Sunday, June 17, 2007

It was ironic that within a day or two of finishing
the book Dining with the Devil: The Megachurch
Movement Flirts with Modernity
by Os Guinness I should
pick up the March 2007 copy of Nation Geographic and
read the article "The Theme-Parking, Megachurching,
Franchising, Exurbing, McMansioning of America: How
Walt Disney Changed Everything" by T.D. Allman.

Two excerpts from the magazine article are especially
disturbing. In speaking of the largest megachurch in
Orlando, Fl, the now retired pastor, Jim Henry, who led
First Baptist to its megachurch position said that, "His
church's physical transformation has been accompanied by
a philosophical change. 'We are not here to dictate our

The section of the article dealing with the megachurch
in Orlando reads, "'You begin with faith,' Henry says,
and in his case at least, you end up as an expert in
traffic management."

This telling commentary by Guinness brings perspective.
He is discussing the difference between secularism and
secularization. "Being openly hostile, secularism rarely
deceives Christians. Being much more subtle, secularization
often deceives Christians before they are aware of it,
including those in the church-growth movement. How else
can one explain the comment of a Japanese businessman
to a visiting Australian? 'Whenever I meet a Buddhist
leader, I meet a holy man. Whenever I meet a Christian
leader, I meet a manager.'"

"The two most easily recognizable hallmarks of secularization
in America are the exaltation of numbers and of technique.
Both are prominent in the megachurch movement at a popular
level. In its fascination with statistics and data at the
expense of truth
, this movement is characteristically modern."


LeftCoastOnlooker said...

I think that sometimes, our little churches see the mega-drive-thru-ATM offering-lattes-in-the-lobby churches and feel inadequate, not because they are displeasing God, but because they fear their "not doing something right." I've heard these church management meetings -- Here's wishing we don't get sucked up in it all.

e-Mom said...

A big topic Laurie: Secularization of the church. I agree, for some time, Amercian modern church leaders have been using a Disney-like "marketing" or "seeker sensitive" approach to church growth. Personally, we've been turned off by the watered-down message of the non-denominational suburban mega-churches in our area--just didn't do it for us. Somebody is buying it though, as witnessed by the over-filled parking lots and shuttle buses which transport congregants to the main sanctuary. Loud contemporary Christian worship music seems to be one of the important "hooks" for these churches--and lots of men are present.

Incidently, tonight we received an e-mail from one of the worship elders at our (large) urban denominational church. (Fabulous German pipe organ.) They're considering revamping the worship services due to declining numbers of young people (in their 20's and 30's). Something is changing within our city, and young urban folk are flocking to the local post-modern emerging and pentecostal churches. Emphasizing a "missional" approach to church growth (through hospitality), interdenominational networking, satellite locations, and loud rock- and-roll, it's quite a phenomenon. I question some of their doctrine (and music), but one thing they are doing right is reaching out to disenfrancised young MEN with biblical/conservative values... unique in our ultra-liberal city.

American popular culture isn't going to go away anytime soon. Barna research shows that even Christians are more attuned to big names in the Hollywood, than big names in Christian literature. The question is, as Christians, what do we do with that? How do we harness the power of the media, technology, and popular culture to reach people for the kingdom of God? And how do we do it without compromising the truth of the Gospel?

Thanks for stimulating some good thought tonight. Sorry I wrote a book!

Hugs. e-Mom

Paul Fleetwood said...

Laurie. You are terriffic. Dad

Laurie said...

Leftcoast and E-mom,
I appreciate your comments. There is energy and excitement in these movements, as you pointed out. Guinness does not say, in his book, that all is bad here. He only cautions us to question and to evaluate. He says in his book that this could be the generation that wins the world but loses its soul because faith no longer has any authority over the lives of many believers.

Kent is fond of saying, "Just because it works, doesn't make right." Guinness wants us to remember that true church growth is not a matter of strategies and manipulations, but of the Spirit moving when and where He chooses. Yet he affirms that there is a place for parking lot management in the midst of it all.