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April 19, 2005

Comments

bobstevens

I'm glad you wrote that last paragraph, because I was about to say that if your mindset is that of competition, you've already lost. My DVD collection is a brilliant memorial to the fact that consumerism is not fulfilling, and the shallow will eventually move elsewhere when they feel the bargain is gone or (gasp) persecution comes around. (Real persecution, not "that man speaking a language I don't know looked at my WWJD bracelet funny" persecution.)

So yeah, you're right on. Don't try to be big, try to be like Christ. The rest will work itself out. And maybe when everyone else finishes up with their 40 Days of Complacence and is singing "Jesus my Intimate Lover"... they'll all snap out of it when the chorus comes around for the 30th time and realize that this isn't what they want and it's not what they need.

phil

G -

I'm reading a great book right now (see website) that will produce some postings by me in the near future about this subject. Mostly, having to do with a "needy" and "need-based" congregate.

PP

Todd

Outstanding post. I recently shared in a conversation this same sentiment - that worship is about us when we determine a taste or style is to our disliking and must do something else or we cannot worship. So, for some of us who are bent on transformation than reproduction your post was well stated and received.

Lance

Excellent post. Packaging the Truth in a socially relevant way is not a bad thing. Effective communication is no evil. Unfortunately, though, many settle for the horse and leave the cart behind. A shallow message, regardless of how it's presented, is still drivel. A contemporary worship style should support the enormity, complexity, and sometimes counter-intuitive nature of Truth . . . not replace it.

Brandon

Right on, Greg.

Tim Sean

Poor title for the post, Greg. Your last paragraph suggests otherwise. Don't give up indeed.

It does once again affirm what you've been saying to me for the few years we have been friends. Quit making a living from the church and be a part of community that simply makes the pursuit of Christ the issue, not the maintenance of the institution.

(Greg looks at Tim across the table at Tap werks)
G: So, what are you going to do?
T: (Audible Sigh).

Monk-in-Training

Greg,
I hate to do this but I am going to disagree.

"They choose Wal-Mart for the same reasons I do: it's quick, perceived to be inexpensive, and convenient."

I think the REAL reason they choose the Box Churches is that they can avoid community with the anonymity that comes with them, and easily foist off any actual interaction with things of the Spirit onto the "professionals" down in front. Amazingly like the Medivial Church they would so abhor.

Am I totally off here, or do most Box Christians just watch, and not do?

greg

MiT,

I was following the metaphor. Obviously there are other reasons not related to the Wal-Mart metaphor, and the one you list is certainly accurate. I've talked to a few Lifers who say they go because they can slip in and out (speaking of metaphors, hee hee) without being noticed.

Joe Kendrick

Hope, faith, and love. That is what keeps us going. Like Peter told Jesus after all the "disciples" abandon him after proclaiming he was God, and there were just 12 left, "Where else have we to go"

Jon

First time post here, though I've been reading for about 6 months now (off and on).

Greg, I agree with your advice to your pastor-friend in the last paragraph. I agree somewhat with your assessment of the "Wal-mart churches", if indeed they are what you say they are. But I wonder if you are truly giving them a fair shake.

I've been an active member of an independent baptist church that has grown by leaps and bounds the past eight years. It has reached Wal-mart proportions, complete with building programs, high-tech youth center, orchestra and praise band, multi-media presentations, etc. But at the core of all the fluff is a group of people who are strong in their convictions. Are they right convictions? Well, I can only tell you what I perceive them to be: that we have been created to know and love God, and to express that love to Him by loving others through our actions. As with any church, regardless of the size, there are small group of people who "do" most of the "loving." I'm not just talking about the supporting roles for sunday services (band members, light crew, sunday school teachers, etc.). I'm talking about real, helpful ministries such as tutoring low-income public school kids in "the projects", teaching english to immigrants, providing homes and furnishings to refugees emmigrating to our city, collecting groceries for the needy every other week and distributing it, shopping for and providing meals for the elderly and infirm. Albeit, it is a small percentage of the church congregation who participates in the nuts and bolts work (everyone can bring a can of food every week, it seems...their token good deed).

