Does much of North American church culture set people up for failure by being individual centred? Have we created and operated in a culture of ego-feeding in much of what we call church and ministry?
I am not saying we do, I just don’t know that we don’t.
This question comes to mind on the heels of years of involvement in what I will call western evangelical church culture, followed by years of involvement in AA/12-step culture. A striking contrast to the two cultures in my experiences is that AA/12-step culture creates fewer opportunities for egos to get inflated. AA/12-step seeks less often to promote individuals. There are few titles, positions, authority and virtually no pay. They have certainly not eradicated ego-feeding, but they do keep a very real perspective that it can bring a person and organization to ruin in a hurry.
My experience with church culture on the other hand, although inadvertently, appears to be quite centred on promoting individuals and placing them in settings that leave them in danger of runaway egos.
Titles, ranks, offices, attention, fame, and money, just to name a few of the ego-feeding factors common in church culture are what I am referring to. Have we created a culture of ego-feeding for our pastors and ministers? Do we put too much focus on a small number of individuals and inadvertently idolize them? Would any of us be any less immune to runaway egos if we were given a title, attention, adoration, and were constantly the centre of attention? And in many cases, paid well as well? Who would we become if these were bestowed on us? Could we handle it? Have we not experienced many who couldn’t?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not for a moment saying AA/12-step culture is all right, and church cultures are all wrong. Far from it. I am just saying that churches could learn a lot from the cautions we seek to implement in AA/12-step.
In AA/12-step, we are constantly reminded that we remain sober a day at a time. Yet I have seldom heard in church that we should seek to grow and live in our relationship with God a day at a time. Instead, I have experienced far more emphasis placed on building and running programs and productions.
In AA/12-step we are constantly reminded of our primary purpose, “to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety”. Few opportunities exist to take AA away from this. In my church experiences, we wove in numerous directions that often overshadowed any primary purpose to seek, serve and share the message of Jesus Christ.
Why does AA/12-step take measures to avoid ego-feeding? Probably so the primary purpose does not become overshadowed thus making AA/12-step ineffective and pointless.
Could our church cultures learn something from this?