June 7, 2020

Is It Just Me?

“Whistle!” There’s a penalty flag on the field.

After a day’s thought, I decided to retract this post.

You know, sometimes I just react, and this post was an example. After further review, I realize that my comments were knee-jerk, not considered, and not up to the standards I want maintained here at Internet Monk.

I will leave the original here, crossed-out, as a reminder to myself to be more careful.

Thanks for those of you who were kind but firm in pushing back.

Second down and twenty.

* * *

Am I the only one who sees the irony in this?

A Colorado megachurch pastor criticizes other pastors for hyping their ministries and not focusing on down-to-earth pastoral work —

while promoting his new book.

Sigh.

From the good folks at Christian Post, that paradigm of hype-free faith.

Comments

  1. That doesn’t surprise me one bit.

    These mega-church guys around here are so full of themselves, and they have such a warped view of the Christian faith that nothing they do would surprise me.

  2. Par for the course.

  3. He’s a good guy who inherited Haggard’s mess. For New Life to break ranks from the likes of Hybels is monumental. It may not be a perfect revolt, but I would encourage steps in the right direction. The irony is that while New Life is breaking ranks with other Mega-churches, smaller churches are still trying to be just like New Life of the past. I guess it is a bit like trying to take Franky Schaeffer seriously.

  4. American Christianity is the definition of unself-conscious irony.

  5. It reminds me of that time when Northpointe Church released that video about “Sunday’s Coming,” making fun of churches who followed a pre-packaged format in their trying to hard to be relevant. The problem is, it was a parody of their own services, and to this day their methods are still the same ones their video pokes fun at.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ys4Nx0rNlAM

    I suppose the first step is admitting the problem, but if your revert to living in denial, you haven’t gotten very far.

  6. I see the irony in it, but the criticism is valid, and from his perspective it could be construed as self criticism. The question then is what are the correctives. How does change take place. Does one disassemble at 10,000 member congregation into forms that more adequately allow what he thinks is correct.

  7. I think you’ve wrongly misjudged Brady and New Life Church. There’s not a hype-y bone in Brady Boyd’s body. He is a humble, self-effacing, godly man. If you read the article carefully, it is a review quoting his book, not an interview to hype it. But even if it is promoting his book, that’s what writers do to get their message out in this book-challenged culture. It is a paper pulpit. If you ever write a book for a publisher, you will be doing interviews and “hyping” your book.

    Here’s the real story about Brady Boyd. Brady took over New Life Church after Ted Haggard, the king of mega-hype, did his best to destroy it. Brady’s mission from day one was to heal the church. He cancelled mega-productions that overworked staff and members, he made all the staff take sabbaticals and insisted they leave the church and go home on time, he changed the entire culture of NLC from evangelical excess to biblical ministry. The focus at NLC is never on growth; always on ministry. In the past couple of years he has championed ministries of adoption (he has two adopted children) and foster care, built a women’s free health care clinic, begun a ministry to single mothers, and started a local ministries outreach to inner city areas and schools.

    I really respect what you write here, Mike, but you’re wrong about Brady. I would encourage you to learn more about him and what’s happening at New Life. It’s not a perfect church, but it could become a model for what evangelical megachurches should be doing. Brady’s first book ever (he’s not a natural writer) was about his experience taking over as NLC pastor and having the shooter kill two young women a few weeks after his arrival. This is his second book, and I can guarantee it is only about his heart for the body of Christ, not about hype to sell a book.

    It’s OK to be post-evangelical, but it’s not OK to be pre-judgmental. Rant out. Carry on.

    • It’s not so much a personal judgment, Clay, as it is a comment on a system of doing church that I am convinced bears little relationship to genuine Christian faith and that can only corrupt those who stay within it by keeping them blinded to the inherent faith-destroying characteristics of that system.

      Perhaps what Brady is doing is carving out a bit of an oasis in that desert, but a desert it remains. I hate to be so negative, but it is the megachurch culture in large part that led Michael to predict the great evangelical collapse and, if anything, I am more pessimistic than he was.

      • Thanks, Mike. I understand your views, and agree with much of what Michael espoused, but I think it can go too far. There is a danger in judging every so-called evangelical megachurch only by the size of its body rather than by the size of its ministry. It’s too easy to slap a “megachurch culture” label on any big evangelical church and automatically relegate it to the dust bin of post-evangelical disdain. I see it as a log in the eye of the p-e movement. New Life has launched a downtown church that is integrating liturgical elements, taking communion weekly, preaching the Word, and striving for a more traditional worship, but it has grown to almost 500 attenders in six months without doing anything but just opening the doors. When it has 1,000 attenders, will it be dismissed as just another megachurch? I’m just saying that there’s more to the issue than the easy dismissal of anything that looks like it might be a megachurch.

        • Good, thoughtful pushback, Clay. Thanks for the insights.

        • >When it has 1,000 attenders, will it be dismissed as just another megachurch?

          I’m probably more pessimistic than all combined. 🙂

          My answer would be “yes”.

