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How ‘church growth at all costs’ mentality weakens worship


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THE CHURCH HAS LOST ITS THICKNESS — WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I’d like to take you to an article written by John Stonestreet out of Breakpoint. The headline is “Are our churches truly leaving a mark on people? Or, another way to think about it, are our churches thick or thin? What’s the difference between a job and a vocation? David Brooks of The New York Times writes, ‘The difference is thickness. A thick institution,’ Brooks writes, ‘becomes a part of a person’s identity and engages the whole person, head, hands, heart and soul.’” John Stonestreet asks, “Are our churches thick enough?”

DR. REEDER: David Brooks has brought something up and let’s build on his metaphors. One time, I was watching my mother fix some gravy and she said, “Well, that’s not thick enough,” and I said, “Oh, what do you do?” She said, “Well, here’s what you need to add,” and she began to add some things. Then I remember her language, “Gravy needs to have texture and it needs to have a little thickness to it in order to be tasteful.”

WORSHIP HAS CHANGED — BUT FOR THE BETTER?

Well, I think the same thing’s true in terms of the church. What we have been through, Tom, is a series of years where the church growth mentality has so dominated the thinking of the leadership of the church that the notion is not simply, “We need to simplify,” but, “We need to make less challenging the message of Christianity,” and it’s been seen particularly in how we do worship.

Worship has not only taken on an entertainment dynamic and the whole notion is, “How is the audience receiving this and will it attract an audience? And we need to have worship services that attract. Well, the culture uses entertainment to attract so we’ll make our worship services entertainment.”

We introduce video cuts, we introduce drama, we introduce dance and we introduce all of these things which, actually, I have no issue with in, let’s say, an outreach event or a concert or something like that. However, worship is something different. Worship is something unique and wholly other.

WORSHIP SERVICES SET THE TONE FOR THE WHOLE CHURCH

Now, why am I saying this? Because I believe worship services set the thermostat for the life and texture of the church. Worship has to have gravitas. Some people, in an effort to have gravitas, reach for complicated liturgy and some reach for gravitas in terms of the performance of the leadership on the stage but, historically, evangelical Christianity — and if people will allow me to talk about my own branch of Christ’s church, the Presbyterian Church — we have said that there needs to be simplicity, not shallowness, but simplicity in worship.

Worship needs to be preaching, and prayer, and confession and the sacraments but there’s not this complicated liturgy that complexity is the notion of substance, but there is substance because of the weightiness of the Word.

Therefore, in our effort to be entertaining, we have cut back on the message and we have cut back on our worship in order for it to be just a simple gathering of entertainment where everybody feels good and has a great experience and, “By the way, won’t you come back to be a part of this church?”

Well, the objective of Christianity is not for people to become a part of our church. The objective of Christianity is for the church to present Christ in all of His glory — that means His transcendence as well as his imminence. That means not only the simplicity of our intimate relationship with Him, but the majesty of our transcendent relationship with Him.

WORSHIP MUST LEAD US TO THE GREATNESS OF GOD

I was looking as I was going through the cathedrals of Europe and I was looking at where they once were in these massive cathedrals that were declaring the transcendence of God. Well, that is something that, historically, has been there, that the transcendence of God is declared in worship and then the imminence of God is taught in worship — that He is with you, that He loves you, that He dwells within you.

“But who is this that dwells within me?” It is not some watered-down version of a God, but the God of the Bible, Who speaks and the winds obey His voice, and the mountains quake and all of the universe stands in awe of Him. And it is this fear, or awe of the Lord, that would then penetrate the worship of God because he is so majestic.

And then comes the message that this God has loved you, He has given His Son for you and He will send His Spirit to live within you so you can be right with this majestic God and this majestic God is right within you.

SET-APART AND HOLY WORSHIP IS BIBLICAL

Tom, the real point of this thing is worship. Worship sets the thermostat. There’s an interesting moment when Moses is telling Pharaoh, as the spokesman for God, “Let My people do that they may go three days out to this mountain and worship Me.” And, in the sixth plague, Pharaoh says, “Listen, we’ll let you worship. Here, I’ll create a nice little place for you here. You don’t have to leave, but you can stay here and worship.”

