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Friday, July 29, 2005

Mega-churches Mega-Bad?

Clint Rainey is a journalism student at the University of Texas. His piece for on the inadequacy of megachurches is on the mark. He decries the Church Growthy lust for razzle-dazzle, all in the name of being "seeker sensitive." Mr. Rainey questions what the mega-churches are trying to attract seekers to. Certainly not religion. Certainly not doctrine. Certainly not objective truth. Certainly not Jesus. Rather than having seeker-sensitive buildings, services, programs, music, and kitsch, let's try being seeker-sensitive Christians he advises. There's a kernel of wisdom in that, yes?

I would add that instead of being seeker-sensitive, let's be genuinely warm, honest, welcoming Christian people who focus on the cross and, as a church, embody the Spirit of God. Then he who seeks, will have something worth finding.

I'll probably get in trouble for saying this and maybe it's just me, but in my experience (and I say this often), the Christians who yammer the most about reaching the lost and want to use every trendy gimmick to do it, those that belong to the Church-of-What's-Happenin-Now, are just not that nice. At least not to me. While the stodgy, stuffy, sticks-in-the-mud I like to hang out with are quite warm and genuine. At least I know what they think.

The point is that the mega-church movement, in addition to being impersonal, is shallow. A mile wide and a nanometer deep. Offering feel-good self-improvement with a glossy spiritual veneer. Mr. Rainey criticizes the boomer generation responsible for mega-church-mania, saying they seek after "stuff" and "things" when they come to church. It's a generalization, to be sure, but I think he's right. I hope Mr. Rainey is equally correct in his assessment of his own generation, one that is coming to church, insofar as it does come to church, looking for "meaning."

Oh, just read his article.

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The Heresy Hunter said...

Unfortunately, we're finding the seeker-sensitive material in LCMS churches as well.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Time put the emphasis back on proper teaching and preaching, don't you think?

Lisa said...

When we do anything and everything to attract people to church, we offer them everything but what they're seeking. Christ. Only Christ can fill the void that they are trying to stuff with gimmicks. We MUST trust God to do the calling and we must trust God to do the real healing. The healing of sin. The healing of irreconciliation. It is not our job to anesthetize folks so that they cannot even see their need.

Whew, sorry! This whole mega-church thing has made me nuts for years. It is so easy to let the mentality creep into even reformed church. I am very pleased to see people addressing it.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Yep. What you said. I'm obviously in favor of wanting to reach the world with the gospel. But we can't really help anyone - even if we "grow" our churches - by soft-pedalling God's Law and giving a cross-less gospel.

defensor1517 said...

I've been asked to make sure all Lutheran BLOG sites are aware of, and are promoting, a great new book out from Concordia Publishing Company. Thank you.

Here it is:

Darrell said...

Pastor Scott, I want to give a BIG AMEN to a lot of what you've said here.

Specifically, " those that belong to the Church-of-What's-Happenin-Now, are just not that nice."

Absolutely. The last nondenominational protestant church Wendy and I atteneded seemed to be full of trendy, showy Christians who'd smile and speak to us on Sundays but would turn their heads and pretend they hadn't seen us in Wal-Mart, etc. The only thing they were concerned about was "church growth," and constantly raved about how much they loved the Mega-Churches. They pushed Max Lucado and his brand of "Halmark Card Theology" to the max, and it was a major, major turn-off for Wendy and me. In fact, oddly enough, what that managed to do was contribute in a small way to the growth of the Catholic church, as that's where we went out of desperation. And that's where we've been very happy.

"The point is that the mega-church movement, in addition to being impersonal, is shallow."

Big, big Amen to that, too. It certainly doesn't seem to be focused on Jesus in any meaningful way. They've turned the Savior into a mascot; a simple brand logo! Some of these Mega Churches have McDonalds and the like in them! I thought the Lord wanted the money changers OUT of the temple, didn't he?

Thank you for this post. It honestly does me good to see that there are Christ-centered protestants out there. To be honest, the Lutherans are, at this point, the sole Protestant church that still makes me comfortable. I think that's largely because of all the similarities, but also because almost every Lutheran I talk to seems to have priorities and focuses I share.

Anonymous said...


This is not my blog; but I read it daily. I read several Lutheran blogs daily. I have now seen you add this comment at all of them -- to posts that have nothing to do with CPH or the new publication of the Confessions.

I don't know you has asked you to make sure all Lutheran blogs are aware of the publication, but I am almost positive there is a better way. Search the archives of these blogs. You will almost always find that these bloggers have blogged about the book even promoting it. If you find no blog entry for the book, e-mail the blog owner to make him aware of the publication. He can then choose to blog about it or not.

What you are doing now is not very much different than e-mail spam; you are spamming blogs with a commercial advertisement.

I wanted to e-mail you, but you provide no e-mail address. I am glad you are trying to get the word out regarding this new publication, but I think there must be a better way.

-Erich Fickel

Kelly Klages said...

Hi, I'm a LCC pastor's wife up in Canada and I found your blog via Cyberbrethren. Having grown up with a lot of the Church Growth garbage, I always appreciate someone willing to expose the naked emperor. Have you seen Gene Veith's article, Through All Generations, on this subject? It's very illuminating on the issue of how the Boomers shape Evangelicalism today, and how the Lutheran church offers something much more solid that transcends mere fad.

cwv warrior said...

Thanks Pastor Scott. I feel like i'm between a rock and a hard place as far as churches go. I agree with you...some evangelicals are way over the top and I fear insincere. Can't go there. Mainline stuff, although I don't mind the "stuffy" thing...real and understated is way more comfortable for us...sometimes i really do want to shout..."C'mon people! We have to DO SOMETHING!"

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Kelly, thanks for recommending that Vieth article. I agree that it is very good. I would also recommend his book "Postmodern Times" as a means to help us understand why many things are the way they are today.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

I hear ya. I guess what I'm saying is that one should find a church that teaches the whole truth of God's Word. Too often, people pick a church on the basis of the music, or the location, or because it has lots of activities. That's fine, but the most important question is what do they teach and believe. Is the gospel of Christ crucified central, with all of its articles?

God uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise and the weak things to shame the strong. Sometimes there is more Christianity in the tiny hole-in-wall church with only a handful of blue-haired old ladies than in the superdome yuppy churches that pack 'em in, but spend more time talking about what you should do for Jesus than about what Jesus has done for us.

New Curriculum at Concordia Theological Seminary