As thousands of leaders in the Christian brotherhood have converged on the ACU campus this week, many of their home churches lay dying.
The first-century church Paul describes in the epistles has given way to “mega-churches” that specialize in “the selling of religious goods and services.”
They are busting at the seams and padding their membership numbers with long-time members, transfers from other evangelical congregations and new, teen-age Christians but have never made any serious effort to reach the completely un-churched.
For this reason, they are dying.
At the opening Lecture Sunday night, Dan Bouchelle painted one of the most vivid and disturbing pictures of the post-modern evangelical church to date.
Bouchelle called it the “Wal-Mart-ization” of the church. Offering a program for this and a support group for that, our thousand-member congregations do their best “business” off of Christians coming in the door to pick up a few spiritual items. Today’s church simplifies the process of in-and-out church, members and visitors alike often going unrecognized and unknown.
In fact, as Bouchelle pointed out, the church almost always repels the people to whom Jesus was most attracted.
The homeless aren’t going to walk into our churches. Neither are crack addicts, prostitutes nor the badly dressed.
If most Christians feel inadequate at church in anything more casual than a shirt and tie, how could a ragged panhandler possibly sit down on one of our pews?
This is not to say all large churches are not falling in accordance with God’s will. As Bouchelle put it, if a church sees growth and success in evangelism, that is the Lord’s doing, not ours.
But church growth experts say the true measure of a growing and vibrant fellowship is the number of un-churched, completely lost souls it adds over a period of time. The Church of Christ, especially, has targeted its gospel toward members of other evangelical denominations, telling them why they should be over on the “right side.”
Under the church growth experts’ definition of growth, today’s church has a painfully long road ahead of it. If hearts are not changed and something is not done, we may go the way of the congregation at Sardis, to whom it was written in Revelation 3, “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”
Wake up, church!