And then there’s an interesting thing that Moses says to Pharaoh, as this mouthpiece of God, and that’s this: “Our worship will not be understood by your people. We must go out to worship.” Worship is a wholly other event. It’s not a concert. It’s not an entertainment. It’s not a lecture. It’s not a classroom. It is a moment where the people of God have assembled together in the presence of God and the glory and majesty of God is being lifted up and praise is given to God. That’s what brings gravitas to the church because then you can deal not only with the simplicity of the Gospel message, but also the depth of the Gospel message.

The church has lost its texture. It’s lost its tastiness. Why? Because it’s lost — and I’ll use David Brooks’ metaphor — it’s lost its thickness. What we have said, historically, is the church is five miles wide and one inch deep. And then you have reactionary churches that are one inch wide and five miles deep.

Well, I think what the Bible is telling us is that the church is to be five miles wide and five miles deep. There is a texture, there is an expansion of it and there is a depth of it — a thickness of it. And that’s what draws people, not this simplicity of another faddish organization, but the embassy of the kingdom of God has shown up. Look at the depth of the relationship that the people have with God, look at the majesty of that God and then look at the intimacy they have with God and with each other.

CHURCHES AND OUR CHRISTIAN IDENTITY

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Going back to David Brooks’ analogy, he writes, “Some organizations leave a mark on you and some pass through with scarcely a memory.” Harry, are our churches leaving a mark?

DR. REEDER: He’s put his finger on it — no. You can take them and leave them because they’re not all that significant. They have no demands any longer. “Wouldn’t you like to join our church? By the way, it’s nothing much. Can you come, maybe, once a month to a worship service and, by the way, give a little bit of money every once in a while? Would you join up for a little project?”

There’s this minimizing of expectations even though all of the analysis tells us it is the heightening of expectations. Now, we obviously want to be Biblical in this. What does it take to join the church of Jesus Christ? It takes one basic thing: a credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. However, what are the vows of that membership? The vows of that membership is not that this is an incidental organization that I may stop by periodically. By the way, how many meetings do I need to come to, to be a member of the Rotary Club?

That’s not the way you look at the church of Jesus Christ. This is a covenant commitment to the one organization that Jesus died for. God, as creator, has put a sacred institution — it’s called the family. God, as provider, has put a sacred institution — it’s called government. God, as redeemer, has put a sacred institution — it’s called the church, which is called the family of God, which is called the body of Christ, which is sprinkled clean with the blood of Jesus.

CHURCH LEADERS, ASSESS YOURSELVES

And Jesus said that, “I have loved my church and given myself for her. I have purchased her with my own blood.” Therefore, there is a commitment we make that reflects the depth of the commitment of the Savior.

However, here is the point. The leadership of the church has got to renew our commitment to making sure that the door and threshold of the church is simple Gospel message, but the life of the church has depth and texture — it’s tasty because there’s something to it. There is gravitas.

And, finally, my proposal is this: the worship service sets the thermostat for the thickness and the thinness of the church. It sets the thermostat. Worship is the key element.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

1 hour ago

Public Policy Foundation: ‘Amendment 4 would save Alabama taxpayers millions’

The Alabama Public Policy Foundation (APPF) issued a press release on Thursday in an effort to educate voters about the virtues of voting “yes” on Amendment 4 on the November 6 general election ballot.

Rosemary Elebash, an APPF board member and state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), explained that the amendment would save Alabama taxpayers millions of dollars by eliminating costly special elections when a regularly scheduled election is already imminent.

“Under current law, the governor must call a special election to fill legislative seats vacated due to death or resignation, even if there are only a few months remaining in the term,” Elebash outlined. “Each legislative special election costs from $90,000 to $900,000 per county, based on the number of voters and polling locations. These sometimes occur when candidates already have qualified for the next general election or when the Legislature is not scheduled to meet again before the end of the term.”

APPF noted that money spent on late-term special elections could be used for other services important to Alabama taxpayers. In addition to the wasteful cost, Elebash said back-to-back balloting can create fatigue and confusion for voters.

