Years ago, Garry Maddox played center field for the Giants and then for the Phillies. In the latter years, when he would run down a long fly ball, the commentators and/or the outfield scoreboard at the Vet would proclaim “It’s Auto-Maddox!”
This post has nothing to do with Garry Maddox or with baseball. Rather, in moving toward automatic functionalities in church assemblies, I’ll first complain a little about automatic-shutoff faucets in public washrooms. Here are two reasons we should do away with these:
- They end up wasting water because
- They don’t know how much water I need, and if I have a long handwashing job or need to brush my teeth, the automatic cycling will doubtless be a hindrance rather than a help, and more water will be wasted by the multiple turnings-on. (I’ll leave alone the problem of having hot water automatically assigned to my toothbrush by a programmed faucet.)
- I, as a responsible person, would shut off the water myself before it shuts off by itself.
- I have also left non-auto-shutoff faucets running by mistake because I’ve grown accustomed to the automatic ones.
In other auto-maddic issues:
- If lights in a room are set to shut off after a certain number of minutes, that’s OK, but where I work, people don’t turn off many lights because they’re so accustomed to lights going off by themselves. This ends up wasting a good deal of light.
- Automatic-flush toilets can be downright frightening, and they sometimes seem to flush at just the wrong times.
Our patterns in church assemblies can sometimes seem as though they’re on autopilot, too. Leaders more or less make decisions for the masses and leave individuals to flounder with unmet, or poorly met, needs. Automatic processions of people down aisles at certain times, automatic calls for responses after sermons, automatic standing and sitting, perfunctory words triggered by automatic patterns uttered by preachers. And you could fill in more.
In part, this is the nature of assemblies of the Christ’s Body, and nothing much can be done about it. On the other hand, the smaller the group is, the more likely decisions can be tailored to actual needs.
Our assemblies should be places for thought, worship, and togetherness … not for automatic, programmed responses designed to take the choice, the humanity out of the whole endeavor.