The McDonaldization of the Church – Analytical Report
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
For a season, John Drane was the Head of Practical Theology in the Department of Divinity at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, a position from which he resigned because of his impatience “with the deviousness and dishonesty that seems to be endemic to all institutions”. He now stays active leading seminars and workshops, editing journals and writing books. He is the co-chair of the Mission Theological Advisory Group. In his formal training he researched Gnosticism for his doctoral thesis; while informally he takes time to listen to people’s stories and look for ways God is working in the world.
Drane’s contention is that a large segment of the modern church has adopted the four key characteristics of what Ritzer calls “The McDonaldization process” – efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control (32), and if the church wants to survive for long, she cannot expect to do so in her present form. He believes that if the church is going to thrive again, she needs to consider how to contextualize her faith to reach the different kinds of people in our world today, in ways that reflect the values of the gospel.
Drane begins his book by reminding us of the changes that are happening in our culture and how he is personally digesting what he sees. He then clarifies some of the philosophical and social process that have shaped our current culture, including the church, considering in detail how Ritzer’s four key characteristics have McDonaldized the church. By chapter four he starts to look at ways in which the church can more faithfully incarnate the good news in our current context by identifying who it is we are trying to reach, and in light of that, finding ways to live out our faith in more vibrant ways. In chapters five through seven, he uncovers forgotten or overlooked practices that can help the church genuinely connect with those whom she is called to reach. He concludes by dreaming of the church of the future, especially as it relates to community, worship, and mission.
MY THOUGHTS ON THE BOOK
John Drane embodies the heart of an evangelist [what I call a storyteller] and is able to unite both his heart and mind together in such a way as to open our eyes to see how the church has been extremely slow in contextualizing the good news. By using Ritzer’s study on McDonaldization, he is able to help us see the various ways in which the church needs to change if she wants to faithfully incarnate the good news to those living in Western society today.
While Drane was always accessible, at times it was hard to know where he was going. With that said, he did an incredible job of consistently posing enlightening questions to cause me to think about how we are to be the church. Questions like: “How much like Christ have we become?” (47) Or “Is it possible to have a world-view – or church structure – dominated by predictability without at the same time denying, or at least seriously jeopardizing, belief in a biblical God?” (51)
His book was filled with personal stories, experiential knowledge, and inspiring quotes. I appreciate how he uncovered under-emphasized practices in scripture like the importance of involvement and movement [like dance] in our celebration services; the creative ways in which to communicate God’s message – through mime, drama and clowning; and the importance of stories – God’s, the Bible’s and ours. I plan to write out each of the questions and practices he posed, ponder them with our community and consider how they might influence our praxis in the future.