David Platt from Brook Hills delivers in his book, Radical, a powerful picture of the church in America today that, on key points, stands in sharp contrast to what the Bible shows us about the person and purpose of Jesus Christ.
Dependent on Ourselves or Desperate for His Spirit?
This is where I am most convicted as a pastor of a church in the United States of America. I am part of a system that has created a whole host of means and methods, plans and strategies for doing church that require little if any power from God. And it's not just pastors who are involved in this charade. I am concerned that all of us -- pastors and church members in our culture -- have blindly embraced as American dream mentality that emphasizes our abilities and exalts our names in the ways we do church.
Consider what it takes for successful businessmen and businesswomen, effective entrepreneurs and hardworking associates, shrewd retirees and idelistic stdents to combine forces with a creative pastor to grow a "successful church" today. Clearly, it doesn't require the power of God to draw a crowd in our culture. A few key elements that we can manufacture will suffice.
First, we need a good performance. In an entertainment-driven culture, we need someone who can captivate the crowds. If we don't have a charismatic communicator, we are doomed. So even if we have to show him on a video screen, we must have a good preacher. It's even better if he has an accomplished worship leader with a strong band at his side.
Next, we need a place to hold the crowds that will come, so we gather all our resources to build a multimillion-dollar facility to house the performance. We must make sure that all facets of the building are excellent an attractive. After all, that's what our culture expects. Honestly, that's what we expect.
Finally, once the crowds get there, we need to have some thing to keep them coming back. So we need to start programs -- first-class, top-of-the-line programs -- for kids, for youth, for families, for every age and stage. In order to have these programs, we need professionals to run them. That way, for example, parents can simply drop off their kids at the door, and professionals can handle ministry for them. We don't want people trying this at home.
I know this may sound oversimplified and exaggerated, but are these not the elements we think of when we consider growing, dynamic, successful churches in our day? I get fliers on my desk every day advertising entire conferences built around creative communication, first-rate facilities, innovative programs, and entrepreneurial leadership in the church. We Christians are living out the American dream in the context of our communities of faith. We have convinced ourselves that if we can position our resources and organize our strategies, then in church as in every other sphere of life, we can accomplish anything we set our minds to.
But what is strangely lacking in the picture of performances, personalities, programs, and professionals is desperation for the power of God. God's power is at best an add-on to our strategies. I am frightened by the reality that the church I lead can carry on most of our activities smoothly, efficiently, even successfully, never realizing that the Holy Spirit of God is virtually absent from the picture. We can so easily deceive ourselves, mistaking the presence of physical bodies in a crowd for the existence of spiritual life in a community.