Book Review of the McDonaldization of the Church (Consumer Culture and Church's Future)
The McDonaldization of the Church (Consumer Culture and Church's Future), published by Smyth and Helwys Publishing Inc., Georgia USA in 2001. John William Drane started to write this book on 1980s. This book is one of the most heart searching book that he ever written1.
The author of this book , John William Drane, was a Head of Practical Theology in the Department of Divinity at the university of Aberdeen. Then, by the end of 2004 he had resigned from that post and is currently a self-employed consultant working with churches of many different denominations throughout the United Kingdom as well as internationally2. He also teaches at some seminaries as Fuller Theological Seminary, visiting scholar at Spurgeon's college, visiting Fellow of St. John's College, Durham and some other places. He wrote some books which are best selling book such as : Introducing the Old Testament (3rd edition 2011)and Introducing the New Testament (3rd edition 2010) , The McDonaldization of the Church (2000), and After McDonaldization (2008).
On his book The McDonaldization of the Church, John Drane critiques the ways the church functions in contemporary society. John Drane stated that previous generation, the forebearers, had done a good job of contextualizing the gospel into the culture of their day. But we in our generation seemed to be disconnected from the previous generations vision and enthusiasm. Some of the churches become museum pieces, only as memorable of their works of the past. On his website John Drane stated about his book3 :
“In my best-selling books, The McDonaldization of the Church (published in 2000 by Darton Longman & Todd in the UK, and Smyth & Helwys in the USA), and then in After McDonaldization (Darton Longman & Todd and Baker Academic, 2008) I have suggested that Christianity has become over-rationalized in a way that prevents the message of Jesus from being heard by today’s people. There is a growing consensus among Christians of many different traditions that without radical reform, church as we know it has no future.”
In this book, John Drane tried to engage with the challenge facing the Church in the context of the rapid and, to a large extend, unpredictable cultural change that we see around us4.
- Summary of the Book
On the first chapter about Cultural Change in Personal Perspective, John Drane started with questions “What are the significant issues that concern him in relation to the present state and future destiny of the Christian Church in Western culture?”; “How and why he arrived at this particular understanding of the situation?”.
The writer exposed the some facts as: all the historic mainline churches are struggling, the protestant churches seemed to be have no future, average members of church attendants in Britain and Australasia are over fifty years old, and younger generation have lost their interest in the church. There are some dissatisfications from the un-church people in England that the church could not enrich their own or their children's live. There is a reality of “competition” or tension of activities of the church and non religious leisure activities. As response to this reality, we require to search the need of post-modern people, and discover what a vibrant community of faith might need to look like to address this need5. Further John Drane exposed that many people left the church not because of the lost of the faith, but simply because they have had enough of intemperate behaviour and oppressive attitudes6.
On the second chapter of Rational System and Human Values, he emphasized that the chursh's primary concern must always be for people. In most of area of life, rationalized system is growing in human activities include recreation, industrial manufactures, sex; most of every point of life controlled by rationality. Here John Drane gives a critique to the church, “if the church offers the same things as the rationalized world of work, why should people who are oppressed elsewhere in their lives expect to find a resolution by joining the church?”7. Human being performed like robot and denied their humanity, we are captured by the iron cage of a Mc Donaldized world. May be one of the reason why people lost interest in what church seems to offer are the rationality behind all things in the church, there is only one true way to do things, include in our personal growth and spirituality, and all done with church's neat spiritual formulations.
The word “McDonaldization” is used to describe the destructive and dehumanizing effects of social rationalization under the influence of modernist thinking8. There are four key element as the characteristics of the McDonaldization process: efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control. And in chapter 3 of his book, John Drane gave the reason why people struggle so much with this characteristics, and he explain about the strengths and weaknesses of this characteristics in our church today. The issue of power and control become the heart of McDonaldization process which has rapidly influenced our church today.
