I have recently been reflecting on some things in our society, especially in the church, that seem so out of kilter. There are a couple of questions that have been rattling around in my head that have to do with what we are willing to sacrifice to achieve what our society has determined to be success. You know, “success” in the old “bigger means better” mantra popularized by Peter Drucker and the hordes of church grown entrepreneurs that have tried to merge secular management philosophy and Spirit-filled living. Uh, try again. Bad fit. Simply can’t be done.
Question: Why is the larger church deemed more desirable than the smaller church? Who made that call? Or, to put it another way, why are the Rick Warrens and the Bill Hybels and the Joel Osteens the mainstay of the “How to Do Church” conference circuit and the Robert Settles aren’t even allowed in the building? Oh, never heard of Robert Settle? I didn’t think so. He is just a Baptist pastor that recently retired after 50 plus years of faithful ministry. He never was at the helm of a large church, but he stood strong and finished the race well.
But obviously, that kind of legacy doesn’t attract a crowd, does it? Most mega-church wannabes are not interested in learning how to stay faithful over the long haul, but only about the latest tricks for quick, superficial growth.
“What kind of music really packs them in? Tomlin or Crowder?”
“What kind of movie clip do I use to illustrate my theme this week?”
“How can I give them what they want and still be out in under 55 minutes?”
“Aw heck, just tell me how to pack the house!”
Who said that mega-churches are more blessed by God than smaller ones? After all, it’s God’s blessing that really matters, right? “Well, mega-churches offer more programs to the people that go there. They have bigger facilities and their services are much better than the smaller church. You know, they have a better band and sound production.” In a word, correct. But is that what church is all about? More programs, bigger facilities and a better Sunday show?
It’s like the difference between Wal-Mart and your neighborhood grocery store. Wal-Mart offers almost an unlimited selection of stuff and it offers it at a better price. Joe the butcher on the corner of Fifth and Main simply can’t compete. He doesn’t have the room for all the stuff Wal-Mart can carry and he has to pay more wholesale than Wal-Mart does for the products that he does carry. Let’s face it, if price and selection is all you’re interested in, then Wal-Mart’s your best bet.
But for me, I love community. I like to know that Joe the butcher is, in fact, Joe the butcher. I like the fact that I know about his family and where he goes to church on Sunday. I like the fact that I can wave at him when our paths cross at our son’s Little League game and that he can wave back. I like knowing that Joe lives in the same town as I live in and that we are, by that fact alone, somewhat connected. Actually, we’re neighbors. And hopefully, someday, friends.
Can’t get that from Wal-Mart, can you. And you certainly can’t get that in a wannabe mega-church either.
Oh yea, bigger facilities, a Broadway style Sunday production with theme generated props, and a tight, well-rehearsed, “I really wanna be on the radio” worship band singing all the latest covers…
But community? No. You’ll not find community at Wal-Mart. And you’ll not find it at the local wannabe mega-church either. You’re just another number, another customer, another consumer of their religious wares. Herd ’em in, and herd ’em out. Everybody serving the machine.
I don’t know about you, but I want more out of church than that? Don’t you? I want to know the people I worship with? I want to know about their families, I want to have them over to my house, I want their kids to be friends with my kids. In other words, I want to live in community. Just like they did in the book of Acts.