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“In recent years, we’ve seen candidates win special elections and immediately begin campaigning for a regular primary election a month or two later,” she said.

Amendment 4 would allow Alabama Senate and House of Representatives seats to remain open if vacated on or after Oct. 1 of the third year of a four-year term. The longest a seat would remain vacant would be 14 months. The amendment only applies to these state legislative seats, and the governor would still be required to schedule special elections for vacancies occurring earlier in a term.

You can read the objective Fair Ballot Commission’s explanation of Amendment 4 here.

APPF is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization “created to promote educational, social, financial and economic policies to enhance the well-being of Alabama citizens.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Kay Ivey: Walt Maddox ‘misguided’ on calls to expand Medicaid

FAIRHOPE – Gov. Kay Ivey isn’t necessarily buying into the notion that the expansion of Medicaid could be a win-win for Alabama, as her Democratic opponent Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox has portrayed it.

Medicaid expansion has been a key component of Maddox’s campaign, and it has been something Republican lawmakers have resisted given its potential future cost to state taxpayers.

Thursday night, before taking the stage at Baldwin County’s Oak Hollow Farms for a political rally, Ivey fielded questions from reporters, one of which dealt with the expansion of Medicaid.

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She expressed her support for quality health care, but described Maddox’s push as “misguided.”

“It’s important that we have the availability of quality health care for our people,” she said to Yellowhammer News. “That’s for sure. But at the same time, we’ve got to be sure we’re doing all we can with the Medicaid program, and nobody has come up with how we’re going to pay back the high cost if we expand it. So, I think my opponent is misguided again.”

In recent weeks, Maddox has been pushing Medicaid expansion on his bus tour of Alabama, and on Thursday, his second TV ad began airing across the state that doubles down on the proposal.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

3 hours ago

7 Things: Illegal immigration argument in the WH, libs complain about pot enforcement costs, Maddox demands Ivey prove his smear, and more …

7. 2020 is definitely underway, with Sen. Kamala Harris proposing a straight-up giveaway to every person making less than $100,000 a year.

— Sen. Harris says she wants to provide Americans whose wages haven’t increased a “basic income” to “keep up with cost of living increases.”

— The proposal has absolutely no chance of becoming law, but this is more about her appealing to the Democrat base before she enters the primary for President.

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6. As Canada legalizes marijuana, a new report tells how much marijuana costs Alabama.

— The Southern Poverty Law Center is claiming the enforcement of pot laws cost the state $22 million dollars a year, clogs up forensic labs, and as a kicker, they also claim that drug laws are racist.

— Madison County District Attorney dismisses the claims of racism and says law enforcement is just doing their jobs, “I can tell you law enforcement officials on the street do not care what color you are, they do not care whether you’re a man or a woman, if you’re breaking the law, they’re going to address it.”

5. Nick Saban endorses an old friend in West Virginia; Alabama liberals want him to endorse Walt Maddox here.

— Sen. Joe Manchin’s campaign in a red state looked to Saban, a native son and life-long friend, for a boost to swing voters in the state President Donald Trump won big.

— Every election year people wonder if Nick Saban will wade into Alabama politic; he never does even though some people fake it.

4. A Speaker Nancy Pelosi would make you pay if you disagree with her; an Alabama Democrat won’t support her if she is elected.

— Former Speaker Pelosi knows there is a good chance she will get her hand on the gavel again, and if she does there may be some pain. Pelosi said, “If there’s some collateral damage for some others who do not share our view, well, so be it, but it shouldn’t be our original purpose.”

— In what is becoming a bit of a ploy for Democrats looking to distance themselves from the national Democratic Party, Mallory Hagan who is running for Congress in Alabama Congressman Mike Rogers 3rd District, has declared she isn’t voting for Pelosi. Hagan said, “Sixteen years is too long for Mike Rogers and too long for Nancy Pelosi.”

3. George Soros involvement in Alabama elections is not as complicated as some are pretending.

— After a report that George Soros donated $200,000 to Tuscaloosa PACs this week, PACs that have given Mayor Walt Maddox $600k+ overall this cycle, people are equivocating, saying the PACs donated to Ivey in the past.

