NOTE: In light of some recent questions and concerns, I feel the need to stress that this post reflects my own personal views and opinions, and does not in any way reflect those of my church or its staff.
Though he probably would never admit it publicly, a friend of mine and I came up with the concept of “Masturbation Church” a few months ago, as a great title for a book that will probably never be written. In the age of the Purpose Driven Church, and the Seeker-Sensitive Church, and the Attractional Church…why not include the shady underside (and possible cause) of all these church “growth” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) books?
Then, a few weeks ago, at the Presbyterian National Evangelism Conference in Nashville, I brought the idea up in a workshop I was leading — not quite knowing whether people would laugh or throw things at me. Surprisingly, when I explained the concept, it really resonated with the audience (who were mostly pastors and church workers).
So. What is “Masturbation Church?” In a nutshell, three things:
- Church where our main goal is to “pleasure ourselves.” Or, to put it in terms I hear all too often, church where we come to “have our needs met” or because of what the pastor, or a program, or the worship, “can do for me.” Me, me, me. Spiritual Masturbation.
- Church that gives no pleasure to others. Similar to #1, but with a distinction: In sex, the goal is not just to please ourselves, but also to please our partner, a loving act of giving and generosity. Likewise, the church exists primarily to be a generous blessing to those “outside” the church, like the poor, the sick, and the marginalized. You can’t do that locked up alone in the bathroom…or the church building.
- Church that does not reproduce. Just as evolution requires humans to reproduce in order to survive as a species, so the church must reproduce itself in order to carry God’s message of love and hope into the future. But too often, we’re just “spilling our seed on the ground” (i.e. wasting our resources) oblivious to the fact that Sunday mornings are getting more, well…lonely.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that masturbation is “wrong” or “evil” — for people or for churches. Just that it has consequences — especially if that’s “all” we ever do, to the exclusion of our partners, and, in the case of the church, to the exclusion of a hurting world.
Unfortunately, while this masturbatory metaphor is great for a blog post, I’m not sure if it’s, umm, “big enough” to, err, “fill” (oh, let the dirty puns roll) an entire book. And like everything else under the sun, it’s probably not entirely original, either. Nevertheless, If you’re brave enough, share your thoughts on this one! That is, don’t keep them (ahem, ahem) “to yourself.”