My daughter is my cultural consultant. She works so hard to keep me from being clueless, and thus embarrassing to her.
Recently Maggie schooled me on current music styles. Of course, in my childhood home we had both music styles of that era, Country and Western. That has changed and every style has subsets and tribal affiliates. She tells me that rock music today has a subdivision called “Emo” whose followers are a bit melancholy and dress so that no one can miss it. A subset of Emo music is “Screamo” in which the singers whine as loudly as possible?all volume knobs set at 11.
It occurs to me that churches can also be Emo, Screamo, and other kinds of “mo.” I offer these for your amusement, or perhaps to try your patience. Feel free to play along at home.
Emo churches?Like the music style, Emo churches are a bit pale. They give a lot of attention on brokenness and desperation as though everyone in the congregation is coming off a bad breakup or a job crisis.
Screamo churches?Again, a pop music term but Screamo churches are angry. These churches are often divided over something and share their sincerest feelings with one another at a loud volume.
Bemo churches?In a way they are the opposite of Emo churches. In this case the pastor spends too much time telling congregants of his disappointment with them. They should give more, witness more, visit more, show up more?to generally “be” more than they are.
Seemo churches?have neither a dress code nor a modesty rail in the choir loft.
Dreamo churches?are not so much in the present. They have a vision for growth, building, expansion, and fame but are not currently doing anything that might result in growth. They have dreams, lots of dreams. Dreamo might also refer to nostalgic churches in which former pastors were good looking and the numbers were all above average.
Laymo churches?are big into lay leadership and committee structure. “We were here before the current occupant of the parsonage and we’ll be here after he’s gone.”
Promo churches?Laymen do little because the staff is paid and trained to do everything. Sometimes this is the preference of the “professional” staff; other times it is the expectation of exhausted volunteers who formerly led one ministry or another.
Bethmo churches?have a cadre of really hip and biblically literate young women.
Schemo churches?enjoy a lot of whispering in the hall and semi-official home fellowships. This is the larval form of a Screamo church.
Nomo churches?have just become woebegone. They have no money, no people, no memory of why they exist.
HeyMoe churches?have pastors who enjoy very happy relationships with the staff or lay leadership. They share many inside jokes and puzzling jocularity in front of a general audience.
Slowmo churches?Policies, procedures, calendaring, and caution make it the work of a lifetime to stop, start, or continue any ministry. Might also be a Laymo church or a Nomo church, but not necessarily.
Causemo churches?Good deeds and trendy causes (political, benevolent, etc.) force out other work of the church.
Themo churches?So I dub churches where the hobbies and dress of church members indicate a cultural niche. Cowboys (or Western Heritage People if you’re not a real cowboy), bikers, skateboarders, NASCAR fans, and outdoorsmen offer opportunities for ministry with a distinction.
Getmo churches?Members are encouraged by pastoral example, messages, the example of lay leaders or by cultural influence to become materialistic. It is the more subtle Baptist version of the prosperity gospel.
Gomo churches?Young adults in the church go to Mama’s or to the lake more Sundays than not. This phenomenon can work the same way for empty nesters with grandbabies in another state. This middle-age aspect of the tendency might qualify the church as “Airstreamo.”
Demo churches?are too anxious to abandon a challenging community in favor of a rapidly growing
suburb. They demolish their ministries if not their buildings.
Wemo churches?are highly competitive. The benchmark seems to be the “sister” church across town. If they are larger, more compassionate, more conservative, or in other way superior to the competition, life is good enough.
Esteemo churches?are not quite Emo but certainly related. These churches want everyone to feel good about himself to a degree that gives the wrong idea. Esteemos might not like preaching about sin or the notion of Hell (who does?) so they just don’t bring it up. Everyone goes home happy and holding the pastor’s latest book. Everyone shows up next week because the reality of sin starts to creep back into their awareness.
Memo churches?These fellowships “got the memo” and are related to Wemo and Causemo subspecies (perhaps we could create a taxonomic category called “Supremo”). These churches “get it,” though. Most importantly, other congregations around the country don’t, can’t, and won’t ever see things clearly ? unless they become franchisees.
Sunbeamo?Of course, these churches still conduct a lively missions education program for their young children. They’re called Mission Friends these days but Sunbeamo churches still resist the AWANA tsunami.
And finally, I offer “Upstreamo” churches. These hardy fellowships walk uphill against the temptation to become something more comfortable. They recognize the privileges of being ambassadors and aliens in a world that scoffs at things they know to be very important. Sometimes they may relish being counter-cultural more than they should but they are not wrong to seek the harder, narrower path.
I hope you are not tender to the satire or impatient with the attempt at humor, dear reader. We steer a narrow course between the rocks of trendiness and stubborn adherence to a culture that no longer exists. I believe we can smile humbly at the earnest excess that tempts us all at one time or another.