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Megachurches, Megabusinesses
Forbes.com ^ | September 17, 2003 | Luisa Kroll

Posted on 10/02/2003 6:28:22 PM PDT by anncoulteriscool

Christian Capitalism

Megachurches, Megabusinesses

Luisa Kroll, 09.17.03, 12:00 PM ET

Maybe churches aren't so different from corporations. World Changers Ministries, for instance, operates a music studio, publishing house, computer graphic design suite and owns its own record label. The Potter's House also has a record label as well as a daily talk show, a prison satellite network that broadcasts in 260 prisons and a twice-a-week Webcast. New Birth Missionary Baptist Church has a chief operating officer and a special effects 3-D Web site that offers videos-on-demand. It publishes a magazine and holds Cashflow 101 Game Nights. And Lakewood Church, which recently leased the Compaq Center, former home of the NBA's Houston Rockets, has a four-record deal and spends $12 million annually on television airtime.

Welcome to the megabusiness of megachurches, where pastors often act as chief executives and use business tactics to grow their congregations. This entrepreneurial approach has contributed to the explosive growth of megachurches--defined as non-Catholic churches with at least 2,000 members--in the U.S. Indeed, Lakewood, New Birth, The Potter's House and World Changers, four of the biggest, have all experienced membership gains of late. Of course, growth for them has a higher purpose: to spread their faith to as many people as they can. "In our society growth equals success," says Scott Thumma, faculty associate at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. "And religious growth not only equals success but also God's blessing on the ministry."

In 1970, there were just ten such churches, according to John Vaughn, founder of Church Growth Today, which tracks megachurches. In 1990, 250 fit that description. Today, there are 740. The most common trait that these churches share is their size; average number of worshippers is 3,646, up 4% from last year, according to Vaughn. But they also demonstrate business savvy, with many holding conferences (47%) and using radio (44%) and television (38%), according to a 1999 survey conducted by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. The average net income of megachurches was estimated at $4.8 million by that same survey.

Churches are exempt from income taxes. But in some cases they do pay an unrelated business income tax on activities not substantially related to the church's religious, educational or charitable purposes. (Churches do pay payroll, sales and, often, property taxes.)

Church Attendance* City, State Pastor

Lakewood Church 25,060 Houston, Tx Joel Osteen

World Changers 23,093 College Park, Ga. Rev. Creflo Dollar

Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa 20,000 Santa Ana, Calif. Pastor Chuck Smith

The Potter's House 18,500 Dallas, Tex. Bishop T.D. Jakes

Second Baptist Church 18,000 Houston, Tex. Dr. H. Edwin Young

Southeast Christian Church 17,863 Louisville, Ky. Bob Russell

First Assembly of God 17,532 Phoenix, Ariz. Dr. Tommy J. Barnett

Willow Creek Community Church 17,115 S. Barrington, Ill. Bill Hybels

Calvary Chapel of Ft. Lauderdale 17,000 Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Pastor Bob Coy

Saddleback Valley Community Church 15,030 Lake Forest, Calif. Dr. Rick Warren

*Catholic churches are not tracked for this study. This is all 2003 attendance data and represents total weekend attendance for each congregation. Source: Dr. John N. Vaughan, Church Growth Today

Technology also plays a large role in helping these giant churches communicate with members and keep track of them. Many provide a transcript of the weekly sermons and an events calendar on the Web site as well as sell products, such as books and CDs. They also allow members to post prayers and donate online. Almost all (99%) have Web sites. "Cell phones, e-mail, complex phone systems and the Internet all enhance the way megachurches work," says Thumma, faculty associate at the Hartford Institute.

Helping churches grow is a business in itself. There is even a publicly traded company, Kingdom Ventures (otc: KDMV - news - people ), whose sole mission is to help faith-based organizations get bigger. In its latest 10Q, the company did disclose that it's received a subpoena from the Securities And Exchange Commission relating to its stock and transactions. Founded in 1999, the tiny company operates 12 subsidiaries and claims to work with 10,000 churches on everything from fundraising to event planning (it provides speakers and artists for events) to upgrading technology by helping sell new audio and visual equipment and sound systems. "One of the reasons megachurches are as big as they are is because they use the technology of today," says Kingdom Chief Executive Gene Jackson, "We can help smaller churches become big with technology."

