By Paul Proctor
June 19, 2005
It’s not often one receives anything uplifting these days on the changing church controversy; but thanks to the editor of an excellent and informative web site called, Covenantnews.com, I got an neat little nugget of news from the frontlines of the “second reformation.” Thanks for the heads-up, Jim!
It seems that a growing number of congregations have realized that referring to their fellowships as “churches” is a bit of a stretch and have subsequently begun dropping that traditional term from their names so as not to offend any potential prospects that might actually hate churches. I think congratulations are in order for their honesty and willingness to call a spade a spade – or should I say, NOT call one that isn’t?
There’s nothing quite as frustrating as entering a worship facility, expecting to hear the Word of God preached only to find out it is anything BUT a church. I am so grateful that someone FINALLY had the decency and forethought to begin forewarning unsuspecting souls like me, seeking to worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth, and spare us the embarrassment and humiliation of having to awkwardly abandon another entertainment venue during the opening number like some poor slob whose high-fiber breakfast just kicked in.
Jane Eisner recently wrote, in a syndicated column, that Rick Warren “created a church for people who hate church,” referring, of course, to Saddleback Community Church out in Southern California. In fact, I believe the very title of the article, as it appeared here in The Tennessean, was: “A Church For People Who Hate Church.”
I wish more organizations, including Warren’s, would follow the innovative example of such heady faith-based fellowships as The High Way Community, Harbor Light and Great Exchange (all noted in Eisner’s piece) and just go ahead and remove the word “church” from their names altogether. It sure would save a lot of confusion and heartache on Sunday morning.
And now a word from Fuller Seminary, heralding the rotten fruit of her offspring:
''They're very creative with these names. They raise curiosity, break stereotypes,'' said Eddie Gibbs, professor of church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. ''They appeal not just to the younger generation but those impacted by popular culture.''
See there; another good reason to eat a healthy breakfast before church – to keep from getting "impacted by the popular culture." Let’s face it folks: That’s just not a good feeling. Besides, it can make your Aloha shirt look a couple sizes too small; and THAT might offend somebody.
Clearly the "church" is headed in a new direction, many fellowships having already removed their denominational designation, along with other traditional trappings like crosses, stained glass, pews, pulpits, choirs, hymnals and Bibles from their respective sanctuaries (I mean “worship centers,” I MEAN “VENUES!”) There are just SO many cutting-edge changes currently carving up Body of Christ, it’s hard to keep track of all the bloody parts!
Why, just the other day I read about a new drive-thru church you can wheel into and grab a little god-to-go, out in Davenport, Iowa. Said it only takes about five minutes… Then, there’s that sassy little Episcopal Church up in New York City that holds it’s own “Clown Eucharist.” How fitting…
Even my own ex-church, The People’s Church, formerly known as The First Baptist Church, recently achieved national attention by hosting a special event they called “Porn Sunday,” where they showed an 'R' rated film entitled, “Missionary Positions,” to allegedly help those addicted to pornography.
That’s right, “Missionary Positions.” Clever, huh? I’ll bet THAT got the kids crackin’ wise in Sunday school! Makes for a VERY interactive class, don’t cha know! MY, how the Lord must have been blessed by that; but then, as always, they’re just trying to be relevant to the culture, which, frankly, is A LOT more fun and attractive to church haters than trying to be relevant to God and His Word. BTW – No one under 17 was allowed in to see the flick without a parent or guardian; and SOME editing was required. Duh!
“Abstain from all appearance of evil.” – 1st Thessalonians 5:22
You know, it doesn’t take a doctorate in theology OR marketing to see that some of these religious therapy centers would benefit enormously by the removal of the word “church” from their signs, buildings, vans, letterhead, envelopes, flyers, car wash banners, TV advertisements and Sunday worship bulletins; not to mention how handy it would be for the rest of us. (We do still have bulletins, don’t we?) I know how frightening they can be at times; especially when you have to stop, concentrate and fill in the blanks on the pastor’s message outline; that insipid little insert they incessantly slip in for your “edification.” It’s just not fair, especially without a Bible around; and who wants to lug THAT old thing back and forth to the food court?
They just need to eighty-six all bulletins and inserts, period! They’re too offensive and distracting! I can’t even enjoy the band anymore, much less get in the groove; and I’m sure Bono wouldn’t tolerate it if he was leading our worship!
Anyway, at first glance, dropping the term “church” from your church for the benefit of those who hate church sounds like a no-brainer. But, you know; one has to wonder what could happen to all of that sacred unity we covet when you set out to lure a bunch of people who HATE church into a building full of people who LOVE church.
Seems to me, the obvious effect would be disastrous; a very predictable and unproductive atmosphere of confrontation and chaos that would result in one group or the other eventually leaving discouraged, disillusioned, defeated, devastated and in total despair; and from the email I get, the group that usually leaves is the one that LOVES the church; and that's only because, more often than not, the facilitating pastor and all his yes men end up siding with and supporting all of the church haters – you know, the one's they told us church lovers to bring in and entertain! Ironic, isn't it? Sounds like the perfect formula for destroying a church if you ask me. But then, hey, we didn’t want to be a “church” anymore anyway, did we?
So, what’s next? Well, let’s see; we already have a preacher for people who hate preachers; that would be Rick Warren, of course. How about a Bible for people who hate the Bible? Oh yeah, Eugene Peterson already thought of that. OK – How about a Jesus for people who hate Jesus? Oh, that’s right – Opie Taylor is bringing us The Da Vinci Code movie next year, isn’t he? I wonder if any of these former “churches” will host a special “Heresy Sunday” and show it on their big screens to help those addicted to false teaching?
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears…” – 2nd Timothy 4:3
© 2005 Paul Proctor - All Rights Reserved