Sunday, 2 September 2012

BIG is not always beautiful!

Before I start, I'm aware that some people may not like what they read in this post; however, these are my personal views - you may not agree but you are most welcome to comment!

For some time now I've been wrestling with the issues of mega-churches (and would-be ones!) and having read some disturbing accounts regarding Willow Creek church  and Saddleback Community Church and their respective leaders ( Bill Hybels  and Rick Warren ) I am a little concerned about the church communities that are being modelled on them.

The leader of Willow Creek, Bill Hybels, apparently has a notice outside his office that states:

"What is our Business? Who is our Customer? What does our customer consider is Value?

Does that not strike you as something the large economic institutions would use? Are we now being told to model 'Church' on 'mammon's' principles?

There is a seeming trend towards big, shiny, performance 'worship' - and rather too much introspective navel gazing! As far as my experience of it goes, it seems to be all about teaching programmes and sermon-series and getting bums on seats! It may be wonderful to be 'lost in rapture' but you can still be alone in a crowd. And what happens if you, yourself, don't quite want to just follow the 'herd' - how do your questions get answered? With some of these larger churches there seems to be an attitude that if you make waves you are shown the door - what's that all about?

Aside from that, it seems too many are interested in being busy in church but not actually using that experience in the real world. If you want to swim it doesn't matter how many courses and training programmes you do, it's worth nothing unless you actually get in the water! Same with church, I feel!

Since reading a book called "The Irresistible Revolution" by Shane Claiborne I have begun to look at things a different way. His book centres on the opposite of BIG church - where small acts of serving the local community are faithfully carried out, without fuss and without razamatazz. It's very attractive, because it's 'do-able'! And I kind of think it's more the way Jesus would have gone about things.

Now, don't get me wrong - for some people BIG churches give them a place of safety; but it is also very easy to hide, or go unnoticed! What worries me is that unless there are smaller groups meeting regularly with each other, it is impossible to get to know the needs of others, to minister to (and BE ministered to!). It is also way too easy for the leadership to be put on a pedestal and become 'untouchable' - an ideal way for 'discrepancies' to worm their way in!

Could this perhaps be what Christ, Himself, says in Matthew 24:24 - "False Messiahs and false prophets will come and work great miracles and signs. They will even try to fool God's chosen ones."

That last sentence scares the wits out of me!

I think it is rather more healthy to question than to sleepwalk to oblivion - this is no time for an 'Emperor's New Clothes'-mentality! And any church and its leadership does well to examine its' own motives and willingly answer the questions of those who are not meekly following on!

And, my final note - having done a brief search via the internet, it seems that many of these mega-churches do not have any visible representation of the cross at their services (although I believe one may be suddenly installed for Baptismal services!). What worries me, is that my own (possibly/would-be mega-church?) has recently been (extravagantly) refurbished - but now lacks a cross....... Is this the beginning of the end?