Save Us From Ourselves:
There is no denying that we live in an age of consumerism, materialism, and individualism, all signifying a culture consumed with self. I have been to some very large churches over the past few weeks, and continue to follow and listen to premier preachers from across the country. What I have found is that many, if not most, ministries and sermons have allowed the culture at large to affect them, to the point they are anthropocentric (man-centered). The production, show, videos, intros to songs, and messages all speak to a man-centered message. One preacher was talking about how we can have peace with others, never mentioning the Prince of Peace and what he accomplished that we might have peace with God and with man. Another addressed the topic of insecurity and stated something to the effect of: “When Satan tells you ____________, You tell Him My Father Says I am…” I would rather it have been put something like this: “When Satan tells you ___________, You tell Him My Father Says I have the Great I AM in me.” I left one church saying, “That was an awesome video.” I told my wife that the thousands that left that church that day, probably was saying something very similar. I would have rather left saying, “Wow! What a Great GOD!”
It is not that what these churches and men do and say are heretical or even bad, but in my opinion they are not the best. My concern is that we are grooming a Christian, churched generation on attractionalism, consumerism, and individualism; in essence we are grooming them to be anthropocentric (man-centered). Many have replaced retro traditionalism, and church models of the past, with high energy services and experiences, topped with the main point of the message revolving around man.
I was reading Isaiah 53 this morning. I am reminded once again that “he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth….”
Jesus has done it all. Jesus is the hero! But the object of Jesus’ heroism, the church, finds itself in a precarious situation. To avoid the danger of grooming a generation of self-centeredness rooted in churches being built upon consumerism, attractionalism, and individualism, we must make Jesus the hero and object of everything we do– from announcements, to song lead ins, to messages, to reflection times, to ministries, and even to the way we challenge people. While I know that 99% of people will agree with this, much of our actions and silence in services and messages speak louder than agreeing with this idea. We must stop applying Jesus and biblical principles to our own lives, but rather seek to apply our lives to the Grand Narrative and Mission of Jesus. This is not a difference in semantics, but of perception. Jesus should not be part of the service, or a pill at the end of service that people can take; he must be the center of the entire service. The church today finds itself in a position to be saved from ourselves. The only one who can is JESUS.
Again, my beef is not with the style or type of service. It is with the content and the focus of the content. I like the music, I like the videos, I like the preacher (most of the time); I have a problem with the focus. So, my suggestion is that churches are careful to make the things it does, and does with excellence, Christ-centered.