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July 25, 2005

Comments

Streak

my favorite line: puppet of a liberal political agenda masquerading in Christian clothing.

Greg, I had no idea!

Travis

Greg,

Speaking of pork (and, yes, I am a vegan), I am curious as to your opinion regarding corporate agriculture's treatment of pigs, cattle, chickens, and other farm animals? As Christians, do you believe we owe a duty of compassion and kindness--if not love--to our fellow creatures?

Of course, I'm not trying to hijack your topic, so don't feel obligated to respond to this.

freethnkr1965

I keep waiting for some conservative "theologian" to finally clue in on the way the early church members sold their personal belongings and shared the proceeds communally. Wouldn't that make Jesus a communist?!?

:)

Bob Smietana

Greg

Hate to be a nitpicker, but there are thousands of Catholic churches in the US with more than 2,000 in attendance, making them in essence megachurches. Are those all illegitimate?

greg

Bob,

The ecclesiology of a Catholic Church precludes them from being a mega in the sense I am using. Perhaps the time has come to distinguish between a mega like Life and a mega like a Catholic Church. It isn't just an issue of numbers, and it's past time the Church took into account those differences.

Porky Fedwell

Ah, now we are really getting somewhere. You are seriously suggesting that Catholic churches are immune from mega-church folly? How can that be, since they were clearly involved in follies from so many prior ages, such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, burning Bible translators at the stake, and so on?

Fr'nklin

Hey Porky Fedwell,
I admit to being guilty of too often attacking the church and having less energy at doing something positive...so thanks for the reminder...I'm really working this out right now.
On the Catholic church - it does seem like she was the first "mega" church, but not in the sense we're talking about today. Seems hers was more political in nature...less about accomodating culture and more about controlling culture. Of course, you could argue that there is a materialistic and political drive in the current mega church. You make a good point though...I'd like to think through the differences between Protestant "megas" and Catholic "megas".
Peace.

greg

Porky,

Please read what I write, not what you think I'm writing. No church is exempt from mega-church follies, as you put it. My issue with megas tends to be directed at what I call the suburban, cracker-ass, cult of the self megachurches. Most Catholic churches do not fall into this category as they have a fixed liturgy and ecclesiology. They are not as subject to the whims of the culture as the other megas are.

Monk-In-Training

Travis,
The issue of animal cruelty will be showing up in a posting on my blog in the near future. It is something that is concerning me.

Bob Smietana

Greg

Catholic megas could run into the same "church as performance" problems that Protestant megas do, and the same problem with members living un-discipled lives that Protestant megas can run into. You're painting with a very broad brush to say megas aren't legitimate expressions of the church. What's the size limit between a legitimate church and a mega, from a theological or biblical standpoint.

Porky Fedwell

Greg, OK, I accept what you are now saying. However, it is quite a bit different and more reasonable than what you were saying earlier, that is, that "The ecclesiology of a Catholic Church precludes them from being a mega in the sense I am using." "Precludes" definition: "to make impossible by necessary consequence : rule out in advance" (source: Merriam-Webster online). From an outsiders' point of view, the recent hubbub surrounding the changing of the Papal seat makes any other personality cult pale by comparison. Regards, Porky Fedwell

greg

Bob,

Those aren't the issues I'm talking about.

Porky,

For the record, I'm not a big fan of referntial language, so you'll find dictionary definitions don't sway me. The meaning of a word is determined by its usage, not by what Merriam Webster online or offline says. They are precluded from being a mega in the sense of which I am speaking because once a priest becomes renegade enough to make changes according to the whims of the culture, it ceases to be a Catholic Church. The idea that the Catholic Church would be as servile toward the demands of their congregants as the average evangelical mega is absurd. It will never happen.

Travis

MIT,

Thanks, I'll be checking your blog for your posting.

greg

Travis,

Sorry for the delay. I've been educating myself about the way animals are treated prior to slaughter. The conditions are appalling. I've started looking for free-range meats and companies I know treat their animals well. I probably just should be a vegetarian, but I just can't do it yet.

Porky Fedwell

Greg, you seem to be saying that words have the definitions you assign to them at will, and are free to morph the menaing of whatever you've previously written after the fact. Very Clintonesque of you.

As to the substance of whether a Catholic church (i.e., the people that make up the Church, not the hierarchy) can conform itself to the culture or not, I dispute your contention. One thing Catholics are known for is that they attend weekly mass, and many of them don't actually believe the doctrines of the Church (I work with a number of Catholics, and more than half of them freely admit this). They go through the motions. Therefore, while the rituals and "official" doctrines of the Catholic Church may not drift far from Rome, the behavior of the congregants does. I would submit that the latter is far more important than the former.