— The fact is PAC funding is a mess, the pass-through process is a joke, but the idea that Soros is giving Ivey money is comical deflection that no one with any scruples would try to make and Ivey’s response is perfect: “Bottom line is [if] George Soros puts $200 [thousand] in Alabama elections, for sure it’s not for conservatives like I am.”

2. Phase two of “The Governor is sick” rollout is underway, Maddox allies allege a cover-up, and he then demands it be explained.

— Phase one of this sad charade included revisiting a previous smear that Governor Kay Ivey is secretly-ill, but adding a twist of a grudge-holding former state employee who is also Maddox’s friend.

1. There was a shouting match at the White House over the plan to actually enforce our borders.

— White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser John Bolton got into an argument over a proposed policy to step up border enforcement in the lead up to the election. Trump sided with Bolton and threatened to send the military to the border to stop a caravan of future illegal aliens.

— Trump’s threats of military action and cutting foreign aid payments have apparently pushed Mexico into attempting to stop the flow at their southern border; they are sending federal police and reaching out the UN for help.

Passion and purpose: How an Alabama based software company is helping the United Cajun Navy organize Hurricane Michael relief efforts

When Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida panhandle and parts of the Carolinas last week, Alabama native Hammond Cobb didn’t waste any time helping those tragically devastated by the storm.

Cobb called the United Cajun Navy, a well-known Louisiana volunteer group and immediately got to work mobilizing their team’s volunteer efforts with the help of his software company, Serquest.com

Cobb says Serquest is a “software system that is designed to put people into action faster.”

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Essentially a LinkedIn for nonprofits, Serquest gives organizations the ability to create an online ‘resume’ for their organization where they can list current volunteer opportunities and donation needs.

The United Cajun Navy has their urgent needs listed on Serquest.com. Groups of volunteers, individuals or corporations who want to assist Florida residents affected by Hurricane Michael can sign up or donate here.

Cobb says the United Cajun Navy a “democratic and lean volunteer network of people who save lives first, ask questions later and don’t ask for compensation for doing the right thing.”

He said government agencies can often be slow when it comes to helping people get what they need and by partnering with the Cajun Navy, he knew people would get the assistance they needed, and quickly.

“We help people now and do paper work later,” Cobb said.

In addition to hosting volunteer needs on his organization’s website, Cobb created inspirational video ads and public service announcements to encourage people to volunteer.

At the end of the day, Cobb said his mission for Serquest revolves around, “connecting people to people.” A nonprofit for nonprofits, he sees Serquest as a personal network centered approach to helping volunteer organizations.

5 hours ago

Sessions conducting ‘most aggressive campaign against leaks’ in DOJ history

After 39-year-old former FBI Special Agent Terry J. Albury was sentenced on Thursday to 48 months in the District of Minnesota in connection with his unauthorized disclosure and retention of classified national defense information, Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmed the DOJ is in the process of “conducting perhaps the most aggressive campaign against leaks in Department history.”

“We are conducting perhaps the most aggressive campaign against leaks in Department history,” Sessions said in a release. “Crimes like the one committed by the defendant in this case will not be tolerated—they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and punished … Today’s sentence should be a warning to every would-be leaker in the federal government that if they disclose classified information, they will pay a high price.”

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According to court documents, Albury worked as a Special Agent in the FBI’s Minneapolis field office at the time of the disclosures, held a Top Secret//Sensitive Compartmented Information security clearance and his daily duties provided him access to sensitive and classified FBI and other U.S. government information.

The court documents also say that, beginning in 2016 and continuing through August 2017, Albury knowingly and willfully disclosed national defense information, classified at the Secret level, to a reporter. Albury employed methods to avoid detection, including printing documents that he created by cutting and pasting portions of an original document into a new document so as to avoid leaving a record of having printed the original, classified document. Albury also accessed documents on a classified computer and took pictures of the computer screen in order to photograph certain classified documents. Those additional classified documents were recovered on an electronic storage device found during a search of his home.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn