New Background

Can You Hear Me Now?

Friday, April 28, 2006

It's a REALLY BIG SHOW!

These GIANT hands are at ORU in Tulsa. They are 60 feet tall, 30 tons of bronze. I don’t know if they are a big tourist draw, but as I shared with my Pastor’s wife, they look to me like hands from hell coming up to take down a corrupt world. It’s a joke people…Oral Roberts is one of the “grandfathers” of MEGACHURCH and a businessman in every sense of the word.

A brief history:

1987: In January Oral Roberts said that God spoke to him and told him that he had not sent out any medical missionaries from the university or City of Faith. God instructed him to raise $8 million by March of the same year or God would take him home (presumably God would kill Oral Roberts or translate him to heaven like Enoch).The money raised was to provide full scholastic scholarships for medical missionaries who would be sent to other countries.

He claimed that $3.5 million had already been raised, but he needed $4.5 million more by March 1, in order to get the full $8 million and prevent God from taking him home.

1987: On April 1 Oral Roberts said that he had received $9.1 million which was $1.1 million more that was required by God.

1987: In November, Oral Roberts announced that the City of Faith would be closing down.

1988: In January, Oral Roberts discontinued the medical scholarships. Apparently he was no longer afraid that God was going to take him home.

1988: In March, the medical scholarship fund went bankrupt. If any students wished to transfer to any other institution, they were required to repay their scholarships at 18% interest.

1989: In September, Oral Roberts closed the City of Faith.

From what I read this morning Oral Roberts moved to Palm Springs and his son now owns this business and all the debt along with it.

It’s sad really. Church has evolved from capital “C” Church (what God had in mind), to lowercase “c” church (a building we’ve created to protect our beliefs) to one of the greatest SHOWS on earth. Big, BIGGER, BIGGEST, is the theme!

The mega-churches almost feel like they are more about the PRODUCTION of church under the guise of the EXPERIENCE of church then the biblical meaning of CHURCH.

I’m not saying I don’t enjoy being entertained…I do! I just don’t think it’s a requirement for my salvation. I don’t think the money spent on the production of church brings and grows more believers then the disciples did through community and just doing life together.

It’s disheartening to me to hear a co-worker of mine (another Christian) speak of a video she viewed at her MEGA-church from one of the 1st MEGA-churches in Oklahoma City (back in the 80’s). She was telling me about it this morning and pointed out that it was filmed at this GIANT church up in Tulsa and it cost big bucks. To her it was “amateurish”.

She attends a church of over 20,000 members and everything is done to a “T”. It’s hard for me to even fathom a church that size. The paid staff is several hundred people and even the childcare workers on Sunday are paid. On that same note, it’s hard for me to “believe” a pastor preaching about doing without, when he’s making the top half of a six figure salary. I suppose that’s why God didn’t place me there, now isn’t it. How much do I THINK a pastor should make?...another post

Our expectations of church have grown to exponential proportions. I wouldn’t want to be a pastor during this day and age simply for the fact of competition and potential of losing sight of the “calling” for the theatrics. Sometimes it feels like there is so much concern with the numbers (how many came, how many gave, how many were saved) that the relationship is dropped and lost along the way. BIGGER is BETTER is the underlying philosophy.

Today’s mega-churches have video-feed pastors. HEY, wait…we wouldn’t have to PAY a pastor if we just CREATE one and air our ‘video-pastor’! He’d be perfect! I think I’m on to something here…

How’s this for an intimate touch.

I can imagine it 10 years from now: Welcome to MEGACHURCH! If you are here for the first time, sit back, relax and enjoy the complimentary popcorn and soda, the show will begin in 5 minutes.

CUT TO ENDING: We hope you enjoyed CHURCH today. If you are here for salvation, please press 1. If you are here for prayer requests, please press 2. If you are here to rededicate your life to Christ, please press 3. If you are here to see “Ice-Age 2” you need to move to auditorium 3. If you are here to speak to a pastor, please leave you name and a number where you can be reached and you will be contacted within 24 hours. If you are here to see what the fuss is all about, we hope you enjoyed MEGACHURCH. Please insert your credit card to pay tithes or give to any of the ministries listed on your touch panel. The next service will be aired in 15 minutes. Please leave the auditorium in an orderly fashion. God bless you!

One of the harshest realities I ever faced in serving at church is that church is a business. Yuck! It puts such a bad taste in my mouth, even knowing this is reality! When I think BUSINESS…I think CORRUPTION. That may be my own perception, but it exists all the same.

Thankfully our current church is a business ~ secondary to being a gathering place of believers, non-believers, sick, well, hurting, celebrating, dying, living…everyone!

I wonder if the post-modern shift and evolution of church will see home-churches as the norm and whether this will draw us closer or even further from the original intent. I wonder if online churches will become the ‘norm’ in our digital age. My brother used to joke about starting a church in a mall. From what I understand, we are shifting back to ‘strip malls’ and away from mega-malls. My current church meets in a ‘strip mall’ so my brother was just a bit before his time apparently.

It could just be my own “Baby-Boomer” conflict with the “Gen-Xer’s” ideal (let alone the Echo-Boomers) or my romanticizing of what church used to be. I have already shared that the memories I hold are bittersweet and nothing disturbs me greater then hearing old HYMNS because of the immediate flashback to those days. Wouldn’t you know Contemporary Christian Music is shifting BACK to RE-mixed Hymns. I know God is laughing about it.