In chapter fourth “Whom are we trying to reach?” John Drane stated that our church today faced inescapable reality that the church as we know is in decline. But on the other side there is a fact that we live in a time when the over search for spirituality meaning has never been more intense than it is now9. We need to understand the key characteristic of our post-moderns world today is that people do not like to be pigeonholed, they do not like being treated with restrictive and inauthentic way. And we need to understand their deep need and adjust to this need rather than to force our standards to them.
In this postmodern world, Drane offered seven distinct groups to whom the church will need to relate to fulfill its evangelistic mandate: the desperate poor, the hedonists, the traditionalists, the spiritual searchers, the corporate achievers, the secularists, and the apathetics. Drane stated that we need to find ways of reinventing the Church so that we can relate the gospel to the family and community orientation of such people10. Our ministry have to focus and address to personal needs of these people in their context.
In chapter 5, 6 and 7 Drane explores about worship, spiritual gifts, and telling story in the bible. And in chapter 8 Drane talked about “dreaming the church of the future”. For Drane, a blue print for the church of the future is a church that would be as open and welcoming to the desperate poor as to the spiritual searcher and other distinct groups. The church today stands at a cross roads, we can either continue with the modernist approach: views authority rooted in universal methodology; or we can construct a different sort of authority based on personal, individual experience and freely acknowledging the kind of ambiguities and uncertainties of the human experience in the post modern age. We need to find a new way in the context of rapid cultural change to empower the message of the Gospel for the post-modern age society.
3. Response of the Book
I think this book is based on a western perspective and context. We see the reality that in western countries which was before a “Christendom” but now changing to secular society. In Europe for example, the Christianity is a thing of the past. The magnificent buildings in Europe churches now is empty, only few people attend the service weekly in the church compare to the capacity of the church building. Some of the church convert the function as bars or cafe or any other secular functions. The churches become museum pieces which portrayed its magnificent only for the past. Christianity has been declined in European society.
I agree with John Drane that the previous generations had done a good job of contextualizing the gospel in their generations, but we fail to contextualize to our generations of the post-modern age. We still use our McDonaldization ways which is very strict, dogmatic and follow the same standard (standard package) in our approach to build the church: We debate of our using of liturgy, whether used traditional or contemporary music. We closed the door for the change our liturgy, our worship became mechanical and lacking of spirit. In McDonaldization, there is no room for something quite different, everything have to be scrutinized by reason, through the mind, setting aside emotions and intuitions11.
In McDonaldization, everything have to be rationalized. And this become the weaknesses of our church today, when the church also becomes over rationalize of everything in the church. This makes people from outside the church said that there is no differences between the church and the world, the church also used the same standard with the world.
John Drane opens a new way of thinking of the future of the church which needs to be contextualized with the current culture. He also exposed the reality of our today context. In our post modern era today, a lot of people reject the truth offered by church not only because they reject the truth itself, but also because of how the people inside of the church run the church. Sometimes in the church we find that there is no room for differences. The desperate poor, the hedonists, the traditionalists, the spiritual searchers, the corporate achievers, the secularists, and the apathetics cannot find their space in the church. The church could not answer their need. They reject come to the church because of routine worship and boring sermon. They lost the true meaning of church in their life because they cannot find a church which open and connect to their needs .
I hope we can find our way to reach the next post modern generation and find a contextual approach to share the gospel with them. John Drane opens the way with this book. In our ministry today, this book becomes an alarm for us to remind us that our world today is changing and we need to understand the need of our world today in bringing the Gospel to this generation. We need to be sensitive to the real need of this age, and exercise flexibility in accepting changing in our ministry. We need to open the door for a new guidance by the Holy Spirit about how we do our ministry to meet the need of our society today in the post modern world.
1John Drane, The McDonaldization of the Church, ( Georgia: Smyth and Helwys Publishing Inc, 2001), p.1
4John Drane, op.cit, p.1
5John Drane, op.cit, p.8
6John Drane, op.cit, p.12
7John Drane, p. 35
8John Drane, p. 39
9John Drane, p. 65
10John Drane, p.93
11John Drane 198