Some of you wholeheartedly agreed with my last blog, “Will the Real Church in America Please Stand Up!” and others disagreed with the position I took. In this blog I will explore the issue from another angle.
Perhaps there is a place in today’s culture for the megachurch that appeals to a more youthful generation. The loud praise bands on stage, the coffee bars and casual atmosphere of these churches may draw in those youth who would never darken the door of the traditional denominational church with its organ music and robed choirs. These churches are often referred to as “seeker-friendly.” Perhaps they could also be viewed as “evangelistic outreaches.”
In 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 (NIV), the Apostle Paul says: I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
When Paul visited Athens, he also sought common ground upon which to preach the gospel: Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you (Acts 17:22).
We DO need to engage this generation and our culture where they are, but from there we need to take them deeper into true Christian discipleship. A friend of mine who feels called to minister in a local megachurch that attracts hundreds of college students says the pastoral staff is grappling with the whole issue of discipleship–how do we take those who come to a Sunday service which is “seeker-friendly,” preach the Gospel (which is not just a make-me-feel-good-gospel) and then disciple them in how to live out a committed Christian lifestyle. Agreed, some may never want to go that deep, but others will. Small groups, Bible studies, mentoring are some of the ways this can be accomplished.
Let’s look at how the Bible defines a church service: What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up (1 Cor. 14:26 NIV).
Megachurches are too large to follow this pattern. Denominational churches have their own order of service which often precludes participation by all members. So where does this leave us? The New Testament definition of church rarely takes place in our culture today.
I don’t have the answer. But I do know that while we need to engage this generation, we cannot condone an anti-Christian culture or lifestyle while calling it a church. The Gospel always points to a changed life! If our churches aren’t producing disciples–whether they are modern megachurches or old-line denominational churches–then I question whether they are the real thing!