Supersize My Church

“You can’t franchise the kingdom of God,” argues the authors of Slow Church,” a new book applying the lessons of slow food movements to church life. C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison, the book’s authors, are worried about the “McDonaldization” of church. They say small churches are trying to mass-produce spiritual growth by copying megachurch techniques. Smith and Pattison stress the importance of a local context in ministry instead of “pre-packaged” sermons or church programs. The authors provide evidence of small town churches failing due to programs imported from megachurches which fail to connect people to a geographical neighborhood/community. Pattison states:

“Our biggest concern with megachurches is the fact that they typically draw their members from such a large area that they become churches of nowhere, not belonging to any particular place.”

Scott Thumma, a sociologist of religion at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn., says the slow church movement makes for good theology but will fail for the same reasons as the slow food movement.

“We’d all like to have a slow-cooked, three-hour meal, with locally grown produce,” he said. “But few of us have the time or money for it.”

American culture, with its fast-paced and short-patience lifestyle, is not a good environment for either slow food or slow church movements. However, if Americans are able to commit to a particular place and group of people, they should also be able to commit to local foods and churches.