But here is my point. That small core group of "doers" continues to grow in proportion to the swelling ranks of "non-doers". Is that really such a bad thing? And why is it so bad to lure in the simple, the selfish, and spoiled in order to show them that it is not their own desires that really matter, but the desires of God?

I know nothing about the churches in OK. If the messages presented are really as far removed from the teachings of Christ as you say they are, then I can wholeheartedly agree that nothing good will come from it. I guess I just question if you really know what the message is, or can you just not get past the packaging?

greg

Jon,

Welcome. Good questions. As a veteran of ministry, I understand the 80/20 principle well. However, the problem with it is we continue to allow that it's the way things of necessity are. We're not just luring those folks in to show them Christianity; we're telling them that they're saved. Why in the world would they do anything but show up if they are truly saved and the demonstration of that salvation is in doing nothing, changing not at all, and just showing up? I am not opposed to large churches on principle. I just think it's nearly impossible to have a genuine community in a large church. If, as you say, the core group does the work, then the core group is the church and the other folks are deluded. So, tell them they're deluded and make them part of the church, the real church, rightly understood.

Big Red

Greg,

I certainly hope you will answer my question because I'm curious to get your perspective. I attend a large church myself and it's nothing like the previous large churches I have seen in the past. They are very involved in the community and spending a considerable amount in missions and on top of that the church is completely debt free...which I can say a lot of churches are not.

How much of the problem with these large churches is the pastor themselves? Many have "good preachers" but they have the personality of a piece of dog poop. With that the congregation will follow their lead and mirror that same personality trait to those within the congregation and in their communities.

I think you are going to always have a problem with non participation from the congregation regardless of the size, but if they have a "great pastor" then the congregation will begin to follow that trait too. Agian I look forward to hearing you're opinion on this.

B.R.

greg

BR,

Like I said, I'm not opposed to large churches in principle. I do think a good pastor can mitigate some of the weaknesses in a large community. But he/she has to be a pastor, not a bishop in a wrap-around mic.

Jon

Greg,

I think we have a difference of opinion on the whole salvation leading to good works scheme. Which comes first? In my church, salvation does, by faith alone, with works coming as a natural response of gratitude and expression of committing your life to serving Christ. (I think I remember reading that you thought Luther was wrong, though.) Consequently, the messages are geared towards salvation by faith, with an exhortation to examine the works in your life to see if you are genuinely saved. And I must admit that I am baffled by the sheer number of people who listen to that, and come back week after week to hear it again, while living an unchanged life. Hell, I've been one of those people. Talk about baffling! But it happens. People are being told. Some people get it, and their lives change. Others just keep coming, enjoying the music, the social aspects, and the potential business contacts.

So I concede that you may be right. It is just hard to reconcile the generalization of "Megachurch=Bad" with the fact that I see good people, doing good things, making decisions to market the church to the american culture in order to get their message out. Maybe God just likes diversity in His methods of building the real church.

Jon

jvpastor

Best post I have read about the church in a long time.

Joe Kendrick

In a book I was reading the author said he would like to see nothing going on in our churches. Meaning, we stopped programming so much, stopped asking who needs Jesus and start asking where's Jesus. Doing so much all the time I think displays how much we know about Christ and how much we know what to do. But we don't know, know Jesus.

greg

Jon,

Here's the problem with evangelical xianity in a nutshell:

"In my church, salvation does, by faith alone, with works coming as a natural response of gratitude and expression of committing your life to serving Christ."

I'm not sure where Scripture say that salvation is by faith alone. It does say it's by grace through faith, and that's an all together different sort of statement. Luther takes Habakkuk 2:4 completely out of context to justify his position. Now, I understand that Luther is responding to an extreme emphasis on works in Catholicism, but the cure is not always a prohibition or even a radical revisioning.

