Once upon a time, on some discussion website, I saw a commenter’s signature that included this gem:
Consider how dumb the average person is. And now consider that half of the people are dumber than that.
Now, in all honesty, I find this quite funny; I also recognize that it’s supposed to be funny, and that it’s not intended to be subjected to analysis. But analysis is what I do, so let’s consider why it’s funny.
It seems to me that this quip works only because of the Lake Wobegon effect: many people tend to think that “most folks” (a category from which we exclude ourselves, naturally) ain’t too bright.
Making a quick application, it seems to me that this (mis)perception diminishes expectations for our congregations. I have heard, on many occasions, that some hymn or teaching or book or whatnot ought not be thrust upon a congregation, because, after all, “Most people just wouldn’t get it.” Our helpful advisor nearly always exempts himself from great unlearned hoard; he would understand, of course, but they wouldn’t.
I’m certainly not prepared to base an entire philosophy of ministry on this observation: I’m merely contending that too many ministries have built their philosophies of ministry on the assumption that average people are below average.