A watershed in American evangelicalism?

The New Life Church in Colorado Springs was one of the nation’s leading megachurches.  But then its pastor, Ted Haggard, was brought down in a sex and drug scandal.  Now the congregation is changing the way it is doing things.  Instead of trying to be new, it is trying to find its place in historic Christianity.  This means bringing in liturgy, every-Sunday communion, the church year, and pastoral care.  Its new statement of faith is the Nicene Creed.

Christianity Today published a sympathetic in-depth article about the changes last month.  Lutheran scholar Martin Noland sees these developments as possibly “a watershed in American evangelicalism.” [Read more...]

Do church growth tactics attract the unchurched?

The best argument for adopting the techniques of the Church Growth movement–contemporary worship, non-traditional styles, and culturally-relevant practices–is to reach the lost, the unbelievers, the unchurched.  Such “missional” concerns often trump all other considerations.  It’s hard to argue against the importance of evangelism and the Great Commission.

But the question remains, do the Church Growth techniques that have given us so many megachurches, in fact, attract non-Christians and others who do not normally go to church?

I stumbled across a study of those who attend megachurches–one that is actually pro-megachurch in many ways–that found that only 2% do not describe themselves as “committed followers of Jesus Christ,” and only 6% do not come from other congregations. [Read more...]

Stranger in a Strange Church

Philip Jenkins cites the prescience of science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, whose novel Stranger in a Strange Land, written in 1961, posits a church of the future that sounds strangely prophetic:

“At a time of social chaos, seminary reject Joseph Foster proclaimed a spiritual message uniquely suited for America, a nation that had always combined public puritanism with private libertinism. But why not combine the two instincts, creating a religion that spoke the language of fervent piety, while tolerating virtually any behavior? . . . . [Read more...]

The Christ-al Cathedral

Robert Schuller’s Chrystal Cathedral has been bought by the Roman Catholic Church, which has renamed it the Christ Cathedral.   It will become the cathedral for the Orange County Diocese.

The soaring glass-paneled church known to millions of television viewers around the world as the Crystal Cathedral will get a new name: the Christ Cathedral.

Catholic leaders announced the name Saturday morning at St. Columban Catholic Church during the moving pageantry of an ordination ritual – the type of event that will draw thousands once the Diocese of Orange move to the site.

The naming marks “the first significant effort to identify the iconic venue as a Catholic religious center,” church leaders said.

It came four months after the diocese closed escrow on the $57.5 million sale, ordered by a court during the Protestant ministry’s bankruptcy proceedings. . . .

Meanwhile, Catholic leaders will begin renovations in July 2013 to convert the cathedral site – built by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller more than 50 years ago –to a Catholic place of worship. That process is expected to take at least a year. . . .

“I felt very bad that they lost their home. However, we needed a new Catholic cathedral because our cathedral is very small,” Brown said. “Dr. Schuller himself said he wanted us to be the ones to purchase it, so we would continue Christian worship in the cathedral and Christian ministry on the campus. That would not have happened with another buyer.” . . .

The new appointment also has personal meaning, [Vicar of the Cathedral Father] Smith said. He grew up visiting his grandparents on the property next door to the Orange Drive-in Theater where Schuller started his church, before creating the famous cathedral visible from the freeway. With his siblings, Smith would watch Schuller preach from the top of a snack bar.”We were amazed at all these people going to church in their cars,” Smith said. A church where you “don’t even have to get out of your car,” he said. “We thought this was very cool.”

“This is a memory that I now cherish,” Smith said.

Smith’s responsibilities will include managing the renovations, which will include installing a central altar, a bishop’s chair and a tabernacle to house the Blessed Sacrament.

The modern structure “is not a highly liturgical place in the traditional sense,” Catholic leaders have said.

“Yet, the Diocese of Orange considers it a ‘clean palette’ – while renovations are called for – not much deconstruction would be required and the iconic personality of the original architecture and design would, for the most part, be retained,” Catholic leaders said in an earlier announcement.

They particularly praised the imposing organ “as one of the finest in the country,” and the quality of light “and its allegory is consistent with the enlightenment of Christ.”

“It will be glorious,” said Sister Susana Guzman, of the Poor Claire Missionary Sisters in Santa Ana. Celebrations such as Saturday’s ordination sometimes require tickets, she said, because the 1.2 million Catholics in Orange County don’t have a large enough cathedral.

St. Columban is the largest Catholic venue in the county, with about half the number of seats as the cathedral site. The Diocese of Orange is the 10th largest in the nation, Smith said.