Some of you have read this screed before, so feel free to skip it. Salvation is not a cognitive assent to the right set of theological beliefs; it is a response to the revelation of God and a corresponding rehabituation of my life to look like Jesus. I am being saved. Salvation in Scripture is always contextual; in other words, there is no predetermined meaning behind the word. Words derive their meanings from the context. Sometimes salvation is from external enemies, sometimes from inner demons (metaphor!), sometimes from judgment, etc. Salvation means many different things. It almost certainly does not mean that I agree with God that what Jesus did was sufficient and then God agrees to look at Jesus instead of sinful ole me and call me righteous. The grace of God allows us into the kingdom, but living in the kingdom is living according to a kingdom ethic and a kingdom politic. That seems to me to be a more wholistic understanding of salvation than the evangelical fixation with legal terminology, all of which is designed to keep me from having to do anything that looks remotely Christian. So, good works don't just follow salvation; they are the stuff of the process of salvation. Remember that other annoying voice in the canon: no works, no salvation.

Monk-in-Training

Greg,
That seems to me to be a more wholistic understanding of salvation than the evangelical fixation with legal terminology, all of which is designed to keep me from having to do anything that looks remotely Christian.

Wow, that is so on target! When I try to talk to modern Funda/Evangel Christians, they often do not seem to even connect with the idea of Gospel as lifestyle. Just write a check while you cruise back and forth from your mega-sized house, in your huge SUV (with W sticker)to your overpriced "campus" Church. What a desert of the soul.

Please forgive me for my bluntness, but I could not resist.

Travis

Greg and Jon,

interesting interchange - one quick point: let's grant that probably the majority of the people in megachurches are there just for entertainment or maybe even to assuage their guilt - let's also grant that there is a significant minority in the megachurches who truly are working for the good of their communities

now, I would argue that non-Xian society (whether religious or secular) is equally divided between a majority who are more egoistic and consumeristic and a minority who are more selfless and dedicated to improving the lot of all society

how, then, is the church in any way distinct from the rest of the world other than in its dogmas? - the beliefs differ, but the praxis is the same - if there is no difference in what the church accomplishes and non-Xian society accomplishes (and please forgive the behavioristic overtones), is the church really relevant?

the church, as the ostensible bearer of Christ's mandate to bring to fruition the kingdom of God on earth, should be radically different from the rest of society - it is not - it seems, at least to me, that the church, if we may even call it that, is little more than a social club

Jon

Greg,

Thanks for taking the time to spell that out for me. Very Interesting! But so different from everything I've been taught.

"I'm not sure where Scripture say that salvation is by faith alone."

I agree that it probably doesn't say it in any one particular passage. But what does the Bible say as a whole?

"It does say it's by grace through faith, and that's an all together different sort of statement."

How is it altogether different? Are you saying it could mean salvation is by grace through faith AND works? Or salvation is through works, having faith that those works will save you? I don't think that is what the apostle Paul meant. In fact, he specifically states that salvation is not by works. It is a gift from God.

Ephesians 2:5-10
Even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
And raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
Not of works, lest anyone should boast.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

"Luther takes Habakkuk 2:4 completely out of context to justify his position."

In the works that I have read by Luther, he was actually quoting the apostle Paul, who was quoting Habakkuk.

Romans 1:16-17
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, ...
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."

Contextually, Paul is saying that in the gospel of Christ the righteousness of God is revealed to individuals through their faith in Christ. That's my take on it, anyway.

So did Paul use Habakkuk out of context? I looked at it, and I can't really see how so.

There are numerous other passages in the New Testament that I feel are pretty clear in their message that salvation (contextually, salvation from death and eternal condemnation for our sins) is by faith, not by good works. But I have noticed that the majority of these passages originate with the apostle Paul.

"It almost certainly does not mean that I agree with God that what Jesus did was sufficient and then God agrees to look at Jesus instead of sinful ole me and call me righteous."

Based on that statement, and your views on salvation, I am coming to the conclusion that you reject the epistles of Paul as divinely-inspired scripture. Is that the case?

If so, how do you determine what is revelation and what is not?

"So, good works don't just follow salvation; they are the stuff of the process of salvation."
Personally, I don't see that as being contradictory to salvation by faith. I don't buy into the crap that "faith" is remembering the time and date that you said a prayer. That is faith in a work you performed, not faith in Christ. Faith, to me, is a process. So I don't disagree that salvation is a process. Daily life challenges faith, and it must be continually exercised.

