The People’s Church
There is a church over in the Franklin area that I hear advertisements for all the time on the local Christian radio station. It’s called “The People’s Church.”
Now I confess that I don’t know much about this church. I haven’t visited. I know that it is formerly a First Baptist Church which has revisioned itself and is moving in new directions, mainly in the Willow Creek mold. They have been very successful, growing rapidly. They have a large marketing budget and have made an impact in their community. They seem to be doing good things.
But (and there always is a “but” isn’t there), I have a problem with the name. Especially that name in that location. because Williamson County and Franklin is the Tennessee version of Cobb County in Atlanta. It is where white professionals move to escape the reality of urban life. It is highly Republican, very wealthy, and certainly exclusive. It’s the type of place that should really be a gated county, one where you have to show your ID before driving across the county line. I’m sure you know what I mean. There are areas surrounding most major cities that are similar.
Anyway, Franklin and Williamson county has become the mecca for capitalism and consumerism. And in the midst of that reality, along comes a church which sells itself as “The People’s Church.” That might sound good — a church for normal people. But unfortunately the name suggests that the church exists for the benefit of the people. And when you look at the programs, based on meeting felt needs, it seems like a place which is selling itself according to the precepts of consumerism, that is, that folks are justified in church shopping until they find a congregation that has all the services they desire — a high tech children’s program that keeps the kids segregated from the adults, small groups on any topic from golfing to yoga, a large facility that makes us feel proud to go to church there.
And here’s my concern. Does the church actually exist for the benefits of the folks there. Or does church call us to a different place, a place in a community which isn’t focused on our own needs but actually the needs of God? Isn’t the church supposed to be God’s Church, not ours? Didn’t Jesus seem to eschew the values of capitalism and consumerism and instead call us into a community focused on love of God and love of neighbor? Isn’t church supposed to be an alternative community, not reflecting of the world’s values, but of God’s values?
These are the questions I ask. The People’s Church may indeed by a fine community, led by the Spirit and filled with love for God and neighbor. I just wish they would change their name.