If that doesn't help, they may steer folks to a new book they are about to publish: PastorPreneur, which is hitting Christian book stores this month. The book teaches pastors to think like entrepreneurs; for instance, encouraging them to set up strategic partnerships with nonchurch groups and to use event marketing to draw in new members.

For a lesson in marketing, religious leaders would do well to study the success of Bill Hybels and his Great Barrington, Ill.-based Willow Creek Community Church. In 1975, he and members of his student ministry went door to door asking residents what kept them away from church. Hybels then crafted his services to address their concerns, becoming one of the first pastors to use video, drama and contemporary music in church and encouraging a more casual dress code. "Hybels really showed that churches can use marketing principles and still be authentic," says Michael Emerson, a Rice University sociology professor who has studied megachurches. Willow Creek, which has a staff of 500 full and part-time employees, is renowned for its conferences and seminars that teach other churches how to market themselves as well as for its "buzz" events, featuring well-known personalities such as country singer Randy Travis, NASCAR Champion owner and former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs and Lisa Beamer, widow of Sept. 11, 2001, hero Todd Beamer--all intended to attract nonchurch goers.

Media has helped spread the message, particularly for Lakewood Church, the largest megachurch in the U.S. In 1981, Joel Osteen, son of then-pastor Joe Osteen, quit college to set up his father's television ministry. The services eventually aired in 140 countries. He also advertised Lakewood on local television and on billboards throughout Houston where the church is located. After his father passed away in 1999, Osteen became pastor and expanded the church's media strategy.

Like most churches, Lakewood's broadcasts had been relegated to the very early Sunday morning shows. Lakewood instead decided to target the top 25 markets in the nation and negotiate for timeslots on the four top networks between 8 A.M. and 10 A.M., rather than working with just one network. It also agreed to increase its budget for airtime to $12 million from $6 million. Its program now can be seen in 92% of the nation's households.

Never satisfied, the church analyzes its media strategy each quarter.

As for the services themselves, Lakewood makes sure to put on a grand show. It has a 12-piece stage band, a lighting designer to set the mood and three large projection screens. The technology will be even more spectacular when it moves into its new home in the former Houston Rockets' stadium "We really want it to feel like a concert," says Duncan Dodds, Lakewood's executive director. Something is working: Church attendance has grown from 6,000 in 1999 when Osteen became pastor to 25,060 today.

Pastor Rick Warren, who founded Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., in 1980, has deftly used technology as well as marketing to spread his message. His Pastors.com, which reaches 100,000 pastors worldwide each week, has e-mail forums, archives of all of his sermons from the past 22 years and a place to post prayer requests. He also sends a free weekly newsletter, Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox, to pastors. When it came time to launch his book, The Purpose Driven Life, last year, Warren used Pastors.com to invite churches to participate in a "40 Days of Purpose" event (to correspond with the book's 40 chapters). The 40-day-long event attracted 1,562 churches and was kicked off with a simulcast broadcast to all those churches. Some 267 radio stations ran a "40 days campaign" during the same time period. And a CD of "Songs for a Purpose Driven Life" featuring well-known Christian artists was also released. From the start, the books and CDs were distributed in mass-market retailers such as Wal-Mart (nyse: WMT - news - people ), Costco Wholesale (nasdaq: COST - news - people ), Barnes & Noble (nyse: BKS - news - people ) and Borders Group (nyse: BGP - news - people ). It quickly became a New York Times bestseller and has already sold 5.8 million copies, outselling Billy Graham and making it one of the most successful book promotions in Christian publishing history.

No doubt, churches have learned some valuable lessons from corporations. Now maybe they can teach businesses a thing or two. Companies would certainly appreciate having the armies of nonpaid, loyal volunteers. "The business world would love to have that kind of fellowship," says Vaughn.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: business; christianity; churches; faith; megachurches
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Here is the article that Cal Thomas referenced in his column today.
1 posted on 10/02/2003 6:28:22 PM PDT by anncoulteriscool
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2 posted on 10/02/2003 6:29:02 PM PDT by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: anncoulteriscool
So, are they saving souls? Big, small...not much else matters, really.
3 posted on 10/02/2003 6:32:57 PM PDT by Larry Lucido
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To: anncoulteriscool
I am not a religous person, but Joel Osteen is very good.
4 posted on 10/02/2003 6:35:50 PM PDT by ItisaReligionofPeace ((the original))
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Comment #5 Removed by Moderator

To: Larry Lucido
I would say, for the most part, yes. They are subject to more pitfalls than your average church is, but many of them like Smith's Calvary Chapel are reaching people without watering down the gospel.

