When church becomes something we do or a place that we go, instead of a people of God, than we are in serious trouble. I couldn't say it any better than the way Dan Kimball said it in his book The Emerging Church,
"If you woke up this morning and said I'm going to church today, you would actually be making a theologically incorrect statement. I [am] trying to get the point across that the church is not the building or the meeting. The church is the people of God who gather together with a sense of mission (Acts 14:27). The way leaders define church will determine how they measure success, where they focus their time and energy, how they design their strategies and form their ministry philosophies [emphasis mine]. Over time...the definition of the church itself [has become] a 'place where' idea instead of a 'people who are' reality.This is one area where I believe the emergent critique is right on. They see great problems in the megachurch/spiritual mall approach to church ministry, as do I. I will be calling it the "mall-ification" of the church. The mall-ification of the church comes about when we view the "church" (when in quotes I am referring to the organization & location, not the people) as the supplier/provider of all spiritual blessings.
In our desire to attract people to our churches, have we subtly taught that church is where you come to learn about how God can help you fix your problems? Where you come to have others teach your children about God for you? Where you come for your weekly feeding in the Word of God? Where you come for quality programs to help you live life better and develop a social network. Where you come to experience high quality worship music.
If the church has become the place instead of the people on a mission, leaders only naturally start focusing their efforts on what people experience when they come to the place on Sundays. In recent years, we have added the words excellence and relevance to our value statements for church. In doing so, we naturally began spending more time focusing on the quality of the music, sound system, and bulletins. As the church grows, the pressure to continue this focus increases and the problem escalates.
The phenomenon of church shoppers has profoundly shaped the contemporary church. The entire conversation is not about relevance but convenience. The focus is not in serving the world; the church itself became the focal point. If we don't build everything on the biblical definition of what church is, then we will simply be fueling the consumer mindset."
- Do your children need evangelized and discipled? We have just the program for you! Bring your children every _____ night for ____ and we will take care of it for you.
- Do your neighbors and co-workers need Christ? We have just the thing! Get them to attend ______ with you every _____ and we will evanglize them for you.
- Do your teens need spiritual training? We've got that covered. Drop them off every _____ and we will mentor and disciple and teach them all they need to know.
- Are you stagnant in your walk with God? Come to our _______ class in Room ___ and you will never be the same!
- Are you lonely and in need of friendship? Join _______ which meets every _____ in classroom __ for one hour every week. You will be blessed with transparent relationships and true accountability.
- Are you in need of exercise? Men's basketball meets every _____ & _____ nights in the gymnasium. Ladies jazzercise meets every _____ & ____ morning in the fitness center.
- Don't forget to stop by our Christian bookstore and pick up your latest Christian t-shirt, DVD, CD, bumper sticker, welcome mat, or bracelet. Also stop by our Christian Coffee House right here on campus to sample the latest Christian coffee in a Christian coffer mug or have a Christian Energy Drink. While seated on chairs made by our own Woodworking ministry, be sure to try a Christian Bagel or Christian Energy Bar made from ingredients straight from the Holy Land.
- Coming soon to our campus: Christian homes, apartments, and condominiums built by our own Home Building Ministry (all proceeds go to funding our summer camp and retreat center).
- Future plans for our campus include a Christian Grocery Store, Christian Pharmacy and we just struck a profit-sharing deal with Chick-Fil-A.
I know I am stretching this a wee bit, but just think about the schedule of the average megachurch/spiritual mall member or attender in America.
- Sunday: 8:00 AM - Sunday School (Discipleship); 9:00 AM - Worship Service; 6:00 PM - CLASS (Discipleship)
- Monday: 7:00 PM - Monthly Leadership Meeting (Training/Mentoring/Ministry)
- Tuesday: 6:30 PM - Visitation (Evangelism)
- Wednesday: 6:45 PM - Children & Youth Programs (Evangelism/Discipleship/Ministry)
- Thursday: 7:00 PM - Homegroup Bible Studies (Fellowship) OR Choir/Orchestra/Praise Team Rehearsal (Ministry/Worship)
- Friday: 7:00 PM - Men's Softball/Basketball/Soccer (Ladies have their exercise in the mornings during the week.)
- Saturday: This day is set aside as a family day in which the day is spent running errands, taking the children to soccer/football/baseball/volleyball/swimming/tennis/golf practice and getting them to their weekly church activity.
How are we teaching our people to be authentic Christians out in the real world? When do we have time to be authentic Christians in the real world? Where did all the salt and light go? Maybe they are all gathered together on a "church" property somewhere brainstorming, planning and praying for ways to get the unsaved to join them. In almost every city in America you can find at least one of these megachurch campuses. This philosophy is out there and maybe you are buying in. Do you dream of this type of "church"? I did not too long ago. What should we do about? I will try to give a few weak, humble and untested suggestions in my next post.
Disclaimer: This is not about size or numbers. It is not that large churches are evil and small churches godly. It is not that churches with large facilities are wicked or unbiblical. I am not against Christian businesses. I like eating at Chick-Fil-A. They have a great indoor playground and wonderful customer service. I am not against having a Christian bookstore or coffee house. I own Veggie Tales DVD's and a few Christian t-shirts. I love the guys at teampyro and I am not trying to suggest that they are wrong for selling "Christian" merchandise. This disclaimer does not cover all the things you might get offended about so please take this post in the sarcastic spirit it was written in.