As a pastor for 33 years, with 10 years in a megachurch & several church plants, I appreciate the work it takes to allow the Lord to build His church. Any leader who does something exceptional deserves commendation for risk taken and the persistent effort to accomplish it. But if leaders purport to have a message & have thousands of followers, they deserve assessment and evaluation by those who aren’t their cheerleaders. Teachers have a much stricter judgment (James 3:1). The more popular and visible their message and name become, they invite scrutiny. Assessing their message, fruit & values is a legitimate thing the Lord Himself tells us to do as believers so shouldn’t be viewed as judgmental or unfair. (Jn 7:24)
Today it is becoming increasingly obvious (unless one wants to ignore reality and statistics) that the 33 yr old seeker-sensitive, consumer-driven church model promoted by Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren and many others in America has significantly failed to produce a spiritual awakening or even committed disciples of Jesus Christ. While these leaders all have far-flung enterprises that doesn’t necessarily equate with fruit that brings about change. Most of the leaders it produces are of the same DNA, bringing the “inch-deep, mile-wide motivational message” they promote and one of the most dangerous trends I see is they actually believe their own messaging even if its unbiblical.
While I won’t question motives, the test of any “product” is “what is it producing?” and all objective data points to a FAIL when measured by the standards Jesus & Paul used. (2 Cor. 11:3-4) And while there ARE effective megachurch pastors who win the lost and activate & equip their members like the Barnetts and Glen Berteau in Modesto Ca, the vast majority go for the “bodies and bucks” as the criteria for their fruitfulness. But if we go by that standard, then Lady GAGA wins!
Here are some reasons we might have a FAIL when it comes to this form of “church”:
- When the quality of the weekly meeting is valued more than the lifestyle produced in the followers, we have a… FAIL.
- When outward appearances, marketing and packaging is valued more than the “heart changes and repentance”, we have a …FAIL.
- When anointing is measured by the “size of the enterprise”- numbers, of followers, offerings, buildings and staff, we have a …FAIL.
- When the majority of these participate in immunizing followers into a caricature of Jesus that is nothing like the actual, are they communicating “another Jesus, another gospel, another spirit?” (2 Cor 11:4) If so, we have a… FAIL.
33 years of this has produced a lost generation of youth and a country on the brink of moral, economic and social collapse. Isn’t the church largely partially responsible? In 2013, seeker churches are awash in followers and money while the leaders smile and promise “good times”. One church’s motto is “Party on Sunday”. Meanwhile, in the real world, the nation, city by city is in a moral collapse and God and His name is increasingly undefended. What are the millions, the followers of these seeker churches being taught?
Quoting Paul Erbe, a pastor & friend from NC, “Much of the peace offered in the church today seems more like the relief a coward feels when he’s run from the battle than the peace that comes from the kingdom. Just an observation after visiting eight churches in my city.”