My heartache as a leader in God’s Church is that we are becoming increasingly ineffective at reaching our culture. Never mind that the rest of the world is now discovering that we exist as a voting bloc. Never mind that two of the three best-selling books in the country are being produced with the ideas put forward by pastors (I won’t say they wrote them since both of them used ghost writers).
The bottom line for me is that our moral and ethical values as bible-believing people are now shown to be no better than the rest of culture; and in some cases worse. You can look at what I’m referring to in this former blog entry. But this is not true of the church in other countries right now. The Church in Colombia is primarily responsible for bringing the large drug cartels to justice. The church in China is largely responsible for the economic and cultural rennaisance in that country. The church in Russia helped to bring down Communism. And the church in the Philippines is helping the national culture move away from drug use and fear of organized crime. And in each of these countries, the church is training up some very good preachers, writers and theologians. What are we producing?
For a chilling answer to that question, take a look at this article in the New York Times Magazine. I appreciate this writer; he has done his homework. Read the article carefully and ask yourself if Alan Wolfe is right when he claims, “”American faith has met American culture — and American culture has triumphed.” When we started Gateway five years ago, my fear was that we would seek this kind of growth. I admit, we used some of the same methodology as this church does. I am more afraid of that than ever now. The Church used to have a “Message”. Now it has an “Image”.
Jim Bakker, the author of the PTL scandal of the 80s, now builds furniture for a living. In his tell-most autobiography, Jim says that the hardest thing for him to overcome when his ministry was growing was that growth in popularity was somehow the greatest thing he could ever achieve. He said it made him forget his family, his morals, his principles and his God. He now teaches occasionally at a Bible School in North Carolina and the only course he teaches is on the Ethics of the Heart. He has recently said he is afraid that we as a church are now on the verge of doing what he did as an individual: Become so obsessed with drawing crowds, we forget to teach truth in a way that will often offend people.
But if we don’t teach the whole truth, will we bring about any changes in this country? Hardly. Instead, we will be the ones who will change.
The answer for Gateway Fellowship is simple. We will do the minimum to help people not feel like they have to fit into our culture before meeting God. We can be culturally neutral and even friendly to those who don’t get the “church thing”. After all, we do meet in a warehouse (more for the cost than the design, btw). But as you look at our church, or even the church you go to, ask yourself: Does the image outplay the message here? If it does, then I want to know about it…or if you attend another church, let them know what you feel about it.