Monday, February 20, 2012

Six Flags Over Jesus

19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”   —  Matthew 28:19–20 (NASB95)

The predicament of the American church is that we live in a kind of Magic Kingdom. Like going to Disneyland, you buy your ticket, and once you are inside the gates, everything you experience is controlled. The rides, the food, the shows are all there to entertain and amuse you. All you have to do is be there and observe. . .
As Christians, we too are tempted to see our world that way. We can start thinking that our job is to invite a few fortunate others into the theme park, away from the troubles outside. But our job is not to increase the attendance at Disneyland; it's to tear down the walls and transform the world outside.  –  Richard Stearns, "Shedding Lethargy," Leadership Journal (Winter, 2012)

I’m not going to reveal a name here, but there is a church near us that my wife refers to as “Six Flags Over Jesus.”  She borrowed that phrase from somebody else, and truthfully, there are other churches that deserve it more than the one she applies it to, but there is something to it.  Large facilities, lots of entertainment, tons of people who go because it serves them in some way, etc.  It happens.

That doesn’t mean smaller churches are automatically better, for the truth is that people in small churches often wish for the same kind of things.  But perhaps it’s not so easy in smaller places.

I don’t know how many times we’ve had visitors who were church shopping.  They liked us, thought we were a friendly church, complimented the preaching and teaching, and felt that we were an overall fine church.  But they moved on to a bigger place.  Often they are looking for a church with a “youth ministry,” or something else already in place.  When I suggest that they stay with us and help build one, it bounces right off and refuses to stick. They want something already in place, already built, something they can just join.

Am I complaining?  You bet I am, but not for the reason you may think. “You’re just jealous of the bigger church.”  No, I’m sad for the people unwilling to sacrifice, to build, to dream, to work, to go through the hassle. It’s “serve me,” instead of “where do I serve.”