In fact, I would say "especially" the Calvary Chapels.
6 posted on 10/02/2003 7:27:50 PM PDT by bethelgrad (for God, country, and the Corps OOH RAH!)
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To: Larry Lucido
As for the services themselves, Lakewood makes sure to put on a grand show. It has a 12-piece stage band, a lighting designer to set the mood and three large projection screens. The technology will be even more spectacular when it moves into its new home in the former Houston Rockets' stadium "We really want it to feel like a concert," says Duncan Dodds, Lakewood's executive director. Something is working: Church attendance has grown from 6,000 in 1999 when Osteen became pastor to 25,060 today.

This, and not the liberals, is probably the biggest reason our society has degenerated so much in the last 100 years. God is no longer feared. The purpose of these churches is to "put on a show" rather than worship the Holy One of Israel. Can you imagine Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, or John Calvin preaching in one of these congregations? How many of us even know who these men were today, and the prominent roles they played in shaping American culture?

Our Lord said, "Strive to enter into the narrow gate", for the broad path leads to destruction. God is not your buddy. He is a consuming fire, and an awful, irreprehensible, and righteous Judge. At least in my Bible...

Every single problem we discuss here on FR can without exception be traced back to society's myopic view of God, regardless of denomination.

7 posted on 10/02/2003 7:31:02 PM PDT by Lexinom ("No society rises above its idea of God" (unknown))
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To: Larry Lucido
So, are they saving souls? Good question! Most if not almost all of these megachurches need to be evaluated with a critical eye as they eschew denominational labels oftentimes and generally avoid doctrine and liturgy. "Deeds, not creeds" the saying goes. Eventually, they will be tossed around by the strange winds of doctrine which have always plagued the church. Christocentric liturgy, gospel-centered preaching, and serious study of the Scriptures and confessions of one's church is what ought to be taking place. What I see in and read about these churches whose primary emphasis is the Law(i.e. what we must do and can do for God) is not good and should be rejected. This is not to say there aren't Christians in their pews, mind you. It is to say that replacing good solid doctrinal teaching with 12-step programs and the like is a sure fire way to make sure your church will only be around in the next generation if it changes with the times. Then the question is Will you still be the church? I say no.
8 posted on 10/02/2003 7:35:18 PM PDT by loftyheights (Lutheran Loft)
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To: loftyheights
Bingo. It's just a perverted extension of the dumbing-down of America to the Christian church.
9 posted on 10/02/2003 7:39:53 PM PDT by Lexinom ("No society rises above its idea of God" (unknown))
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To: loftyheights
As a Lutheran minister, what do you think Dr. Luther would say to this?
10 posted on 10/02/2003 7:42:18 PM PDT by Lexinom ("No society rises above its idea of God" (unknown))
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To: Lexinom
I think Dr. Luther would condemn what is going on in "evangelical" Christianity today, as would Jesus. Why? Perhaps for several reasons. One reason is that much of what passes for Christian today emphasises the Law and minimises the gospel. And their Law is almost always taught as something you can do! God's Law is exclusive from all the man-made laws of false religion. God's Law is not doable, in that you would have to be perfect. Man-made religious law can actually be accomplished. The Christian teaching is that Christ fulfilled the Law perfectly in our place. If Luther and Jesus were alive today and the only churches going were these megachurches, they wouldn't go!
11 posted on 10/02/2003 7:52:43 PM PDT by loftyheights (Lutheran Loft)
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To: anncoulteriscool
Pastor Rick Warren, who founded Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., in 1980, has deftly used technology as well as marketing to spread his message. His Pastors.com, which reaches 100,000 pastors worldwide each week, has e-mail forums, archives of all of his sermons from the past 22 years and a place to post prayer requests.

Our new pastor is in love with Pastors.com and we hear one of Rick Warrens sermons, parroted by our paster, every week. I am really sick of 40 days of this and 50 days of that. On top of that we now have only "junk food" praise tunes. The worship leader is from the high school group and appears to want to be in show business someday. Fortunately we are moving out of the area and I won't have to force myself to attend much longer. Not much hope for finding a decent church where we are going...they all seem to be going this way.

12 posted on 10/02/2003 8:01:29 PM PDT by sangoo
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To: Lexinom
This, and not the liberals...

