The Church: Cruising or Crossing? Part 1
They asked what people wanted. When they found out, they gave it to them—upbeat music, dramas, support groups, video, practical sermons, etc. Out of this approach the mega-church was born.
I’m not here to bash mega-churches. For the most part, the founders of these churches genuinely wanted people to connect with God. But what has happened is that, rather than being a means to an end—God—the church became an end in itself.
That’s not just a problem with big churches. Small churches can be infected with the same attitude: get ‘em here, get ‘em in the door; make ‘em feel good so they’ll come back.
None of that would be a problem–it would even be a worthy goal–if it weren’t for one simple fact: there are seven days in a week, not just one. Is the Christian enterprise just for an hour or two on Sunday, or for life? Is prayer and Bible reading as needed on Monday as it is Sunday? Is the church about relationships or is it just a Sunday morning show?
Most of us know the answers to those questions. The church isn’t a cruise ship, going round and round, offering a certain kind of experience. The church isn’t the destination. It’s the journey.
We don’t have to have a coffee shop and a bookstore in the church building to have a Christian consumer mentality. Did you ever say, “I didn’t get anything out of it”? That simple statement speaks volumes about our attitude. Our thinking is Me-centered: Meet my needs ( or what I perceive my needs to be) and I’ll stick with you. Fail to meet my needs and I’m outa here.
A better question is, “I wonder what God gets out of it?” After all, if we meet to worship Him, He’s our most important audience–and critic–isn’t He?
What is the New Testament’s view of the church? It’s not about the show, but the grow. The church is a seedbed for a new kind of humanity. It’s the place where God brings people together to work together to become His people together. It’s the place where Jesus works to make people who work like Him.
Now, what do you need to do that? A coffee bar and a gym? Rousing, food-stompin’, hand-clappin’ music? Inspiring sermons? Nope, don’t need any of it.
Here’s what we need:
- Bible reading, prayer, meditation.
- A meaningful relationship with a friend or mentor.
- The opportunity to serve others.
Isn’t it amazing? None of these practices requires a cutting-edge, multimedia experience. None of them requires theater seating or special lighting. As a matter of fact, none of them even requires a church building!
It isn’t that any of these things are bad. As the former pastor of a floundering new congregation, I can certainly vouch for the benefit of a building. But how quickly the church can smother under the weight of all these blessings.
The church, after all, was meant to be portable–a world-wide enterprise.
[To be continued]