When I was teaching digital media in a local institute, we had a term to describe the technological evolution that is happening to TV media.
TV media of yesteryears is referred to as “laid-back” entertainment technology. We picture a viewer slumped on his sofa with a TV remote control. He is a passive recipient letting the pre-set TV content flood his senses and entertain him. Upon boredom or dislike, he switches to other channels flippantly. He is uncommitted, turning on and off the TV as and when he pleases, showing little regard to the content creators. As far as he is concerned, he is just a paying consumer.
TV media of tomorrow is referred to as “lean-forward” entertainment technology. Here, the viewer is an active contributor. He sits on the edge of his sofa, and interacts with the TV content through immersive and interactive inputs. His contributions impact how the content is being presented. His engagement leads to the ownership of content. He is therefore, a committed participant.
I have been thinking if the modern-day church is a “laid-back” or a “lean-forward” community.
A laid-back church consists of pew warmers and church hoppers. It consists of passive users who shop for dynamic worship experience and motivational messages. They ask: “how can the church serve my needs?”. They avoid commitment and desire to hide in the crowd. At most they are side-line critics who may be quick to congratulate the church on what was good, but also quick to judge the gaps and ills of the church. They have little regard for the presence of the Leader of the church, and see the church as merely an earthly organisation just like any other.
A lean-forward church consists of active members who are engaged in the body life of the church. They not only look forward to Spirit-filled worship sessions and Christ-centred sermons, but also acknowledge that they are a vital part of the body of Christ. They are committed to the local body and asks: “how can I participate in the body life?” They stand in the gap and roll up their sleeves to serve the body of Christ. They recognise the presence of the Leader in the local assembly and come as worshippers and not as consumers.
Living in an affluent society, we are endowed with the power to choose and to purchase. This consumerist behaviour tends to gravitate us towards a laid-back posture. We are so used to expecting things to be done according to our expectations, our personal preferences and our convenience.
The Leader of the church, Jesus Christ, says that whoever wishes to follow Him must deny himself and take up his cross to follow Him daily. Thus Jesus preaches a lean-forward discipleship, whereby we bend forward to bear our crosses to follow Him. May we overcome the snares of worldliness and not be laid-back consumers.
It is my prayer that as our church transits to Church 2.0 and embraces Small Group Church (SGC) as the main environment of the church, we will see more “lean forward” postures, where members actively participate and serve alongside to fulfil the mission of Christ.
By Pastor Rick Toh