Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Where Is the Church?

By Alexander Samuels

The church is more than just a building despite the fact that we have seen the trend to construct church buildings resembling giant auditoriums and shopping malls. With all the conveniences and space, it would appear that these giant megachurches provide . . . something for everyone. Megachurches are now, however, building satellite churches that are planted for the use of smaller congregations. The churches are tied together by televised preaching from the home church but are designed to provide that feeling of "homeyness" missing from the massive mall-like structures. There are indications that megachurch attendance is on the decline. The satellite churches have become the latest strategy for keeping the sheep in the fold.

The glimmer and glitz of stage performances; loud bands; 7-11 choruses (songs with seven words repeated 11 times); the latest video screen technology; seeker-friendly greeters; short, non-theological, "feel good about yourself" homilies do not seem to be as appealing to the unchurched as they once were. It also remains questionable as to whether this evangelical strategy did little more than just fill pews while souls starved for a meaningful relationship with Christ.

This outcome is inevitable when pastors and elders become enamored of the successful secular strategies in the business world and try to apply them to church growth. Most of these programs are carried on in the secular world without much regard to God. When they are transferred to the church, the emphasis remains on the program and not on God's glory. These churches, like the builders of the tower of Babel, are often more interested in making a name for themselves than in bringing glory to God.

In light of the changes that are taking place in Protestant church culture, what are the unchurched looking for? What is missing from their lives that they would look to the church as a means for filling the void?

Materialism is well represented by the slogan: "He who dies with the most toys wins!" The inevitable question that follows, however, is "Wins what?" Human beings seek authentic meaning.

If the church is true to its calling, then the Holy Spirit of God will supply all that is needed. The meaning we thirst for is the power of the Holy Spirit conforming us to be more and more like Christ. Polished programs will not take us anywhere near this Christlikeness. Only the Holy Spirit furnishes the power to accomplish this. Are you looking for a church? Look for wind and flame. Only in a place where the Word is preached with authority and the people are found on their knees in prayer will the authentic meaning of life eternal in Christ be found.

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