I volunteered to help a church that we sometimes attend (don't worry, steeplechasers. It's on Saturday nights. And I take along a group of teenagers. It's not infidelity. I stopped dating the church a long time ago.) run a concert on the block a few weeks ago. Got several of my youth (I'm a youth ministries director, kind of like a youth pastor without the skateboards I suppose.) to volunteer alongside. We were at a preliminary meeting for the volunteers when Pastor Phil warned us to be on our toes, because when the church is doing something right, the devil will pound. (Yes, I believe in demons. Not D&D type stuff. And I don't believe in them like I believe in God, but I believe that they're active, but not in some silly Stephen King way.)
He offered an example of when he had a speaking engagement at a church and the speakers blew out so he had to speak through a monitor. "And they had some ladies in the back," he ad-libs, "making cookies in an Easy-Bake oven."
"'Hold on! They'll be ready in just a minute. Mmmmh...' Baking by a light bulb."
(See, Destiny? It works better vocally, with the physical cues and all. Now I made all these people upset with me. Ahh, nothing new there.)
I'll edit in the rest of the story later.
So, on the day of the concert we come to help in the morning and things are pretty cool. The teens enjoy being a part of the whole process and one of them has their first leading-to-Jesus moment that she was really excited about. Some punks made me upset by constantly hitting on a couple of the girls, but they did a good job of keeping them at bay. It's at times like those, though, that I wish that urban youth would just man-up, and I could just give them a thumping and they wouldn't need to cry to their gangs about it. But, over all, it was good stuff.
We took our break, picked up and dropped-off some other teens and when we arrived, there was a dude with a megaphone yelling about how nobody wants to hear about a white Jesus. Being one of the only non-Blacks in attendance, I wanted to ask who presented this white Jesus that everyone is supposed to be worshiping. Apparently, some others were wondering the same thing too. "Why is he so racist? What's wrong with him?"
"The real Jesus wouldn't want us to die and go to jail!" Amen, although I recognized that as a flip on the old stand-by, "Jesus don't want you to die and go to hell!" So, again, who is positing this false gospel?
"They are kicking us out of the neighborhood to make room for the whites to move in." Huh? The expressway is at least two miles away. Downtown is a drive and a half. Bus service is, at best, shaky. There's no other whites around there. Who wants to move to Lawndale? And since when did Lawndale Community Church or any of its ministries work against the neighborhood and its residents? I know of few other churches so actively involved in their community.
And the kicker,
"How many of y'all got jobs?" A dozen or so hands go up, most of the others being youth or children. "Put your hands down! You're lying, 'cuz y'all ain't White and y'all ain't Mexican."
I dropped my jaw.
Why do I feel like I already wrote this story?
By the way, this qualifies as my upsetting reply moment. And you'd probably have to be me in order to understand why I was so upset. He meant well, I'm sure:
I don't know what's so bad about mega churches. Jesus attended a mega church in Jerusalem, didn't he? And then he met with his small group.
I don't attend a mega church (ours averages around 500), but I don't see how a church that's alive and gets people excited, and provides tons of ministry opportunities, and connects people in meaningful ways through small groups, can be bad!
Churches become big because they come up with ways that actually reaches people and touches them and if that draws them closer to Christ then that's just flat-out awesome.
And my reply:
First... I want to thank you for stopping by my little ego-drive today and for leaving a comment.
I appreciate your sincerity and judging by a quick glance at your blog, I can tell that that is what you are about, bringing God into the public, so-called "secular," arena.
I also agree, as I did in my post and as I do in my thought processes, that the good things (people getting connected to God and each other) that happen within the mega-church movement are in fact, good things. However, I also believe it's paramount to not confuse good results with good, Biblical, Spirit-filled processes.
First, on a historical note, the temple that Jesus attended in the early 1st Century was not by any means a Mega-Church. It was THE Temple. The only temple (cf. John 4:20-22). There was no market-driven strategy. There was no competition. People came simply because the Temple in Jerusalem was the Only place to worship the Only God. To suggest, however, that the Twelve were Christs' small group is to trivialize the awesome transformation and revolution happening in the relationships between Jesus, the masses, and his committed followers. Again, nothing against small groups; they are great and often life-transforming. But Jesus wasn't just meeting some guys over tea and fritos.
The times, however, are a-changing. And no one should negate that. When the times change, the Church should recognize its role in the environment. It should never lose a hold of its vision or purpose (Mtt. 28:18-20), to restore sight to the blind, give hope to the hopeless, shelter the homeless, protect the innocent, the fatherless, the widows, etc, but in the love of and from Jesus with an eye on eternity.
I'm not saying that mega-churches do not do that, but the focus is taken off Jesus and these commands and put onto the consummer. The seeker is the consummer and we must do whatever is necessary to get their attention, even if it means compromising the Gospel message and that which is considered offensive (picture a senior pastor of a mega-church getting up and saying that all congregants must drink this blood and eat this flesh to get into heaven. Not gonna happen in a consummer-driven church). Jesus knew he was going to be a stumbling block, that when he calls us, he calls us to die with him.
I cannot see Joel Osteen (OK, so I named one, and an easy target, but he is setting up a dangerous pattern) saying to all that would follow him that, "Foxes have holes and birds have nests in which to rest, but I don't even have a pillow or a box spring. I'm homeless." Or to another would-be attender who wants eternal life, "Sell everything you have to the poor and follow me." Or how about, "Hey, people are gonna hate me, what'd'ya know? I'm gonna die. And if you want any piece of what I'm about, you're gonna die too. So, yeah, come follow me."
The more I follow the life and teachings of Jesus, of course, the more I realize how short I fall on EVERY single issue. I have to look at my own complacency and laziness and definitely the fact that I want people to like me; I fear man more than God. But that shouldn't stop anyone for calling the Church to question.
And, just because a church is active and even theologically correct does not mean it is alive (cf. Rev. 2:1-7).
Hey, don't be a stranger,
So, yeah, you could tell I was itching for a fight. He didn't bring it, though.