Church Unplugged or Pimp My Church (Dave Male)

Tuesday, 26 October, 2010

Dave MaleDavid Male tries pimping his church - but settles for unplugging it.

Pimp My Church was my first choice for the title of my book Church Unplugged, but music TV channel MTV were not happy with me using it. (I did also wonder how I would explain that particular title to my mother and mother-in-law!)

For those unaware of the MTV programme, Pimp My Ride takes a conventional car and gives it a total makeover plus! There are very few limits, so your boring family car could end up with a water fountain and a DJ's sound system. The programme makers say, 'We turn lemons into lemonade so that you can drive down the street with your head held high.'

Part of the attraction of the title for me was the tension between totally transforming something on the outside to every conceivable extreme, but in terms of its engine, transmission, etc, it stays a conventional car. Everything changes and yet somehow nothing really changes.

My worry sometimes with all that is happening under the banner of fresh expressions of church/church planting is the danger that it can be simultaneously spectacular and superficial. I am by nature an optimist, but I worry we are too easily entranced by what seems to be spectacular. Often people tell me about some amazing church plant that now has 300 people within a year, but then when you start to ask some hard questions of how many of those are truly unchurched people who are now becoming disciples of Jesus the answers look far less convincing. The growth, I am afraid, is often the success of the marketplace, attracting Christians from other churches and the de-churched back.

My worry with all that is happening under the banner of fresh expressions of church/church planting is the danger that it can be simultaneously spectacular and superficial

My plea is: let's not just pimp the church but let's consider the greater work of what it might mean for us to do the harder labour of working with the engine, the gear box, the brakes and the transmission! The danger is we are too easily wowed by the shining exterior and clever gadgets!

Maybe the alternative book title was, in the end, more challenging: to do the hard work of taking what we are doing in this thing we call 'church' and to attempt to strip it back to first principles before proceeding to rebuild. That's what happened with the writing of my book as I simply offer ten principles that need to be considered in engineering something new. The principles are nothing new but simply come out of seven years of experience of working with some amazing people to create a church that connected with unchurched people in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

One of the reasons I wrote the book is because ours is a very ordinary story in a very ordinary town. It may not seem  spectacular, but it's not superficial and I hope will play a small part in helping the church not just to work on the chassis but get under the bonnet.

About the author: 

Dave Male is Director of the Centre for Pioneer Learning in Cambridge and trains pioneers at Ridley Hall and Westcott House and for Ely Diocese. Church Unplugged (Authentic Books, 2008, 978-1850787921) is available from bookshops and online.


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