Thursday, January 21, 2010

Why Are Mega Churches Crumbling? Because They Don’t Trust God!

     Mega churches were the rage during the mid 1980’s up until recently; their decline is one of organized religions biggest concerns. They reached an unparallelled peak during the Ronald Reagan era, but a slow and steady decline was visible to many outside of the church, especially journalists and pundits who saw the thread of its moral flag unraveling with scandal amongst many church leaders, and their conservative brethren in the hallowed halls of Washington. No need to name names, there are too many, even though most people have forgotten. They may not remember the names, but they do remember the shame they brought to the church and to America’s government.

     Barack Obama was going to change all that by bringing the country together, taking care of the poor, and moving the country toward a new direction, one that would appeal to the entire world. Well, political messiahs come and go and for the most part, things remain the same.

     However, the church of God, whose main role was to broadcast the Gospel of Jesus Christ and treat thy neighbor with kindness and charity, has changed its face on so many occasions throughout history; it has no idea what it’s supposed to look like anymore. Most recently, it worked hard to paint a different image of the European church they escaped over 200 years ago. While it began with humble edifices in the beginning, in most recent times it boosted its perceived success by building giant cathedrals, more modern looking than those in Europe but definitely just as large. One of the biggest differences is the inbuilt electronic accoutrement infrastructure that can handle any event from airing a first run movie, holding a political convention and even a major rock concert. It has become a major business and sophisticated like no other time in history, and mostly known for its income generating power. Yup, political parties wish they had the sophisticated fund raising abilities of the megalithic churches of today. But, it’s still called a church! A church that is beginning to crumble faster than it took to build it. Their supporters are leaving in droves. Why?
     Much of its appeal was entertainment. Americans need to be entertained and the church was very good at this. Not only did it incorporate the same style of entertainment Hollywood is famous for, the church would claim its entertainment was different than Hollywood because they did it for the love of Jesus, supposedly so! And it has made lots of money providing that kind of entertainment, along with a little bit of bible teaching, too! Sort of!
     Today’s recessionary times have had some impact on the dwindling church; not many people supporting it due to their own familial and financial concerns at home. But, also, many church attendees also claim that the church has run out of entertainers (and even preachers) who inspire. They say the church no longer has the dynamic attraction of getting them to the next level of that “high” they experienced during their first few revival meetings (or concerts). They went home (supposedly ‘saved’) but yet have no clue as to what to do with that experience, anymore.
     Well, two of the issues that we can deal with concerning the crumbling of the church, is its failure to support itself (and its giant, costly staff and edifices) through God's formula. Basically, they trusted in their own devices to generate funds to build giant buildings they call ‘church’ rather than trusting and depending on God. Oh! They used God’s name during their appeals for funds, offering donors salvation, a Pre-Tribulation escape to heaven and some good old fashion entertainment. Hollywood had no show time extravaganza that compared to the church's (for a while); but now, with its technological advances, the Internet, Ipods, YouTube, Itunes and movies like “Avatar,” Hollywood has taken back those minds and souls that used to sit quietly in church pews throughout America. The church has failed!
     Not that the message of the church is not the greatest message in the history of mankind; that God Himself stepped down to earth in the flesh form of Jesus Christ, allowed Himself to be scourged, beaten and crucified to pay for all of our sins. But it failed because it didn’t tell its adherents that church is not about big buildings and big entertainment, it’s all about picking up your cross and following Jesus. And following Jesus is not about your opportunity to create your own little religious kingdom either. That’s what Hollywood does! It creates idols and icons through its seductive screen, images of beauty and power, and fame and fortune. Young church folk believe this is their goal as well. Create a ministry that will shine brightly, grow branches and fruit for themselves, but not for Christ. Tody's church leaders all want to be a Christian version of American Idol!
     The church has failed and it’s crumbling because it didn’t know what it was supposed to do in the first place. It didn’t recognize that the church is an ecclesia (a people called out) to serve Christ. Not to serve Him by building monuments and extravagant cultures, ceremonies and traditions, but a people who (as Christ has said so often about religionists) Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world, (James 1:27)
     The church has failed because it has been sending messages that God is here merely taking orders from His people and His sole purpose is to serve them and meet all of their desires. Much of this message was intermingled with the Americanism doctrine of a chicken for every pot. And I seriously believe that God can do this! He can meet your needs without any problems. But so often, our perceived needs and desires go much farther than necessary, especially if you want to be a servant in His kingdom in the next life!
     The Apostle Paul told us over 2000 years ago what a walk with Christ was all about. He told us that we would experience much tribulation to enter the Kingdom of God. He taught us that reality is not about devoting our entire lives to getting all the creature comforts we desire, but to be content with what He provides:
     Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need, (Philippians 4:11-12)
     An even more profound messages about what the Christian walk should really entail, is so convincingly stated by my good friend A. W. Tozer in his book, Men Who Have Met Good:
     "We can learn important lessons by considering God's disciplines in dealing with Elijah. As Elijah fled to the wilderness following his first confrontation with King Ahab, God said to him, "Elijah, go to the brook Cherith, and I will feed you there." God sent big, black buzzards--ravens, scavenger birds--each morning and evening with Elijah's meals. What humiliation! All his life Elijah had been self-sufficient. Now he waited on scavenger birds to deliver him his daily bread....
     Elijah was like so many faithful preachers of the Word who are too true and too uncompromising for their congregations.
     "We don't have to take that," the people protest. And they stop contributing to the church. More than one pastor knows the meaning of economic strangulation. Preach the truth, and the brook dries up! But the Lord knows how to deal with each of us in our humiliations. He takes us from truth to truth." Men Who Met God, pg 96, A.W. Tozer.
     Take it from one who knows, authors and preachers who speak with boldness and truth, words that will challenge conventional wisdom and esoteric philosophies, sharing pearls of wisdom that can pierce the heart with painful conviction, will never inure you to those who quickly should be willing to open their purse to support your efforts, without being asked.
     God does brings wise men and woman to these ministries and moves their hearts to support them with their finances, recognizing that while their bold statements from the Bible may sting even them, they know they are from God. Others, who provide funds to ministries that merely titillate them with soothing words and comfort, shower them with exciting entertainment and charismatic preachers and teachers, will in the end realize that while the truth may hurt, it definitely was sent to free them.
     Therefore, those churches that will strive and survive and be effective are individual disciples (ecclesia=a people called out) who serve and service the children of God, right there in their own neighborhoods. They will be those who arrive first during hard times, who quickly respond to disasters, who will do and give what it takes to eliminate the suffering in their very own communities. That's where true churches exist!
These servants (this church) will never crumble, it will never turn to rocks, gravel, pebble and then sand and dust, but will be the rich clay the great potter will mold into a cistern filled with His love to the benefit of our fellow friends, family and neighbors. The only big building this church will need is the greater building up of devoted hearts to neighbor. They (the true church) will endure because it depends on God, rather than men and manmade solutions, to gain eternal life.
      It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. (Psalms 118:8)
For more information about Joe Ortiz and his books, blogs and web sites, please click Joe Ortiz

1 comment:

  1. Dear Brother (or should I say "Baker"?) Ortiz: Even when your "Bread" is a day or two old it is still fresh, filling, and very nutritious! I appreciate what you have so refreshingly stated about today's church scene which, in far too many instances, has strayed away from the One who is the "bread of life" in a spiritual sense. If the real church fails to remember that it is composed of the "called out" ones, it may well end up being the "chewed out" ones! Lord bless, thanks for your dedicated pen. In Him, Gabriella