Do you smoke what you sell?


Call me old fashioned, but when I hear, read, meet someone giving advice on how church should change, my first thought/question is to want to know what church community they are part of, where they live. 'How does this play out in your church community?' I'll ask, as kindly and playfully as I can.

You see, I have grown more than tired of, the de-churched expert, who tells us what is wrong with church, travels to churches to speak, gives advice on what churches should do, whilst having no church community that they are embedded in.

I wonder if the nature of their ongoing protest and desire to unmask what they see as wrong with church can become self-justifying, and they see nothing ironic in the fact that they are consumed with their protest and have effected very little real, concrete change.

Despite their best intentioned aspirations they can come to resemble ‘snake oil’ salesmen, selling ecclesiological fictions, that pray on the fears of Christians, selling idealised theories about church, armed with pathological descriptions of what is wrong with church and having no embodied and concrete missional and church life themselves.

The missional leader in this construction seems to be almost a form of vampirism in their consumption of the church as mission. Away from book sales, visits to churches and conferences, they may seem to embody the ultimate expression of solipsistic ecclesiologists, unable or unwilling to ‘smoke what they sell’.

Maybe a less malignant metaphor is that of the ‘ecclesiological tourist’. Whilst tourist can end up never really enters into a location, always picking the best experiences, through consumption of a location, the de-churched expert does something similar.

Sampling the locations they visit, with no embedded community of origin to bring or return to themselves, offering guidebook extracts of the best experiences of church they have visited and consumed.