If by 'this', you mean christians looking for any reason to speak ill of other christians, even to the point of taking the worlds word for what is going on, then we are in agreement.

13 posted on 10/02/2003 8:02:48 PM PDT by LearnsFromMistakes (Tagline Loading - please wait.)
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To: loftyheights
The "undoableness" of God's Law is precisely what drives the Christian to Jesus Christ. And the "end" of all things is God's glory, not man's happiness. They do err in taking an approach to worship that is akin to entertainment, which serves only the latter. But happiness will follow, as the Christian pursues his calling in life (which is usually not evangelism, I might add) and discharges his many offices.

How come this message is now so obscured I wonder? That is what I've been trying to understand for years. We know the ultimate reason: sin. But mediate causes are less clear. How I wish we could find a church where the simple Word is preached, the sacraments properly administered, and the correct God worshipped, correctly. I could care less about a church's desire to cater to my whims as an American consumer; I must stand before God and give an account one day, and none of that other self-serving stuff will matter...
14 posted on 10/02/2003 8:03:55 PM PDT by Lexinom ("No society rises above its idea of God" (unknown))
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To: LearnsFromMistakes
'This' refers to the content of the article, specifically, to the commercialization of the Christian faith. It seems like the trampling of something sacred, and I believe with every fiber of my being that this - our low view of God - has a lot to do with the problems in society today, moreso than is generally acknowledged. Untold multitudes have gone to the grave for refusing to renounce their Lord - buried alive, burned, tortured, crucified.

Would that you and I could do the same, if so called upon... Only with God's help...
15 posted on 10/02/2003 8:11:41 PM PDT by Lexinom ("No society rises above its idea of God" (unknown))
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To: Lexinom
Lexinom, you might try looking for a confessional, liturgical, and sacramental Lutheran Church. I would be happy to help you out in this regard. My own here in the New Orleans area is, by the grace of God, one of them. I hate to say this, I really do, but many of the churches in my own denomination(Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) are going the "evangelical" and "church growth" direction. Oh how I hate to say that! I pray they see the error of their ways every day.
16 posted on 10/02/2003 8:11:43 PM PDT by loftyheights (Lutheran Loft)
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To: Lexinom
Do you not go thru cycles in your relationship with God? Sometimes on your face, approaching the throne. Other times, running into His presence and plopping up on His lap, knowing that you are loved, accepted, and that there is nothing you can do to make Him stop loving you...
17 posted on 10/02/2003 8:15:41 PM PDT by LearnsFromMistakes (Tagline Loading - please wait.)
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To: anncoulteriscool
I think P.T. Barnum said it best.....
18 posted on 10/02/2003 8:18:01 PM PDT by Blast Radius (I need to get into this 'Jesus' racket)
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To: Lexinom
I fail to see how Rick Warren, is providing any entertainment, as all he is preaching in " A Purpose Driven Life" is the work of God.\\

All of his points are taken from the Bible/ One lady said she didn't like him because he was too commercial. Yeah Right. I remember all of the people saying I would like to read the Bible, but I cannot understand it. They understand it alright, they do not like what it says.

Joel Ostein, is a favorite of mine, as he also tries to get people to live a God Centered Life. It 15,000 people per week go to hear his message, he must be doing something right.
19 posted on 10/02/2003 8:18:51 PM PDT by BooBoo1000
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To: anncoulteriscool
The secret to real church growth:

Act 2:47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

20 posted on 10/02/2003 8:20:20 PM PDT by P-Marlowe (Milquetoast Q. Whitebread is alive!)
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To: anncoulteriscool
Fascinating article. The past 25 years have seen more changes in Christendom than at any time since the Protestant Reformation, imho. The faith is the same, the practice is radically different. These changes include:

1. The collapse of mainline Protestanism and it's descent into liberalism and irrelevance, coupled with the rise of evangelical, charismatic, and non-denominational churches.

2. The rise of the mega-church. I heard a statistic the other day (cannot remember the source), something to the effect of 50% of church-goers attending 10% of the churches by 2025.

3. The rise of parachurch ministries, as groups like Focus on the Family, Promise Keepers, Prison Fellowship, Christians on Campus, and others fill voids that individual churches cannot or do not.

