Years ago, one would sometimes see a sign advertising a church — usually an evangelical or Protestant congregation — with the words, “The Church Alive Is Worth the Drive.” Apart from the commodification of the worship of God implied in such advertising, there’s an even deeper problem: the definition of what it means to be “alive.” In most contexts, the “alive” church is one with bustling ministries, a cornucopia of activities, and a worship service choreographed so that there is no “dead space” — no silence — between singing and talking, talking and singing.
The church justifies its existence, in this way, by the bustle of its business, the obviousness of its “aliveness.”
Perhaps this is one reason why — one after the other — young pastors in the fastest-growing segments of evangelical Christianity seem to be falling apart at midlife. Pastors and leaders who soared through their twenties and thirties are hitting their forties, and spiraling often into burnout, depression and even the self-sabotage of addiction. Some of this, of course, is the sort of human weakness that is always with us. But some of it, no doubt, is the sort of entrepreneurial vision of Christian ministry that causes leaders to “justify” their existence by ceaseless activity.
We have learned to find our identity in our velocity. And that’s not just physically dangerous, but spiritually devastating.