No doubt, some of the megas probably have invented a gospel far different from the Biblical one. But then, so has the Catholic faith, for that matter. Yet, my experience is that most of them are true enough to the gospel that they at least serve as a decent "halfway house" for baby Christians, if nothing else. And some of them are quite good, even if they don't take up Darfur and homosexuality as the issues that define them.
Porky Fedwell
"Show me the buffet, and get outta my way"

greg

Porky,

Either drop the assinine political references or enter troll-ville. There is nothing Clintonesque about non-referential language. (This is a theological discussion, not a political one, and your insistence on using phraseology from right wing radio won't gain you any credibility in a theology discussion. Rush never wrote theology.) I don't make up the meanings of words as it pleases me. Communities of people determine what a word means by the way they use it. Long-standing customs, practices, and habits determine the way words are used. A word is not infused with a particular meaning at its creation and then left in stasis forever. Definitions change as usage changes. For example, the word salvation. What does that mean? Depending upon the context it can mean a myriad of things. Within the evangelical Christian subculture it has a particular meaning, but that meaning doesn't extend to a different subset of Christianity, say Catholicism or Anabaptist communities. It takes on a very different definition. Take it outside the Christian context altogether and the meaning changes again. The problem has become that evangelicals think their very limited understanding of the word is the fixed meaning, so everyone else is wrong. Were evangelicals ever to look at what the word means in Scripture, they'd be amazed. In the Bible salvation is always context dependent. It doesn't usually mean what evangelicals assume it means. That's a quick explanation, but it will have to do. I've written quite a bit on the subject on this blog. Again, if you intend to hang around it pays to be familiar with the discussion.

You can dispute my contention all you want; all you've said is that some Catholics don't take their faith seriously. So what. It also applies to every other subset of Christians. The issue is how the leadership approaches ecclesiology. The Catholic Church does not allow their ecclesiological and theological decisions to be subservient to the whims of those non-serious congregants. There is an anti-Catholic subtext to much of what you're saying, Porky. I don't care much for it. Catholics have complex theological reasons for doing what they do. If you don't understand their reasons, you probably shouldn't be so adversarial about them. Let's not pretend that Martin Luther's faith and theology are closer to the current evangelical church than the Catholic Church. It's not. The faith evangelicals have created is not what the Reformation was all about.

No such thing as a "halfway house" for baby Christians. For more on this, go read the "Size Matters, I Think" posts. You'll need to Google them, as I'm not energetic enough to find them.

Porky Fedwell

Greg, I think you are already in Trollville, based on your level of emotional rhetoric. For instance, I don't think you can argue that there is a theological meaning to the word we were talking about, which was "preclude." But, nice try at the attempt to confuse people.

Also, your comment about "not caring for" an anti-Catholic tone is about as hypocritical as they come, given your obvious, emotional anti-evangelical tone. You are a very funny little man.

greg

Porky,

I can't be a troll on my own blog. Are you new to this medium?

I wasn't talking about the word preclude. I was talking about your insistence that the dictionary determines the meaning of words. The conversation is then extended to theology to give you an example. It pays to read and not skim for things to disagree with.

I don't have a subtext to my dislike for evangelical megachurches. I've been quite explicit about it and given good reasons.

You haven't addressed a single thing I wrote in the previous post. One more chance, Porky, and then you're banned.

Porky Fedwell

I see you don't like criticism, especially of the Catholic Church. Ban me, then - and, burn books too, in the greatest of Catholic traditions. Thanks for a great time.

greg

I'm not going to ban you, Porky. I'll just ignore you 'til you go away. That seems to work best, and I certainly don't want to give fundangelicals any more reasons to feel persecuted.

Bob Smietana

greg

Any church--whether it's a Catholic church, a "suburban, cracker-ass, cult of the self megachurch" or any one of the small, stagnant congregations in the US--that doesn't have means for discipling their congregation -- ie, forming their lives so they live like Jesus--is going to fall short of being the kind of community that exemplifies the kingdom of God.

I agree with much of what you post but this animosity towards megachurches is getting close to demonizing them. It's not healthy and comes close to bearing false witness.

jvpastor

I have spent the last two years in a long conversation with two close friends considering conversion to Catholicism. We have moved slowly down the list of what appears to be "obstacles" for protestants, and I have not found a solid refutation for any of the issues when what is really taught by the Church is considered thoughtfully. Most people oppose Catholicism, because of what they think Catholics believe not what the Church actually believes. This is coming from a protestant, baptist, minister.

Porky, you ought to check out the fourth book of the Institutes of the Christian Religion by Calvin and I think you will find that most of his arguments against Catholicism are weak.

