I have six months to reshape my life. I can do this.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Next P.T. Barnum

I could be the next great promotional guru. Here is my latest publicity idea for our church here in Hot Springs AR.

Since today is Halloween many churches in town are having the traditional Halloween alternative. What that means is that children can come here for an hour or two before they go trick-or-treating around their neighborhoods. I am not naive enough to think that this is the only place a kid will go for candy. This is the only day in the entire year where a kid can gather a bag full of candy and have the entire activity sponsored and endorsed by their folks. And most everyone pitches in to contribute to the certain tooth decay to follow.

So these churches, around five or six, will provide a place for children and families. And out of the those six, five of them will be having the trunk-or-treat thing. This means that church members have set up games and booths in their cars in the parking lot of the church. Kind of like God's Great Candy Flea Market.

We are the only one NOT doing TOT (the cool POMO way of writing trunk-or-treat out). Since we are having ours in our gym here is my publicity idea.

"Welcome to Heroes Unmasked (the theme of the whole thing - don't ask me I am not in on THOSE decisions) at First Baptist Church. We are the only church in town that actually welcomes your children INSIDE our building!"

Seriously, if my kid wanted to go to one of these places, I would choose the one who prefers to welcome me inside their building into a protected and secure environment. Not the one who wants me to wander around like cattle. I would rather take my chances with my kid in the neighborhood. At least our children's ministry will actually be sharing the gospel with the booth theme ideas. One of them actually does share what Jesus did for us on the cross as our pastor gives a tour of the garden tomb that Jesus left vacant. I may gripe and complain and I may be more cynical than a Christian should be, but this is one night of the year that I firmly believe our church does it right and the others don't. So, next time you take your tot out dressed like Buzz Lightyear or a "dancing skeleton" find the church that will actually point them towards the cross and not the dentist's chair.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The New Mega

I had a nice weekend in Kansas City. I went there to see Van Halen (with David Lee Roth, thank you very much Dave!!!). While we were driving we thought about the huge paradigm shift from when Paul was starting churches and what we see now.

Could you imagine if Paul had the technology then we have today? He would so totally cut out the middle men and just preach and lead all of his various churches himself. Why would he need Timothy or Titus or Silas or even Barnabas? He wouldn't even need to write. He could just "beam" himself into all the churches. I mean, of course, there would be an on-site pastor there to make sure that the maintenance of the church was taken care of. But the preaching, leading and upfront stuff would be covered by Paul. I am sure he would use Apollos or Simeon of Niger and Aquila and Priscilla to help him by being his sermon crafting team. But he would still be preaching.

And he could just cut out all of that area-specific teaching and guidance. Instead, he could sort of preach through the Time Life Seventeen Tips for a healthy and happy marriage. In fact, he could make church attendance obsolete altogether. The flock could just worship at home online. Why deal with the stress of waking up and going out to church. Hebrews 10 what? Bah, never mind that. Now you can sip coffee in your jammies (which most 20 somethings basically do even in public) and worship God. Man, this could have been so easy for Paul.

No more wasting time on those little petty hindrances that were problems in the Corinthian church. Paul could just preach a generic sermon that may sort of hint at fixing the broken dynamics of church life. I mean, right after the great rock and roll music.

Why stop there with Paul and his technological marvel! We could apply this to other basics of life that would totally change the way we look at the church and Jesus.

Through pagers, phones and text messages shepherds could manage multiple flocks at home. The sheep could simply access their blackberry or their iPhones and let the shepherd lead them via googlemaps to wherever grass was. The shepherd could then work on merchandising and his weblog. What if one of the sheep gets hurt? Well, then the shepherd will just preach a sermon on how Jesus can heal and help. Preventative preaching and discipleship? Why teach that when we can teach mercy, grace and forgiveness.

Sadly we no longer live in the age of the Mega Church. Now we live in the age of the Mega Pastor. Out of all of the churches in the New Testament, we only know for sure of a handful of people who would pastor churches. The rest were churches whose main leader was not as important as just the fact that a church existed. Now churches are defined almost solely by the pastor.

I don't know about you but I do not want my faith to be marginalized to the point where I just blend in with whatever the Mega Pastor says.

And I also think that, despite the good it does for God, there is just too much of a chance to make faith easy. Since when does ease and comfort and convenience have anything to do with being crucified with Christ, carrying my cross and denying myself? I think that these Mega Pastors are certainly good men, even Godly men. I just think you find a slippery slope when you try to separate your ego from your desire to simulcast yourself all over the planet.

They say that more and more are being exposed to the gospel. However, I do not see any real sense of Christ becoming the central key in anything relating to culture. I do not see a resurgence of a Christian world view. I think the easier we make faith in Christ, the more irrelevant we make Christianity. So, if you enjoy the Mega Pastor approach, more power to you. Find Christ however you need to. However, if you are looking for Christ and exploring how Jesus can be hope and life for you, call a small church's pastor and drop by his office. He will be able to see you and help you. He can pray with you in person. The Mega Pastor won't have time for you. He will be preparing to go speak at another Come Be Like The New Mega Pastor conference in Melbourne, Australia. But you can talk to the 24 Hour Prayer line if you need help.

Maybe I am old fashioned. But I am beginning to think that is alright. I mean, if David Lee Roth can get back together with Eddie Van Halen, maybe I can appreciate the simple shepherd. If you make me choose between the simple shepherd and the Mega Pastor, I know who I prefer. And I bet you would choose the same one too. Admit it...