It seems a bit as though our EVOLUTION of church is actually coming full circle and we may once again embrace community and relationship in the flesh. I’m looking forward to this. I hope I’m here to see it.

Thank you for attending this blog session today. We hope you enjoyed the show…

Happy Friday!

10 comments:

the voice said...

I agee with you completely on the whole mega-church issue. Many churches are run more as corporations today, with the emphasis on profits, rather than raching the lost. The church Jesus envisioned is actually much different. He preached to the people where they were. Then He sent his disciples out in pairs, telling themto go town to town preaching the Good News, in effect, going where the people were. I believe home churches can be a good thing, as long as those leading them are truly led by Christ. God bless you for a very relevent post today. Ken

Morning Glory said...

Very well said, as usual. I agree with a lot of what you wrote. There seems to be a church for all sizes, shapes and tastes. I'm glad that the one that I attend has found a very effective middle ground in style. It's big, yes, but not so big that we have become mechanical. It touches the community where I live, and I think that's one of the best parts about it.

GiBee said...

I don't have a problem with big churches. They usually have better ministries and programs and can reach out to the community in a strong and effective way.

But ... It's sad that many Mega-churches (big, BIG churches) are becoming Mega-businesses!!! They are corporations, have their own publishing houses, treat the Sr Pastor like a CEO, etc.

I was watching a special on one particular Mega-church in Houston which has the largest WEEKLY attendance ... and I was shocked at how much money they spent to buy one of those athletic arena thingies ... and then, how much they spent to fix it up with the latest and greatest ... why aren't mega-churches planting NEW churches? I just don't get it ... it's like bigger is better. I'm not saying that THIS mega church is either good or bad ... I'm just saying I was shocked at the dollar signs.

And, I agree with you on the whole salary thing. Our pastor makes BARELY enough to keep his head above water in this very, VERY expensive area (one of the top in the country), and he makes just above the mid range of a 5-figure salary. It's sad to see him struggle, and we help out as a church and as individuals as much as we can, but they are not living high on the hog. No sir! They are scrimping, buying closeouts, going 1 hour out of their way to get groceries at Aldies, etc.

Morning Glory -- I'm pretty sure that KPJara was not referring to large churches like yours.

The most common trait that these Mega-churches share is their size -- average number of worshippers is 3,646 (which is up 4% from last year) ... and in this case, I think she's referring to the really REALLY Mega churches with many more than 3600 members ... REALLY MEGA.

Am I right on the, K?

Morning Glory said...

No, I didn't think she was criticizing my choice. I agree with a lot of what she said. We were on staff at a very, very big church once, and it really is almost run like a business. I prefer something a little smaller and less business-y, too. I've been part of churches of all sizes, from very small when my Dad planted a church, to the really big one, to the one I attend now. There are different strokes for different folks, as the saying goes. Kpjara, again I say, good thoughts on the subject.

Shalee said...

Wow kpjara. Those are some big words, words with which I completely agree. I think that things can get too big and lose the intimacy that God meant to be among believers.

Our church is 1200 and I sometimes feel it is too big. How embarrassing it is to introduce yourself to someone only to find out that they have been going there for 2 years... Yeah, that has happened.

But I will say that the church is committed to outreach into the community and taking care of each other. "Christ centered, people focused, Bible based" is the quick motto for our church. We are holding dear to the example of Christ and the early church, as much as we can.

Thanks for the words to ponder today. You're really good at that.

kpjara said...

Thanks for the input everyone. I think many BIG churches can be very effective and even the one my friend attends does some incredible things.

The most important thing for me to recognize is given my quiet, introverted temperament (lol) I know I feel lost in those places and am much less likely to rise up and serve. I also think it would be very very difficult to be an effective pastor in a church that size...but I do realize the role of pastor is evolving as well.

Thank God we all attend churches where we know God has placed us for this time.

I do believe, WHOLEHEARTEDLY the pastor need to be present and NOT on video feed...just my own take on things.

It's going to be interesting to see what happens as the Gen-xers and Echo-Boomers take more of a center stage and transition out of traditional churc?...Blessings all!

Kristen said...

Wow. How weird that you post this when at our church currently, our young adult group is trying to determine how to GROW and become bigger, etc....and basically it seems that some want to almost become a mega church. We're discussing how we can get larger and make things better, etc...Sure, who doesn't want growth in a church, but it seems that we may be losing our focus a little on what is truly important.

We've also discussed music and the re-mixed hymns have come up in discussion, too.

This was a very interesting post to me, and I love the image of a video church. Cracked me up. Although I do hope it never comes to that!!

Cutting Edge Ministries said...

My problem with the Mega Church is the press for money. It sometimes seems like they are "selling" God. The bible says not to "sell" the word of God for profit.

I did some research on tithing and found Dueteronomy 14:22-29. Read this, it gives a whole different perspective on tithing.

Praying for your Prodigal said...

Once again, you have given much food for thought! Somehow I don't think the great commission was set into motion to see how big the church could get--I think it was a call of the voice of our Lord and Savior--calling others to know and be known, to love and be loved! Yes, sadly--the Church is walking a fine line--trying to minister to the world and reach the seeker at their attention level (!!!!) without looking completely like the world! Hmmm....

diane

HeyJules said...

I did enjoy the show but next time I want BUTTERED popcorn. :-)

I can't imagine going to or working at a MEGA church, either. I hate that my church has more members than I will ever know by name but at least its only a few hundred and NOT a few thousand. I know I'd feel like just another fish in a place like that.