and faith. The world is suppose to be chaotic in the last days….but it seems to me the church is just as chaotic and without direction as the world. I feel like I’m standing in the midst of the great apostasy at a time when I do not have a church to hold on to.

          I recently moved to Europe and finding believers is more than a little challenging.

          I apologize…….its been a long day.

          peace brother

        2. D.W.

          Nicely said.
          I went to a presentation a few years ago and listened o Dr. Ben Carson give a speech meant to inspire. He pointed out the number one hold back of success is fear.
          I agree with that. I have been afraid a few times in the past also.
          I take comfort in God’s words,” I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

          God’s Peace

  5. But as Richard Rorty (not a Methodist ideologue) says, we live in a time of “epistemological nihilism,” there is no magisterial authority to direct all the traffic, correct all the mistakes, and establish epistemic stability and PIETY. All we have is community-based discourse “all the way down”…a hideous cackling and a lot of comic malice throughout the church.

  6. What strikes me as interesting is that if we do live in a time of epistemological nihilism what is the force that is causing it’s existence and increase? It cannot possibly be man since no man is truly an epistemological nihilist. I am asking because I am wondering…..could this force, or power we call epistemological nihilism simply be the anti-christ? Could this be what was introduced to man all the way back in the Garden of Eden through the “serpent”? Would it not be the greatest force, the most powerful assault against faith? These are my honest questions that I do not have an answer for and would really appreciate your thoughts.

    Thanks Gary

    1. Giving more thought to Richard Rorty’s take on the time we live in…….would it be a more accurate statement to say that we live in a time of extreme self-justification? Would not self-justification even support the stance of the epistemological nihilist if one did exist?

    2. “Though I write for him the multitude of my instructions, they are regarded as a strange thing.” (Hosea 8:12)

      Though the Bible has many things to say to us, we are inured to its message and hear it as strange. Any attempt at serious conversation in a blog invites a howling mob. That’s our postmodern condition. There is no QUIET SPACE in which to attempt to renew or reform or to “rethink” church. The rumors I hear of pockets of evangelical revival in high academic places are hushed up for fear of spoiling the course…The demons are listening. Be sober.

  7. Thank you for all the interesting conversation. My schedule often makes it hard during the school year to chime in on comments in a deep way, but I have benefited from reading what you have written.

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