4. The rise of the pro-life movement and the Religious Right.

5. The Word of Faith movement.

6. The rise of contemporary Christian music.

7. The switch from traditional hymns to praise choruses in worship.

Not saying all of these things are good. Some are not. But that is what this era will be remembered for by future historians.
21 posted on 10/02/2003 8:20:50 PM PDT by Zack Nguyen
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To: Lexinom
Every single problem we discuss here on FR can without exception be traced back to society's myopic view of God, regardless of denomination.

Fascinating statement. I agree. Nearly all political and social problems are fundmentally theological in nature.

22 posted on 10/02/2003 8:22:03 PM PDT by Zack Nguyen
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To: LearnsFromMistakes
You've described the Christian experience. Paul describes his own experience in Romans 7.

The answer to all of your questions is "yes", though many Christians sometimes struggle with assurance. None of this, however, would lead me to approach God as a cosmic Santa Clause who exists for me rather than vice-versa. I am speaking from very strong conviction, out of sincere concern over the Church and the State and not out of malice. God has used conviction in far better men than any of us to accomplish marvelous things in ages past, such as Luther and the Reformation.

23 posted on 10/02/2003 8:32:31 PM PDT by Lexinom ("No society rises above its idea of God" (unknown))
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To: BooBoo1000
With much respect, let me say that living a "purpose-driven" life is law-oriented, as is living a God-centered one. Before you get any ideas, "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! We establish it."(Romans 3:31) I ask, what purpose and what God? Plus, why the insistence on what we must do, when the works of the Law won't save anyone, and when Jesus came to forgive ungodly people like me? The main problem I have with the Warrens and the Osteins of the world is their lack of concern for doctrine and in some cases their outright denial of basic, Christian doctrines, like baptism. As for your "15,000 people...he must be doing something right" comment, just think about it logically. Just because a whole bunch of people go to a church doesn't make it faithful. Just a few thoughts.
24 posted on 10/02/2003 8:34:45 PM PDT by loftyheights (Lutheran Loft)
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To: Lexinom
approach God as a cosmic Santa Clause who exists for me

I believe you are reading a lot into this article. I have never been to one of these 'mega' churches, and I don't watch them on TV. Maybe you are wrong and I am just ignorant.

25 posted on 10/02/2003 8:35:19 PM PDT by LearnsFromMistakes (Tagline Loading - please wait.)
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To: sangoo
Our new pastor is in love with Pastors.com and we hear one of Rick Warrens sermons, parroted by our paster, every week. I am really sick of 40 days of this and 50 days of that. On top of that we now have only "junk food" praise tunes. The worship leader is from the high school group and appears to want to be in show business someday. Fortunately we are moving out of the area and I won't have to force myself to attend much longer. Not much hope for finding a decent church where we are going...they all seem to be going this way.

This is what is happening to my church here. It's frustrating to say the least. ICK is all I can say. I miss real bible study and preaching. I am tired of watered down pablum week after week.

26 posted on 10/02/2003 8:38:43 PM PDT by CajunConservative
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To: CajunConservative
ICK is all I can say. I miss real bible study and preaching. I am tired of watered down pablum week after week.

And conservatives wonder why evangelicals are scorned so by the media and non-Christians...

This form of Christianity lacks substance. As loftyheights said earlier, replacing sound substantive doctrine with multistep programs will guarantee the church's ultimate demise as a church in just a few years.

27 posted on 10/02/2003 8:53:41 PM PDT by Lexinom ("No society rises above its idea of God" (unknown))
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To: LearnsFromMistakes
Read your Bible, Old and New Testament. God is holy. The people of Israel (the Church in the Old Testament) stood afar off after Moses gave the decalogue, afraid of the fire and thundering. No, God is not pleading with American consumers, trying to make a pitch as a buddy.

Also, ask yourself whether the style of worship backs up the content. I would encourage anyone to look at the words of Rock of Ages, and compare them to Celebrate Jesus, or whatever's new in the Maranatha praise book this week.

No, the growth of these churches is not a blessing, they do represent what Christianity is about, and people know it. They know there's far more depth and more riches to Christianity than can be presented in these churches. And they're right!

28 posted on 10/02/2003 9:00:52 PM PDT by Lexinom ("No society rises above its idea of God" (unknown))
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To: loftyheights
"If Luther and Jesus were alive today and the only churches going were these megachurches, they wouldn't go!"