          I’m pro-institution, pro-formal-religion, anti-free-range-spirituality, but you just run hard and fast into the tribal limit. Can you have a ‘community of believers’ at 1,000, 2,000, 3,000… souls? I just think the answer is No. Given what humans are (unalterable) can that not become a spiritual-factory? Can it prevent ugly elements from growing through its insides, probably unnoticed? No.

          I suppose this is partly religion and partly just organizational behavior. I believe institutions are good (even necessary), they allow power to be attached to people’s beliefs (so they can actually do something), but a forest is a better model then one giant tree. The giant tree will become infested and fall over, and it attracts lightning. In the forest a few trees will become diseased… but the forest will live on.

          If a church reaches a steady attendance of ~500+ it should seriously take a look at itself and its purpose. Couldn’t there be a church closer to some of those people’s home and communities? If it gets to 2,000+, I’m doubtful it has to capacity to effectively self-examine anymore [it might be able to go though spasms of excess and reform, but that is a symptom of the problem].

      • It’s interesting that many seem to lump “evangelical” and “megachurch” into one boat, and I can see that the two are strongly interconnected. But there are megachurches that aren’t evangelical. I’d be interested in what people’s opinions are of those. Within a few miles of my house, for instance, there is a huge Lutheran church, a big Roman Catholic church, a big Presbyterian church, a big Eastern Orthodox church, plus a handful of others.

        The way I see it, the size of a church isn’t necessarily connected to its ecclesiology.

        • Every comment I leave here now seems like it automatically goes into the moderation queue… Am I really that much of a troublemaker?!? Just kidding, of course…

        • Richard Hershberger says

          This is a matter of definition, I think. When people talk about “megachurches” they mean examples of a specific societal trend of the past thirty or so years within American Evangelical Protestantism. Those big Lutheran, Catholic, etc. churches near you aren’t, by this definition, megachurches.[1] They are merely churches which are very large.

          [1] Unless you are thinking of this place: http://www.joyonline.org/. If so, then it really is a megachurch, but is only Lutheran in the most tenuous sense. It was an attempt to create a Lutheran church on the megachurch model. Something had to give, and it was the Lutheranism.

          • Well, the one Lutheran Church just up the road from me has a large multi-building campus, and I think they have like five services or something. As far as I can tell, they’re services still tend to follow a pretty typical Lutheran liturgy, but still, it’s a megachurch. The buildings are definitely prettier than most evangelical churches. But other than these things, I’m not sure why it wouldn’t be called a megachurch. When one of the retired senior pastors passed away last year, I believe they had 10,000 people or so show up for the various memorial services.

            I’m sure that many of the members don’t know each other in these churches. One could go there and be just anonymous in a service in an evangelical megachurch.

    • Adam, thanks for your thoughts. I too am an intuitive idealist, but a realistic one. I cut my ecclesiological teeth on the church renewal movement of the 70s, and wrote papers in seminary in the 80s about keeping the size of a church at 200 and planting more churches. I rejected the church growth movement from the beginning. But at 61, I no longer judge churches by what I think they should be idealistically, but by what they are in reality. Some churches grow because of man-driven strategies, but others grow large simply because the Spirit of God really is at work there. I think there should be room in our ideals for such large churches, especially if the large church is marshaling its resources to minister to a city in ways that small churches cannot, and too often will not do on their own simply because of the reality of building and people maintenance issues.

      I have attended good Anglican churches over several years hoping to find “real church” there, only to find inferior music (it’s important to me, a musician), only average teaching of the Word, and almost no outreach. The people were sweet, and the pastor a shepherd, but there was very little spiritual life. Now I attend a new evangelical church plant (rented facilities) that has thoughtful acoustic worship (based on Anglican liturgy), deep and insightful teaching of the Word, and vision for ministering to the lost and hurting. The pastor is a shepherd who understands the dynamic of large vs. small, and is working within what God is doing to insure smaller fellowships and body life (back to church renewal). The church has grown by word of mouth alone in less than six months because it is offering something real. There simply are not enough trained and gifted leaders to break that up and make it happen elsewhere. When God is at work, you move with what God is doing until He directs otherwise.

      I agree in principle with your ideals for church, but the reality is God is quite capable of leading His people and causing churches, like nations, to rise and fall at His will. Personally, I don’t want to run the risk of judging a church based on external criteria that by God’s internal standards is doing His work faithfully. There is a fine line between visionary idealism and critical judgment. I will always be an idealist as an INTJ, but I also want to be a spiritual realist as a follower of Christ. I think both are possible.

    • I agree. In the post-evangelical wilderness, allies can be found in the most unexpected places. In contrast, our greatest enemy could be the one with whom we break bread. Our blindspots can make us wrongly dismiss outsiders and overlook the errors within our own circles.

  8. Self-correction: The article is both a review and an interview. But my point stands. Writers talk about their books. That’s what we do. That does not make it hype. It’s just the nature of publishing.