In my last piece I examined the whole mega-church mentality that seems to saturate what is Americanized Christendom, or what I like to call, “Churchianity.” I would now like to offer what I believe are mindsets which have rendered the Church ineffective and even unimportant by our generation. I am drawing from my own personal ministry experiences, and though I wouldn’t consider myself an expert, I am most definitely a seasoned and wounded participant. I left the ministry for personal reasons five years ago. My comments here are based entirely on my own up close and personal observations, and are not intended to belittle anyone’s personal faith.
My first observation is that Churchianity today seems to have one primary focus: crowd control. It is the perfect set up. Several people are gathered around one speaker in whom trust has been given to deliver a relevant message. One man or woman offers universal biblical statements tarnished with their own personal predilections. Congregations sit back and absorb this information, which, more often than not, is delivered in a spirit of “Don’t do this, only do that.” Many of our generation grew up in this environment. No drinking, no smoking, no movies, men can only have short hair, women can only wear skirts, children should be seen and not heard, and you better give God what’s right not what’s left. Then all of this culminated into a moment of decision, where you were invited to “come down to the front” and repent for letting God and your church down. Others may have come from a charismatic background, where the only way for you to be “victorious” in your daily life was to speak in tongues and run around the church. Women were treated as second class citizens and weren’t allowed to wear makeup. Is it any wonder why a large percentage of us stopped going to church as soon as we were old enough to decide?
It’s interesting to note here that Jesus responded more often to individuals than he did to crowds. Scripture shows him trying to avoid the crowds on more than one occasion. He preferred to meet people on their own individual level. Today’s pastors seem to be primarily focused on drawing larger crowds in order to control more people. They may not even realize that they are doing so. But they are, and seminaries are churning them out in droves. I used to be one of them.
Another observation I will touch on is Churchianity’s emphasis on starting, or “planting,” new churches. In my area of the world, there are already churches everywhere. Many are housed in large sanctuaries that are seldom half full. In many areas, there are church buildings on nearly every corner. Where is the logic in building more churches where so many already exist? Throughout church history, groups of people have left the larger group over some sort of disagreement and started new denominations. History, it would seem, has taught us nothing. More often than not, church plants are born out of a disagreement of some sort. This creates nothing more than a group of embittered people who want to invite people to their new church.
The mindsets of crowd control and the obsession with numerical growth are but two mindsets which have effectively crippled the Church’s ability to influence today’s culture. A pastor of my acquaintance once said, “I think I will join the mafia. The pay is better, and the people are nicer.” My former mentor once said, “Church would be fun were it not for the people.” In my personal experience, people in bars are nicer than people in most churches.