Monday, October 20, 2008
This morning I stumbled across yet another "megachurch-land" endeavor. The pastor is apparently quite a tech guru and even posts blogs about each service. So, curious as I am, I wanted to read what great things were taking place at their church. Well, what I found yet again reminded me of what I already ask, "What in the world is the church doing?". In order for you to see what I'm referring to, here is the service rundown (I've changed the specifics for the church to remain anonymous):
WOW…what a day at "Church X" - here are a few things running through my mind…
Today was the first day “we” met in THREE locations…"here", "there" and "over there"!
We had our largest non Easter/Christmas attendance today in our history–10,429 people.
We ran out of seats at the 11:15 service at the "X" campus and had to put people in the lobby.
If you normally come to the 11:15…we are asking (begging) you to switch up for the next several weeks and choose a different service, preferably the 4:15.
AND…if you will come to the 4:15 we will give your kids ice cream AND you a gift certificate to take them to dinner somewhere after church!!!
People met Christ today…that NEVER gets old–EVER!
Lives are being changed…hell is becoming LESS crowded because of what God is doing through our church.
Is this The Church? I’m really asking – is it? Are these really the highlights of the services? It has success written all over it when viewed in the natural, but is it really fulfilling the purposes of God? Now please understand me, I'm not singling out one specific church and attempting to stand as judge. What I am doing is growing more and more weary of article after article and report after report of churches advancing worldly kingdoms of men. You don’t have to look very hard to find information and updates regarding church growth reports and “success stories”. I was even on the verge of starting a new blog that only addressed this institutional craziness. There is a great wealth of what the organized church deems as success that is really just vapor. I chose not to though, simply because what I found upset me too much and I didn’t want to assign my time to such frustrating matters.
I guess I always return to this – I just can’t see what all of the hoopla that churches focus on matters whatsoever. I used to marvel at the services that my wife and I attended at one of the largest mega churches in the nation. All three morning services ran as slick as a Broadway production and I was always fascinated. Now, however, I just don’t view it the same anymore as I look back years later. What I used to marvel at, I now detest. Why? I was enamored with the setting and the show. I “enjoyed” the worship – I didn’t worship, as I know it to be now. I was challenged then but it was because I had virtually no intimacy with God – I was a spiritual baby, at best. I now see multi-million dollar buildings and cringe. Elaborate stages, light shows, sound systems that rival the nations greatest venues - for what? For who? For us, that’s who - Mr. and Mrs. Church Member (and of course don’t forget Mr. and Mrs. Potential Church Member).
Is there anything left for God to get the glory for? I mean really, is there? I believe with everything that is within me that He couldn’t care less how many people sat in your building on Sunday. He doesn’t get impressed with your annual budget or your elaborate auditoriums. I believe, in the midst of all of this fluff, He is saying one thing: “When will you worship Me in spirit and in truth?”.
I know some of you likely get tired of me talking about how wrong I feel organized religion is, and that’s OK. If you don’t agree, no one makes you read these articles. All that I can do is present what the heart of the Father impresses upon me personally. I just cannot escape how the Body is not being the Body – and trust me, I’m too often found lacking Body activity also. One thing I’m sure of though, I will never again trade in true Body life for the traditions of men. I would just as soon cut off my arms and legs.
We must get to our Father’s business. I find that so many people don’t even want to hear this. They won’t talk about it and many get greatly offended. Why is this? Why do so many people that profess to be Christians get nearly irate over the idea that the positional church might be flawed? Why do so many Believers have nothing to say about their personal relationship with the Father? Are we followers of Christ or not? I’m serious people! Are we or not? Although I’m not there yet, I believe a time is coming (perhaps I’m lagging behind out of fear and reputation) that I’ll look people in the eye and say “Why do you even bother professing to be a Christian?”. Friends, it is time we do something – it is time that we can’t even tolerate the thought of placing anything or anyone above God in any capacity. I don’t care if it’s a bottle of alcohol or your Sunday School class- I believe that in the eyes of God, they are one in the same if they’re embraced with selfish motives and intentions.