I disagree, Jesus always spent time at the synagogues preaching. And as you know these werent generally friendly audiences.
It would be my hope that he would do the same today.
29 posted on 10/02/2003 9:04:17 PM PDT by wallcrawlr
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To: wallcrawlr
That's true (though we're all guilty of a little speculation here). Jesus drove out the money changers and those selling animals in the Temple, charging they had turned it into a den of robbers. He was not pleased with the commercialization in His own day.
30 posted on 10/02/2003 9:08:58 PM PDT by Lexinom ("No society rises above its idea of God" (unknown))
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To: Lexinom
And conservatives wonder why evangelicals are scorned so by the media and non-Christians... This form of Christianity lacks substance. As loftyheights said earlier, replacing sound substantive doctrine with multistep programs will guarantee the church's ultimate demise as a church in just a few years.

My wonderful and very wise mother instilled in me that it only takes one generation of failing to teach the truths of the Bible for this nation to become a pagan country. I am afraid we are almost there.

31 posted on 10/02/2003 9:09:50 PM PDT by CajunConservative
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To: Lexinom
I know who they are, but then I studied Church History in a Bible College. But you might be correct that many in Churches today have no idea who these pioneers of Church history are.,
32 posted on 10/02/2003 9:13:44 PM PDT by ladyinred (The left have blood on their hands.)
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To: Lexinom
I am a member of one of those churches listed in the article and we don't have any multistep programs, we are quite fundamentalist and have substantial bible study classes that are doctrinally sound. I think some of you are getting the wrong impression of these churches.

The reason these churches are growing is that they are fundamentalist, with sound Christocentric doctrine. The churches that have elected to soften the doctine are dying off.

33 posted on 10/02/2003 9:14:06 PM PDT by TexanToTheCore
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To: Lexinom
This, and not the liberals, is probably the biggest reason our society has degenerated so much in the last 100 years. God is no longer feared.

That is a fact!

The purpose of these churches is to "put on a show" rather than worship the Holy One of Israel. Can you imagine Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, or John Calvin preaching in one of these congregations?

NO! They would be told to leave.

How many of us even know who these men were today, and the prominent roles they played in shaping American culture?

Not nearly enough.

Our Lord said, "Strive to enter into the narrow gate", for the broad path leads to destruction. God is not your buddy. He is a consuming fire, and an awful, irreprehensible, and righteous Judge. At least in my Bible...

That too is a fact!

Every single problem we discuss here on FR can without exception be traced back to society's myopic view of God, regardless of denomination.

Another truth!

I have visited some smaller versions of the Mega Churches who follow the example of Saddleback Church. I will not be going back, when I have to wear ear plugs because of the volume of the music something is wrong. In my opinion a preacher wearing a Hawian shirt is disrespectful. The loud music, the words of the songs projected on screens, and a number of other things are major distractions. The issues we discuss here on Free Republic were never mentioned, however I did hear, "the way of the world."

34 posted on 10/02/2003 9:21:28 PM PDT by c-b 1
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To: TexanToTheCore
Do they reject creeds, saying "No Creed but the Bible?"

It used to be that a person's creed identified him or her. Since every denomination claimed to believe the Bible, saying "We believe the Bible" proved inadequate. For example, what does your church believe about infant baptism? How do they summarize that?
35 posted on 10/02/2003 9:24:17 PM PDT by Lexinom ("No society rises above its idea of God" (unknown))
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To: AZ GRAMMY
ping
36 posted on 10/02/2003 9:28:18 PM PDT by c-b 1
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To: wallcrawlr
Good point. Perhaps He would go. But probably just once. He would be too boring or say something offensive and not condusive to growth.
Some who visit my church get offended because of the confession of sin ("I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended Thee and justly deserved Thy temporal and eteranl punishment..."). "You made me feel like a heathen" is a comment I have heard more than once. To which I politely respond, "Well, I'm sorry, but that's kind of the purpose of the law, to humble us."
The same synagogues which Jesus frequented were full of the same people who felt threatened by His teaching of total depravity and grace and eventually put Him to death. Remember, it was the clergy who rounded Him up. I guess they were what Jesus refers to in St. Matthew 7 as "false prophets".
37 posted on 10/02/2003 9:31:07 PM PDT by loftyheights (Lutheran Loft)
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To: loftyheights
Re: the reponse to the conession of sin:
"A broken and a contrite heart I will not despise."

