Sunday, June 13, 2004

Drat It All

I really dislike having to criticize things in Christianity, but I think some things need to be said.

Maybe because I'm fairly Catholic (once more, Catholicism isn't limited to the Roman Communion) in my theology and Mainline in my upbringing, I'm not really very comfortable in Evangelical megachurches. The music is usually trite, the service is very formulaic (have you ever had a college-oriented preacher who wasn't semi-weepy and who seemed almost apologetic that he sharing what he called the Good News?). There may or not be a collection, but there will almost certainly be attempts to get you to attend events, generally with names like "MISSION: INCONTROVERTIBLE," "THE FELLOWSHIP," or something Greek. The number of songs shall be no less than three, and they shall take no less than twenty minutes to perform. Songs with only one verse and a chorus may extend for over ten minutes. There will be PowerPoint, and there will be much attempted hip-ness.

The problem isn't that they're lacking zeal or belief. It's that they're simply not getting the job done. There's too much evangelism. When all, or nearly all, of the people are already believers, you need something else. It's like taking your grade-school children to a restaurant and giving them each a bottle of Similac. They're being seeker-friendly at the cost of feeding the sheep they already have. And, to be honest, few seekers I've met are really interested in a church that has a rock-climbing wall. I can see having a cafeteria, a preschool, or even a parking deck. When you've got your own IT staff, though, I think that a line, somewhere, has been crossed.

Part of what I dislike is the attitude of "look what X has done/is doing! Let's all chip in for their new CD/mission trip/whatever!" If the album is good, it doesn't need to be advertised as a tool for evangelism (Hallelujah! We finally have some Christian music, after all these centuries!). With mission trips, I almost want to ask why they're going. Is it because they've had a certain place/group on their mind for a long time, and are finally hoping to be able to minister to them, or is it because they've never been to Costa Rica/Malaysia/Hungary/Kenya before and think it would be cool? Again, it's not that I doubt the devotion, but rather the wisdom of it all.

Put simply, one problem the Evangelical movement faces is that it's turned inward for so long that it's not very well connected to the rest of the culture. Attempts at evangelism come across as heavy-handed, and so they're left to preach their message to the converted, who've already heard and accepted it and now need something more. Evangelicalism can provide that, but not if it doesn't realize it.

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