I cannot stress enough how the Spirit is telling me that all that is not rooted in the Kingdom of God will not remain. Soon, money will not matter. Positions and class will not matter. Who you are and what you’ve done, apart from the Kingdom will not matter whatsoever! Why do so few understand this? How in the world can the church continue on with blinded eyes saying, “Oh, all is OK, God is in control.” Is the church really so ignorant and blind? Yes, my hope is in Him and He is in control but life as usual cannot continue in this hour. Even some mainstream religious leaders are hearing this same call. It is time that we wake up and exit our Christian Fantasy Island! It is time to move out into the deep waters where God alone will sustain us and keep us alive! The island will soon be uninhabitable!
I’d like to share a metaphor that I saw when watching the movie “The Savages” several months ago. In the movie, a brother and sister have to address the fact that their father is senile and in need of a nursing home. They have had virtually no relationship with him throughout the years but find themselves in the position to care for him at the end of his life. They address very painful issues and the struggle of their pursuit to place him in the right home is well portrayed. In one specific scene, the brother and sister have a very heated argument as she is desperate to find a place that is best for their father. She begins to cry as she wants to place him in the nicest home possible, yet cannot seem to find a place that offers sufficient care. Her brother, seeing the true reality of it all states, in summary, “All of this fancy stuff on the outside is just for show! It’s for us, not for the people inside. It is to make you and me feel better, not dad! All of this landscaping and beauty on the exterior only exists to make you and I forget the ugly truth that people are dying inside those walls.”
What a harsh reality. This is how I see much of modern day Christianity. We have great buildings and programs, yet no life inside the walls. There are books and videos to offer you wealth and success – classes to teach you 10 steps in order to get over your addictions – tshirts and stickers in order to make you feel a part of something…. you get the point. There is no limit to the facades that portray to the world, "we are Christians and we are fine!". The reality, however is that we are dying. Marriages are ending, families crumble. Suicides are increasing, most are no different than the world and all hope is drifting off into oblivion. And the church wants to talk about attendance, building funds, giftings and positions? I just don’t get it. What we need to see is a longing for worship – a craving for the Father – to know Him and be known by Him above all else. Gatherings of Believers (errantly named "church services") are supposed to be a sanctuary where the LORD dwells in those who are gathered together and He is glorified. Think about it for a moment. What if there was a day designated where no church services were held? Everyone could just stay home and establish a tabernacle of worship with your family for one day. Read the Word and offer a sacrifice of praise unto Him. Invite your neighbors over for a meal and love them with no strings attached or motives other than love. Even set aside your need to “evangelize them” (gasp!). Some might actually enjoy talking to you if your motives weren’t to “get them in church”. (Don't even get me started on my local Christian community's latest endeavor where they proclaimed via signs and marches to "Get Saved or Get Busted!" in regards to drug addiction.)
In conclusion, the LORD is challenging me with some tough things lately. Don’t think for a moment that these articles are ever, “You do this because I’ve already figured it all out” writings. I am being given mandates to live out what He tells me and it isn’t always easy – in fact, it is rarely easy. I am being challenged to question why I’m doing everything that I’m doing. I can no longer flippantly go along and do what I’ve always done. It is a new season for me and I must be found obedient to the Father’s will alone. Pleasing myself or pleasing you just won’t cut it. I can hardly even tolerate any level of man-centered meetings – so much so, it is hard to do seemingly anything. If it isn’t all about the LORD and His Body functioning in equal parts, I’m just not interested. So there you have it – He wants it all. He wants your devotion, your time, your intentions, your trust, your everything. Are you ready and willing to lay all down in order to please Him alone? Do you have any facades in your life that portray you’re something you’re not? Do you know who you are? It’s my prayer that we all approach what is to come with unveiled eyes. No thing and no one can do it for us - it is our decision. I must live my life for one purpose alone – to carry out the will of my Father. Will I be His Ambassador above all else? Will you?