Streak

How did criticism of evangelicalism make one a Catholic?

Bob, how does church best work for you? I understand part of what you are saying. I certainly know some small congregations that are no more exemplary than the megas, but how best do you see church working?

greg

Bob,

You can call it bearing false witness if you like, although that seems a bit strong. However, in engineering if a schema doesn't work, the engineer doesn't just say, "Oh well, close enough." She tries to figure out how to solve the problem. The kind of megas about which I'm talking have an ecclesiology that cannot work well; the flaw is built into the system. The standard response of "Oh well, close enough," or "They're doing their best," seems a little tired in light of the fact that these are the churches that continue to steal congregants from other churches and talk about how healthy their model is. If their model was that healthy, they'd have conversion growth (like Saddleback) to show for it. As I said previously, it is time to distinguish between large churches that are still being the church and megas that are not being the church but are being some sort of inspirational bar and grill for the furtherance of Americana. Your unwillingness to criticize megas at any level is a concern to me since I know you don't have all warm feelings for them. Trust me, if they weren't the model in America that every knucklehead (and I mean specifically knuckleheads, not every graudate) graduating from seminary aspired to follow, I'd say very little about them. But they represent the dominant ecclesiological model in the American Church and as such should fall under greater scrutiny. It just so happens that I live in a city with one of the most egregious examples of how bad a mega can become.

bob

I grew up Methodist with a Roman Catholic grandmother at home & Catholic Godmother. I feel far more distance between myself & fundamentalist or very conservative
protestants than with Catholics, yet I am fully aware of why I remain a protestant. The Roman Catholic church has a world view that American protestant denominations can't touch. It transcends nationalism. Yet, every parish has a unique personality, its "angel" so-to-speak. To hassle Catholics about The Pope, or doctrinal matters from the time of Luther, is a waste of time better spent making friends.

kenosis

Just want to say, have greatly enjoyed the posts above, particularly the interaction between greg and porky.

Obviously, there is a great deal of passion coming from different perspectives (historical mainline, evangelical, mega, etc). I think this illustrates a truth from Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Church (whether or not you embrace his teaching) in which he talks of the five different types of people your church will minister to (as seen in the 5 different types of people Jesus ministered to):

Community - those you are trying to reach
Crowd - come but not really engaged, family,
Congregation - have joined, attend, light involvement
Committed - very involved, make the church what it is.
Core - laying down their life as servant leaders to fulfill the vision and purpose of the Lord in that place.

I have met people from all church backgrounds and find that I must be careful to judge the church based on my first impression of them. Met some mega's recently who made me wanna puke. Met some mainliners at the airport whose confusing belief about Jesus made me want to hang their pastor. But when you meet "Core" people (like you folks above) who believe, worship, and live the message you really find out what the church is about. Without much explantion this may seem to be too simplistic, but this helps me see other Christians as those brethren in unity with me worshipping Jesus

greg

Andy,

The problem of course is that the NT speaks of the "core" as the church. Everyone else is on the way, not part of the body. As I've written on many occasions, this is in large part because of the relinquishing of a catechetical process that mentors unbelievers until they become believers. At that point, they convert, not before. Warren wants to count everyone as part of the church just because they show up. Institutionally that makes sense. Ecclesiologically it is the death knell of a healthy church. It has created huge problems for discipline, education, doctrine, etc.

kenosis

Greg,

I genuinelly appreciate your call to a "healthy church" but with these questions; is a person a member of Christ's body because they believe, confess, and seem to know of their faith and standing or is the proof of their "membership" the fruit and outworking of that commitment. Is there a medium place (as Warren suggests) where they are learning how to be the "core"? Similiarly, what of those who have been through the "process", convert and attend but don't enter the life of the church community or service to the church and world. Perhaps I am being judgemental, in that they genuinely manifest Christ to the world in their own way, but I do believe in the believers love for and service with their church. And, excuse me if you have shared this in other postings, but what catechetical process do you use?

greg

The medium place is the catechetical process. It's also the beginning place. The reason the early Church withheld baptism until after catechism was because of hte importance placed on the believer actually knowing what the implications of being baptized into the kingdom were all about. None of this make a decision stuff and now you're in. It was a two-year process of learning and discipleship and mentoring before they were allowed baptism. My step-daughter is in the process of considering baptism. As part of that decision, we will have her meet with a couple of the pastoral staff on a regular basis, she will receive instruction in the faith from her mother and me, and we will make a decision with the pastors and her as to when she is ready. That's the short answer for catechetical process. You'd have to ask the staff at my church what they think of the idea; I can just give you my personal thoughts.

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