Here’s what I learned from USA Today on the matter:
Experts see more troubling concerns than slowing growth: No measurable inroads on overall church attendance and signs that many churchgoers are spectators, not driving toward a deeper faith.
“You can create a church that’s big, but is still not transforming people. Without transformation, the Christian message is not advanced,” says Ed Stetzer, head of Lifeway Research in Nashville, which did the Outreach study.
Dazed and Confused
Regardless of its size, the church simply needs to monitor its life and doctrine closely. I take issue with seeker-model churches not because of their motive, nor because of their method, but because of their message. The issue I have with the seeker-sensitive church is very personal. Unfortunately, my story is not unique.
Once I hit 18, like so many, I not only moved out of the house when I went to college, I got the chance to begin “shopping” for a church that was my own. Today, 14-years later, when I recognize the scope of Christian anemia in my culture today, I point at the church, not the anemic Christians themselves. The problem effects us individually, but the smoking gun lies within the corporate church mentality of me-centered, environment-conscious, postmodern, hip, relevant, non-offensive, bloodless sermons. I see the victims like myself, but take issue with the past 15 years of fat, American, deep-fried gospel.
Last month, I was in an interview with Bing Davis, founder of Auxilium Network, a church leadership placement organization. He advises pastors of large churches to sell their gigantic buildings and split the group up into many, much smaller groups. He told me a story about the early American pioneer days. He said,
You know how the pioneers would kill a buffalo? They would ride a horse up behind the buffalo and shoot the buffalo in the back of the head, killing them instantly. The interesting thing about that was that sometimes the buffalo would continue running for about 15 seconds or so before it would drop. That’s the Mega-church–it’s dead even though it may take a few years for it to realize that it’s dead.
Now once again, I’m not against just any church simply because it is big. I favor Northpoint and Lifechurch to name a few. Even Willow seems to be willing to rewrite its programs rather than the Scripture.
The New Witch Hunt
The adversaries against a holy Bride who are the most dangerous are the ones who are the most camouflaged. Onto these subtle poisons I will shine the light. I will get out the 10M candlepower spot light from the garage and point it right at the Joel Osteens, Kenneth Copelands, and the Brian McLarens in our culture. It is against them that certain alliances have formed, myself included.
If you remain orthodox and align yourself rightly, you may have noticed that we are taking shots–sometimes from those who worship with us on Sunday. These opposing philosophical worldviews are often in people we know well. They have created quite a bit of distance from us. Don’t take it personally when you are accused of not being open-minded or tolerant.
There are modernist philosophies that are antagonistic toward the authority of Scripture from within our own ranks. This is why it is so hard to see. Often, we ourselves are aligned with the opposing systems of thought until someone is bold enough to piss us off about it and reveals it to us. Note to self: If you and another Christ-follower are at odds, there’s a simple solution. if you are wrong, it’s a pride thing. If they are wrong, it’s a God-thing. So we are not promised unity at the cost of purity. Even more true, you cannot be godly and not experience resistance. Said in the affirmative,
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
We need not move at all to notice the distance between god-honoring and self-honoring individuals. We did not start the fight. We are merely staying put, while the disobedient among us exploit popular cultural mood against us for their own profit. A lot of profit. They have built an alliance, not we. I am unmoved.
Here’s the litmus test. If you find yourself at odds with a particular school or system of thought in church culture, ask this question: is there any possible way that I might be glorifying myself rather than God? If you can know the answer is “no,” and you continue to find your motive challenged, maybe you had better put on the full armor. The philosophies of the world are swarming like love-bugs. (For those of you who don’t live in Florida, “swarming like flies.”)
All Are Not One If All Are Not Holy
In order to maintain the unity in the body, there are, in fact, certain divisions which are necessary. When God demands unity at the same time that He commands His Bride is be holy, He means exactly that–She must be pure/undefiled and unified at the same time–that you cannot have only one and not the other, that they are interdependent. She is to be one in faith and purity.
The church does NOT need to be cool, she needs to be set apart. The church doesn’t need cooler pastors, she needs bold and broken apostles. The church in America is only beginning to see the alignment and the alliances beginning. They will continue. Certain issues I will let pass without endorsing a particular candidate, but this issue is not one of them. I cannot be silent. Although many of the coolest churches tend to be little more than pop entertainment (“here today, gone today”), I believe that a doctrinal and training church can at the same time, be a relevant and edgy church.
God is making alliances with sinners through the work of Christ. I will align myself rightly. Don’t short yourself by following the buffalo. Enjoy the reading of the following passages to you from Him. Consider it personal, deeply personal:
We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:2
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy . . .
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,
I Cor. 3:9-15
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.