ChurchCuterie: The Art of Pragmatic Ecclesiology image

ChurchCuterie: The Art of Pragmatic Ecclesiology

In a classic episode of The West Wing, Chief of Staff Leo McGarry declares: “There are two things in this world you never want to let people see how you make ‘em – laws and sausages.” But in recent days a new wave of McGarry-ites have added a third item to this list – ‘baptism services.’

It appears that one or two people have taken umbrage to a particular American megachurch who recently published their very own guide to engineering ‘spontaneous baptisms.’ Apparently it painted them in a less-than-authentic light and gave the impression that any kind of manipulative practices are acceptable if it grows your church.

Well, leaving aside the fact that there are few things more fascinating than charcuterie - and I could happily recommend a good few documentaries on the fine art of sausage making – I can’t help but disagree with McGarry and his followers. Which of us hasn’t employed some light subterfuge to expand our church attendance figures? All of us have rounded up the odd figure from time to time, I’m sure. And if we’ve learnt cunning techniques to fake mass-baptisms, why not publish our findings and share the wealth? As Jesus said somewhere: freely you’ve deceived; freely give! (I think. I may have paraphrased.)

So I thought I would offer a few ‘pragmatic church tips’ of my own. These are all tried and tested methods that have elicited enormous growth in my own church, which is now well into the upper-double-figures!

On Counting

As we all know, one of the most significant measures of church health is the number of people in your pews. Quantity beats quality every time. So consequently, the art of counting is an essential staple of any pastor’s skillset.

Some pastors, believing it to be beneath them, delegate ‘the count’ to another lesser member of staff, or even a volunteer. But alas, they can hardly be relied on to count correctly and in my experience, numbers given to me by well-meaning demi-counters tend to be significantly lower than my own. And thus incorrect.

I’m sure you’re already well skilled in this area, so far be it from me to teach old dogs to suck granny’s eggs, as the idiom goes. But here are a couple of tips for how to count successfully in a way that accentuates your church attendance.

Double your numbers by counting one body and one soul per attendee. Or become a trichotomist for even more dramatic growth! And while you’re at it, don’t forget to top up your numbers by at least 5% for those who are ‘with you in spirit’ if not in body.

When counting, also ensure you include reflections, people on video screens, and also unborn children. If you’re in any doubt, assume that most married women are pregnant and your numbers will soar.

Another couple of key figures to keep an eye on are your web-visitors and podcast downloads. Set your staff computers to deny cookies, so you can register each refresh as a new visit. And consider employing temps to repeatedly download your sermons on a Monday morning. Minimum wage for dramatically increased podcast stats? Bargain!

On Baptisms

Boost the numbers that pass through your hallowed waters, by trying few of these cunning tips.

Consider all previous baptisms invalid and demand re-baptism. Someone may have been christened, confirmed and given believer’s baptism, but if it happened in a different denomination, encourage them to get re-baptised in your church. Just to be sure. 

Adjust the temperature levels in the pool and the room to make the baptistery seem like the most pleasant place to be. Hot auditorium + chilled pool or freezing auditorium + heated pool = a lot of new baptism candidates. Or at your evening service, crank up the bubbles and turn it into a Jacuzzi party, complete with a few cool beers (which you can serve with nachos and pass off as a trendy alternative communion). Permit swimwear to the degree that your conscience will allow. It’s adiaphora in my opinion, but I suspect there may be a link between what you allow the girls to wear and how many men want to hang out in the bubbling-baptistery. (Let the reader understand!)

If you own one of those portable baptisteries, why not consider lending it out to hospitals for use as a birthing pool. Any birth that takes place in it (natural or spiritual) goes on the tally chart. Why not permit multiple-baptism on behalf of the dead (cf. 1 Cor 15:29) and widen it our to include the death of pets and plants. Guaranteed revival!

On Communion

The average sip of communion wine is 8ml per person. Obviously the more wine you get through, the bigger the crowd, right?

Well, you can fiddle those stats by encouraging larger gulps, thus giving the impression of a significantly larger church. Opt for a claggy type of bread, forcing people to crave more liquid. Or ensure that your wine is alcoholic and allow the youth to take communion for guaranteed extra-consumption. Why not try bussing in visitors from your local fat camp and watch the number of bread-servings go through the roof!

I’m sure that’s enough to get you started. Follow these tips and you’ll be leading a megachurch within months. Oh, and if you really want to revitalise your children’s work, check out my new colouring worksheets. 

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