Dependent on ourselves or desperate for HIS Spirit?
So far we’ve taken apart the American Dream, and we’ve annihilated our own sense of ability to plan our lives. Sounds happy (read with dripping sarcasm). In all this doom and gloom though we find shades of yellow, red roses blossoming, and the glorious fragrance of an ocean breeze in the crisp morning air. Well, at least you can, once your mind opens up to the idea that maybe God does have a plan for your life, and that those bumps are truly just our fighting against what the plan really is.
Can a marriage fail and the couple still be graceful?
Can a job be lost and understanding gained?
Can a death ever be forgiven?
Yes. You see it, far too infrequently, but I’ve seen it. And have often wondered if this is what it is like to be one so connected with God that they can see, feel, smell, the things I so often miss.
Personally, I take life case by case, and yet to prove to be as gracious in the rocky times. My love seems unconditional until I’m screaming at God for making these “bad things happen to me” and “what more do you want from me”. Yep, he’s heard such heated tirades from me on more than one occasion. Just like a daughter to her father, I eventually come crawling back, tail between my legs, asking forgiveness.
Pastor Bill, “This is where I am most convicted as a pastor of a church in the United States of America. I am part of a system that has created a whole host of means and methods, plans and strategies for doing church that require little if any power from God. And it’s not just pastors who are involved in this charade. I am concerned that all of us – Pastors, teachers, administrators, board members and church members in our culture – have blindly embraced an American dream mentality that emphasizes our abilities and exalts our names in the ways we do church.
Consider what it takes for successful businessman or businesswomen, effective entrepreneurs and hard-working associates, shrewd retirees and idealistic students to combine forces with a creative pastor to grow a successful church today. Clearly, it doesn’t require the power of God to draw a crowd in our culture. A few key elements that we can manufacture will suffice.
First, we need a good performance. In an entertainment driven culture, we need someone who can captivate the crowds. If we don’t have a charismatic communicator, we are doomed. So even if we have to show him on a video screen, we must have a good preacher. It’s even better if he has an accomplished worship leader with a strong band at his side.”
I gotta (yes, poor English chosen intentionally) stop right here. I, shamefully admit, that I sure would love to hear some more upbeat and less traditional choir music on occasion. Put a little pop in that hymnal. Ah, I bow my head and shack it side to side with a large, Cheshire grin. You got me dead to rights, here, Pastor. And yes, part of me thinks that if you had some rocking church band performing you might just draw in a few of the younger set.
BUT (isn’t there always a but)…
Once you draw them in it is about keeping them. And that, to me, doesn’t take a flashy Pastor but one who can talk (not preach) to the youth of today’s America. And that is something that is a God given gift. It is not teachable. You either can present the scripture in a way that is like sitting around a dinner table and everyone isn’t squirming because they think the seat of their pants are going to burst into flames with the next syllable uttered from the Pastor’s mouth, or not.
That is one thing I tell people when I sit through Pastor Bill’s sermons. I sincerely do not feel that the entire focus of each week is how I’ve sinned and I’m going to burn in Hell. The message, and again, this is not teachable, is more about how to turn our lives into how God wants his children to behave. Fire and brimstone vs. daffodils and sunsets; leave it to me and I’m certainly going to beg into the spirit of what can I do, not where I am going to go if I don’t.
Pastor Bill, “Next, we need a place to hold the crowds that will come, so we gather all our resources to build a multimillion dollar facility to house the performance. We must make sure that all facets of the building are excellent and attractive. After all, that’s what our culture expects. Honestly, that’s what we expect.”
I’ve been to the Crystal Cathedral in California and it is a serious, awe-inspiring sight to behold. I took my Mom to see a performance of the Little Drummer Boy one Christmas. It was an event beyond words. No description could ever justify the splendor of such an event.
And there I was young. All too young to really comprehend the depth of what I was experiencing.
I attended Calvary Church, also in California, for a number of years. It was a very large facility. It was a campus, really, that had multiple buildings as well as services. I usually attended the Saturday evening service. Pastor Chuck (last name long since lost to Momzheimers) would enter the grand room that housed several hundred disciples, and for those that arrived late, there were other buildings available with his face plastered on large screen TVs. Their “nursery” was also in its own building with a large screen TV. This was back in the day that large screen was a serious investment and there was definitely not one in every household. Flat was not even forethought. I remember, vividly, leaving the services and being lost in a sea of bodies emitting the evening tirade of Hell on Fire and Heaven the gleaming light of gold.
I also recall attending some of their “special” events (rolling eyes). The church band performed on special evenings, quite regularly, and they took over the enormous stage with drums, electric guitars, microphones, and singing. It was an event. A Christian rock concert that was made to bring the message of the good Lord home to roost through upbeat tempos, walls were shaking, and the house was always packed.
Now that I am older, and spent a number of years away from a church, I, personally, came to understand that I much rather have a Plymouth sized congregation where the Pastor, his wife, and other disciples know my kids, my husband and my name. In those large churches, and plenty are available even closer than Plymouth, you are lost. The only time the Pastor will know your name is if you are directly involved in the church. Otherwise, you are another body to fill a pew and write a check.
Is that wrong or bad? I don’t think it is wrong or bad, but certainly something to give a person pause.
It’s wonderful to be so dynamic that people flock to hear you speak,
but isn’t it equally important to know who you are speaking to?
And if you’ve reached them in such a way that you’ve inspired them to be better people,
to live a more God valued life?
Can that really happen in the Jumbotron of churches?
Pastor Bill, “Finally, once the crowds get there, we need to have something to keep them coming back. So we need to start programs, first-class, top-of-the-line programs, for kids, for youth, for families, for every age and stage. In order to have these programs, we need professionals to run them. That way, for example parents can simply drop off their kids at the door, and the professionals can handle ministry for them. We don’t want people trying this at home.
I know this may sound oversimplified and exaggerated, but are these not the elements we think of when we consider growing, dynamic, successful churches in our day? I get flyers on my desk every day advertising entire conferences built around creative communication, first-rate facilities, innovating programs, & entrepreneurial leadership in the church. We Christians are living out the American dream in the context of our communities of faith. We have convinced ourselves that if we can position our resources and organize our strategies, then in church as in every other sphere of life, we can accomplish anything we set our minds to.
But what is strangely lacking in the picture of performances, personalities, programs, and professionals is desperation for the Power of God. God’s Power is at best an add-on to our strategies. I am concerned that the church I lead (YOU) can carry on most of our activities smoothly, efficiently, even successfully, never realizing that the Holy Spirit of God is virtually absent from the picture. We can so easily deceive ourselves, mistaking the presence of physical bodies in a crowd for the existence of spiritual life in a community.”