I have lived in USA for ten years and UK for five. In both countries I worked for the churches. They are different, the churches in USA and UK, something that became more evident this weekend after Mark Driscoll suggested the UK church was the poorer for not having any well-known teachers. Interview is here.
Somebody say CULTURE-CLASH!
“The problem for us is not that the church is full of “cowards”, but the problem affecting the way Driscoll sees it is that he doesn’t know any “big names”, which he feels we need to have.. . . As a nation, we are extremely uncomfortable with personality cults surrounding leaders and “celebrity pastors . . ” We Mixed our Drinks
“To write off a whole nations worth of preachers based on the criteria that they need to be “well known” is unhelpful anyway. It plays to the celebrity culture that Driscoll has become enmeshed in.” Krish Kandiah
Some differences I have noticed that affect the way we do church in USA and UK:
While Americans memorize their presidents during school and expect other countries to name the most famous of them, the British do not see politics as a celebrity sport but more in terms of policies and parties.
While many [although probably not you, if you are currently writing a nasty comment on my blog] Americans are attracted to spectacle and superlative, the British feel more comfortable with balance and understatement. They would rather call the mountain “a hill” and be corrected, than being accused of making something bigger than it really is.
While Americans stress innovation, the British stress continuity.
While Americans audiences were getting rocked by loud bands on a stage, the British developed club culture in which the stage disappeared and was replaced by a DJ in a booth, putting the lights not on the artist, nor the music, but on the participants themselves. The alternative worship movement in British churches developed along similar lines.
While many American church leaders see thousands of church attenders as the sign of success, some British say 40 is the highest number of church attenders that will still allow an acceptable working dynamic of interaction and intimacy with each other. Any more than 40, and people slip through the cracks or become mere spectators.
While Americans saw the emerging church embodied by a few celebrity pastors and top-selling authors, the British point to the small alt. worship churches and the Fresh Expression movement. Interestingly, out of those 3000 Fresh Expressions that have emerged in the past few years, most Americans could probably not name a single leader. Tell me if you disagree.
The church in USA is different than the church in UK. While both countries can learn from each other, exporting value systems across the Atlantic does not always help.