"Remember that other annoying voice in the canon: no works, no salvation."
But it isn't inconsistent with the voice of "no faith, no works." (James 2:17) If there are no works, then your faith is a dead faith (i.e. no faith at all).

Travis,

You are right. The church should be radically different. I think that Greg might actually agree with me that a large majority of the people in this world who are percieved as being "the church" actually are not part of true church. So what you have is a bunch of pretenders who really are no different that society as a whole.

Jon

dh

John MacArthur says it perfectly, "We have been, are being and will be saved. Basically have been by Jesus making it possible, are saved by Faith in Christ, being saved by walking with Jesus in our Salvation and being saved as pure as we can through Jesus and will be saved when we "see Him as as He is." Also, we are additionally saved (on a lesser sense) by Christ answering our prayers when we face difficult situations but ultimate Salvation is Faith in Christ.

greg

dh,

You lose credibility when you bring up MacArthur. However, the phrase "ultimate salvation is faith in Christ," doesn't mean anything. The words all make sense, but the phrase lacks specificity to such a degree that you might as well be saying "ultimate salvation is a ham sandwich."

Scott in Houston

Greg,

The debate on Mega-church applicability just won't die. My experiment with my church goes on but the results are more favorable than I expected. For those who've missed posts in the past, the debate has gone on for some time now on most of the issues mentioned above and it always comes back to three speciffic issues; community, discipleship and fellowship, and the question "Can a mega-church create these elements effectively?" As I've said before, I believe that these keys can be created in megachurch settings, but the difficulty grows as the church does. The determining factor is the attitude and aptitude of the leadership and the direction of leadership. If you teach those things you'll get them. The problem is that most mega-churches get to be mega-churches by other means.

dh

Why do I lose credibility by bringing up MacArthur? I think if you read Romans and John 3:3 Rev 3:20 and so on (which I didn't want to bring up) You will uunderstand what ultimate Salvation is. "Without Faith it is impossible to please God. "I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the Father but through me." One's personal Faith in Christ is the only way to true Salvation. Salvation is defined and I was trying to show how it doesn't contradict. Hense, my MacArthur post.

greg

Because MacArthur is a fundamentalist. It is axiomatic for me that fundies don't read Scripture well. Sorry.

I've already addressed what Romans is really all about, and it isn't the mechanics of salvation. And what is ultimate salvation? Is there a penultimate salvation and a first salvation? What about an intermediate salvation? How you use words matters. What are you trying to say?

You quote Scriptures at me as if the meanings have already been established. Every passage has to be interpreted from one language to another. And then, once we've established what the words are, we have to determine what they mean. No one comes but through me. Fine. I agree. What Jesus did in the Christ event matters, but that doesn't mean intellectual assent is necessary, does it? The Hebrews text you quote is pretty clearly faith as action, not faith as assent. So, once again, what are you trying to say?

dh

I never mentioned mental accent that is why I mentioned Faith from the heart. There is a difference. I totally disagree that it isn't the mechanics for Salvation. Your addressing it did not answer it. I also explained the definitions of Salvation by the MacArthur quote but you blew it off by your preconceived ideas. Therby throwing the baby out with the bath water. I think relativists don't read Scriptures well. :)
This is the only way to Salvation "One's personal Faith in Christ alone is the only way to true Salvation."

greg

dh,

The preconceived ideas here are the evangelical/fundy cliches you're bringing to the conversation, like faith from the heart. What does that mean?

dh

"Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul and with all of your mind" Is this Evangelical or this from the Bible? I'm just quoting the Bible and recognize that we must have Faith in Christ and that He is the only answer and believe that with all of our being. If I just acknowledge this with my head and don't act upon it with all of my being or don't respond and therby don't receive the Grace that Christ made available to all then I miss the boat. This isn't Evangelical but basic Christianity. What other way to Christ is there?

Unregulated Female

Terrific & insightful blog. Having been a part of the whole "hyper - high octane" churches at one time, only makes me skip with complete joy at the thought of not attending one now. I am tired of the "pump you up for Jesus" "get high on God" pseudo christianity garbage. Relationships are not easily made in an auditorium watching others entertain you. There's gotta be more to life in God than what the malnutrition diet the megachurch offers.

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