At an event last April, Smith was introduced to Schuller, the new head of the Christ Cathedral said in an interview. Schuller told him: “I built the cathedral for Christ. And I know that with the Catholic Church, it will be for Christ.”

via Catholic Church renames Crystal Cathedral: Christ Cathedral | cathedral, church, smith – News – The Orange County Register.

Not much “deconstruction”?  Isn’t this whole transaction a deconstruction of the megachurch, contemporary Catholicism, and what it means to be “Iconic”?

I find it odd that Roman Catholics would be so open to megachurch architecture and its meanings.   Do you find anything else odd about this?

HT:  Grace

Chrislam?

Rick Warren, megachurch pastor and author of the Purpose Driven Life, is working to reconcile evangelicals and Muslims:

The Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest and one of America’s most influential Christian leaders, has embarked on an effort to heal divisions between evangelical Christians and Muslims by partnering with Southern California mosques and proposing a set of theological principles that includes acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

The effort, informally dubbed King’s Way, caps years of outreach between Warren and Muslims. Warren has broken Ramadan fasts at a Mission Viejo mosque, met Muslim leaders abroad and addressed 8,000 Muslims at a national convention in Washington D.C.

Saddleback worshippers have invited Muslims to Christmas dinner and played interfaith soccer at a picnic in Irvine attended by more than 300 people. (The game pitted pastors and imams against teens from both faiths. The teens won.)

The effort by a prominent Christian leader to bridge what polls show is a deep rift between Muslims and evangelical Christians culminated in December at a dinner at Saddleback attended by 300 Muslims and members of Saddleback’s congregation.

At the dinner, Abraham Meulenberg, a Saddleback pastor in charge of interfaith outreach, and Jihad Turk, director of religious affairs at a mosque in Los Angeles, introduced King’s Way as “a path to end the 1,400 years of misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians.”

The men presented a document they co-authored outlining points of agreement between Islam and Christianity. The document affirms that Christians and Muslims believe in “one God” and share two central commandments: “love of God” and “love of neighbor.” The document also commits both faiths to three goals: Making friends with one another, building peace and working on shared social service projects. The document quotes side-by-side verses from the Bible and the Koran to illustrate its claims.

“We agreed we wouldn’t try to evangelize each other,” said Turk. “We’d witness to each other but it would be out of ‘Love Thy Neighbor,’ not focused on conversion.” . . .

Warren has faced criticism from some evangelicals for his outreach to Muslims. Late last year, he issued a statement flatly denying rumors that he promulgates what critics term “Chrislam,” a merging of Islam and Christianity.

The “rumor is 100 percent false,” Warren wrote at Pastors.com, a website he founded that provides practical advice to church leaders. “My life and ministry are built on the truth that Jesus is the only way, and our inerrant Bible is our only true authority.”

via Rick Warren builds bridge to Muslims | muslims, warren, saddleback – Life – The Orange County Register.

Getting along, being kind to one another, making friends–that’s fine.  But why come up with a joint theological statement like that?  If Muslims and Christians have the same God, isn’t that “Chrislam”?

The megachurch bubble?

There was the dot.com bubble and, more recently, the real estate bubble, markets that grew and grew until they they burst.  Some experts are saying that we may be in for a megachurch bubble:

In the 1970s, only a handful of churches drew more than 2,000 people on Sundays. Now they number in the thousands.

But the collapse of the Crystal Cathedral near Los Angeles, which is being sold to pay off more than $40 million in debt, has prompted fears that the megachurch bubble may be about to burst.

Most megachurches — which earn that label around the 2,000-attendance level — are led by baby boomer pastors who soon will hit retirement age and without suitable replacements in the pipeline. And some fear the big-box worship centers with lots of individual programs no longer appeal to younger generations.

Skye Jethani, a senior editor of Leadership, a prominent evangelical magazine for pastors, compared megachurches to the real estate market of a few years ago.

“If you asked people back in 2007 if the housing market was doing well, people would have said yes,” he said.

Jethani said megachurches have become so big that their economics are unsustainable. They often have multimillion-dollar mortgages and hundreds of staff members. That works while a church is growing.

But churches often shrink when a longtime minister leaves, Jethani said.

“If you are a church of 400 people and you lose 200 people, you can still keep going,” he said. “If you are a church of 10,000 and you go down to 5,000, you may not be able to survive.”

via Some fear megachurch bubble may soon burst | The Tennessean | tennessean.com.

The article goes on to quote other people who deny that megachurches are creating a bubble ready to pop.  What do you think?

HT: Tim Challies


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