In these posts, I will consider 3 approaches to "church" in the U.S. that seem to have some staying power. These are not the only approaches. They are not mutually exclusive, but they can be. These posts are more observational than prescriptive, but, I think every "type" of church can learn from the others. I will try to lay out some pros and cons of each approach, but this is not exhaustive and if you happen to have some personal connection to the metaphors I've chosen and you're offended, well, sorry, but please get over it. The previous post was about the "Volunteer Fire Department."
Today's metaphor is the monastery. Image below from traveladventures.org
Pros - If the B&B church sometimes caters to individualism, the "monastery" church is having none of it. This kind of church is suspicious that individualistic America doesn't really have a culture to which the church might enculturate its message, but the church itself can offer rootless Americans a gospel-shaped culture. If one is looking for deep roots (deeper than America itself), this is the place to go. Of course, when the people of the church go home, they may become American individualists again. When they go to work, they will have to follow an alternate rule, or be fired. At church, they will have to accept that the songs, the service, the scripture readings, etc. have not been chosen for their pleasure and comfort, but to make a collection of individuals into a gospel-shaped community, setting their personal whims and fancies aside. This kind of church has the potential to tolerate a variety of more individualistic attributes, political orientations, styles of spirituality and personality because while the church is gathered, none of those things is allowed to hold sway. The tradition rules. The individuals must, however temporarily, conform.
Cons - Of course, people who gravitate to this kind of church may only be the kind of people who like tradition, and so consumerism cannot be entirely negated. This type of church may also be the least accessible to outsiders who walk in off the street (although the traditional nature sometimes dictates that this is the kind of service that appears in T.V. and movies) without knowing anyone. And, of course, the commitment to tradition comes with its own problems. If some sort of change is really necessary, this kind of church might die before it makes that change.