The Performance/Entertainment/
Codependent Church

The Pursuit of Personal Significance: A Superficial Goal for Church Growth Strategies

Those who have researched to learn strategies for church growth have concluded that the unchurched will consider programs that meet their human needs – for example, for food, friendships, and function (performance). This is a worthy strategy for presenting the Gospel of Christ and calling the lost to receive him.

But the same strategy works when the goal is superficial – for example, to gather a crowd for the purpose of putting them to work in order to gather a larger crowd. Workers and leaders who are in pursuit of superficial goals (perhaps personal significance) more than the salvation of souls will employ this church growth strategy and thrive for a time – during which much good may be accomplished, although some of it will be “wood, hay, and straw” (Paul’s description of works which have no redemptive value).

That’s the worst of it. It means that, while man’s secondary needs are provided, his most essential need (to experience Christ for healing) is largely, if not entirely, left unattended - with the result that, in time, the church suffers brokenness and burnout, also disillusionment and disappointment, so that they are not only unproductive in their work, but also counterproductive (do more injury to the redemptive cause of Christ than good).

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10K04

The Codependent Church Caper

I grieve because of the failure of parents and husbands to live out their roles to support the health needs of those they are called to serve. I grieve also when church leadership fails in that way - when "missional" churches receive significant offerings, and then use the funds to build impressive structures (as monuments to their egos, I sometimes think) or even for noble outreach causes, including to feed the hungry and homeless in the community.

Never mind that among its own members (those who give the money and volunteer help) are hurting, broken lives and families.

It does not occur to them that God’s purpose for church leadership is to first care for its members, the same as a minister first cares for his own health and that of his family. Maybe they are too focused on being heroes in the community and winning denominational recognition. Whatever, they fail to investigate the needs that exist among their own.

Instead, the hurting are called on to give and serve their way to health. They are provided opportunities for participation in community service which makes them feel good for a time, not understanding that service which is not supported by health soon results in injury. They are supported by motivational preaching and teaching to identify what the Christian life looks like and the standards for life and service to others which God expects of them. They go to classes to study so that they can be increased in their knowledge of what the Bible says. They call it being fed. I call it being puffed up. Sheep who are being fed are being increased in health, not brokenness.  

On the flip side, I grieve for members who are not really seeking support for making wise choices that establish them in health, but seek mostly for hugs and comforting words which provide superficial pain relief. This is classic codependent behavior.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10I23

Comments on Codependent Behavior in the Church

Textbook definitions for “codependent behavior” can be wordy. Actually it means (GracePoint definition) “two people using/tolerating each other for the purpose of superficial pain relief.”

It can exist in the home, among friends, but also in the church. In the church, folks gather, not so much to find support for making choices that increase them in health, but in search of a superficial feel-good experience. Health is not in the equation.

The feel-good experience may be the exchange of hugs and kind words. Stroking, I call it. Or it may be service to others to meet pain-relief needs, such as to the homeless, hungry, etc..

Sometimes, the experience is tolerance - tolerance to the preaching, teaching, and singing. They have become boring, but it is the price paid for the little payoff of getting stroked.

Grace counseling contrasts codependent behavior with grace living which, by our definition, means enabled investment in the health needs of others in the home, church, and community without expectation of return.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10I20

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