Years ago I was in Cologne, Germany and sauntered into the cathedral there. In the Foyer of the Church they were raffling off a car! And the man standing next to the car, waving tickets sounded like a Used-Car salesman. I wonder what Martin Luther would have thought—fuming might not be strong enough. And so when I heard the Newspring Church in Anderson, South Carolina had given away a motorcycle on Father’s Day I was appalled. Some lucky Papa is the recipient of a new Harley. Their web site promised that all the father’s present would receive a ten-dollar gift certificate so they could buy something for their father. Reckon they gave out alternate presents for those who had no fathers or had dead-beat dads?
This church is booming. And churches all around them are threatened. Lay people are whispering—“What have they got that we don’t have?” I hate to bash another church—but if this is not entertainment I don’t what is. And the problem is that when a bigger show comes to town the crowds will flock there.
In desperation many mainline churches are shedding their hymnbooks, putting up enormous screens—sending spies to this mega-church and taking notes. Maybe we can get our Pastor to take off his tie, some say, shed his robe and get a new pair of New Balance. Maybe we need to lighten up, bring in a band--install strobe lights.
If I were a betting man I would say you will never hear a word about immigration, about the millions out of work, the 320,000 people in South Carolina without insurance. You won’t hear anything about the tragedy when gay people still can’t be first-class citizens. Unless I miss my guess they would never ask those thousands sitting out there how they will treat that dark-skinned Muslim couple who moved next door. I am sure there will never be a word from their non-pulpit that cautions their membership about Obama bashing or asks about scared illegals in their neighborhood. Reckon they have discussed global warming?
Time Magazine recently had a lead article on the Me, Me, Me Generation. It’s coming back around. And those leaders who hook into this me-ism business in church will starve to death. Interestingly, the longer Jesus worked the fewer they came. Maybe he could have learned something from the mega-church—he could have given away a Camel or raffled off the Donkey he rode into Jerusalem on or maybe congratulated the moneychangers in the temple as good bid-ness men. The people that flock to this kind of mega-church are desperate folk just like the people in our pews. But I am not sure motorcycles and gift cards are what Jesus had in mind.
(The above photograph is from St. Mary's Parish Church in Iffley outside Oxford, England. It is estimated that the
church was established in 1156 AD. The first Parish Priest was appointed in 1279. The congregation still serves that community to this day. We anxious church folk need to remember the Church of Jesus Christ has been around a long time.)