In his post, “Producers, Consumers, and Communers,” (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/uncommongodcommongood/2014/01/producers-consumers-and-communers/) Paul Louis Metzger refers to “a noted pastor (who) has called on men to be real men by moving from being consumers to being producers.” Dr. Metzger then offers a third option, one that I believe is soundly based on the nature of human beings.
As I understand scripture, we are created to bear the image and likeness of the one God, eternally existing in three persons. We are designed to be relational, communicating with one another in authenticity and transparency. Anyone who’s tried this, however, know that it results in far more vulnerability than most of us would prefer. Still, trusting in the God who created us, many of us persevere in seeking to establish, maintain, enhance and, when necessary, restore and reconcile our relationships with one another.
From a similar perspective, Dr. Metzger labels his third option, “Communers.”
I would note, though, that the “noted pastor” noted above does, at least, offer an improvement over the approach too many others still take. Where human beings are considered as producers and consumers, there is still a sense that both categories describe persons in relation to one another. Sadly, the church has lost that simple focus at the level of local leadership, and in the corporate competition of divisive denominationalism.
In 21st Century North American Christianity, our most common leadership structures replace pastoral practitioners (e.g., the four offices serving the purposes of Ephesians 4:11-16) with entrepreneurs, chief-operating-officers, and staff-management specialists. This shift is driven (to quote another noted pastor) by similarly replacing persons (whether considered parishioners, congregants, members of Christ’s body, or some other term) with statistics.
We still speak about the importance of caring for and cooperating with God’s people, joining in unified service to Christ and others. But for those activities there is no blank to fill-in, nor box to check-off on the parent corporation’s monthly, quarterly, and annual reports. Where the church’s local leaders and denominational directors are producers or consumers or both, we don’t even turn persons into our primary product any more. People a merely a commodity that we integrate as components of our conglomerates’ machinery.
And yes, I do mean our product and our conglomerates. In a subsequent post, I will explain my complicity in having damaged my family, parishioners, congregations, and denomination. But for now, I want to stay on-topic about the need to repent and refocus our ministry priorities in order to bring health and strength, and perhaps even some unity to the body of Christ.
Dr. Metzger’s concern about “a bifurcation of humanity” (splitting us from being “one another” into two groups: producers and consumers) is well-founded. But the underlying cause, in my experience, is the constant re-infection of individuals, families, and congregations by those whom they call “pastors.” Among local congregations, aspiring program directors and public speakers, especially those with appealing personalities, have an incredible depth and breadth of management and marketing resources available to them. These methods and machinery are often effective in improving the attendance and fiscal capabilities of their religious organizations. But I don’t see much to suggest that these enterprising employees are pastors. And I’m not sure that the crowd that gathers around them can legitimately be called “a church.”
Unity in the body of Christ, and any community among persons in general, must begin with accepting the basic premise: It is persons, not products to whom, with whom, for whom, and (considering our position before God through Christ) in whom we live, serve, and love.