Some churches sing a hymn "Just As I Am". That's "just as we are".
38 posted on 10/02/2003 9:37:53 PM PDT by Lexinom ("No society rises above its idea of God" (unknown))
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To: Lexinom
To summarize 1. No creed but the bible.

2. The fulll immersion baptism that our denomination practices comes only when the congregant publicly professes his faith in Jesus. Ir is a rebirth. We do not do infant baptism.

39 posted on 10/02/2003 9:51:12 PM PDT by TexanToTheCore
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To: TexanToTheCore
1. No creed but the bible.

2. The fulll immersion baptism that our denomination practices comes only when the congregant publicly professes his faith in Jesus. Ir is a rebirth. We do not do infant baptism.

A creed tells why you believe that. Many very capable theologians and scholars have studied and debated this doctrine over the ages and come down on the other side. Why is this the correct view, and many very capable Protestant and Roman Catholic scholars wrong? (It's not my intent to introduce a debate about specific doctrines here, baptism is just an example).

St. Peter said to always have a reason for the hope that is within you. The Bible takes too long to read, and it's simpler just to have a summary of the verses stating why you believe that in creedal form. It's like having a map. Maps are easier to read than studying the surface of the earth directly.

Incidently, there is far more Bible in the Heidelberg Catechism (and probably the Augsburg Confession used by Lutherans) than there is in the creedal text itself, whcih is really just an organization of Scripture. And to despise this is to despise the work of the Holy Spirit working throughout history.

By rejecting creeds, these pastors do their flock a great disservice, imho.

40 posted on 10/02/2003 10:02:51 PM PDT by Lexinom ("No society rises above its idea of God" (unknown))
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To: TexanToTheCore
"We do not do infant baptism"
Are you aware of the fact that infant baptism wasn't even questioned in the church until well after the Reformation? Orthodox Christianity teaches that Baptism produces faith. The view that Baptism is a work of man is a relatively recent idea in Christian circles. That right there should tell you something. "There is also an antitype which now saves us-baptism"(1 Peter 3:21). "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son adn of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them..."(St. Matthew 28:19-20)
As for your full immersion assertion, I would simply say that it is important not to get hung up on the mode of baptism. Martin Luther prefered immersion. However, when told that immersion was the only method, he simply refused and baptized by pouring or sprinkling. To insist on a mode of baptism(such as denying infant baptism, requiring non-infant baptism, or requiring immersion baptism) is to turn baptism from Gospel to Law.
41 posted on 10/02/2003 10:11:15 PM PDT by loftyheights (Lutheran Loft)
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To: loftyheights
Although I dont have an issue with saying a confession of sin during the service I understand what it is that Im doing. Many people today simply dont have the liturgical education or doctrine knowledge to understand it. Todays church going public isnt as knowledgable as it used to be.

I see todays new congregation as one where a pastor has to meet the people where they are at, at their "reality", then educate them to a more mature level or christian faith. Preaching down to them is not as fruitful for either the speaker or the audience becuase they simply dont understand it.

Maintaining traditional liturgies doesnt evangelize people.
Its time for a change in our presentation skills.
42 posted on 10/02/2003 10:24:18 PM PDT by wallcrawlr
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To: wallcrawlr
...mature level OF Christian faith.
43 posted on 10/02/2003 10:26:38 PM PDT by wallcrawlr
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To: wallcrawlr
Three items you bring up. First, the fact that many people don't understand what it is that I'm doing or don't have the liturgical education or doctrine knowledge to understand it. The church shouldn't cater to those who don't understand or don't have liturgical training or doctrinal knowledge. Sure, we should be aware of these facts and try to understand the reality, but to cater to the most theologically ignorant or uninformed is suicide.
Second, your idea that we need to meet the people where they are at, etc. This is nothing more than watering down the Christian faith. It is hard to argue authoritatively with this statement: "The only thing that will keep the people coming is what brought them there in the first place." Jesus preached down to people all the time. We call them parables!
Third, your assertion that traditional liturgies doesn't evangelize people and that it is time for a change. You have to simply ignore almost a couple thousand years of church history, to say nothing of the Old Testament worship, to make this statement. Incredulity is setting in!
44 posted on 10/02/2003 10:37:49 PM PDT by loftyheights (Lutheran Loft)
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To: anncoulteriscool; american colleen; sinkspur; Lady In Blue; Salvation; Polycarp; narses; ...
Lakewood makes sure to put on a grand show. It has a 12-piece stage band, a lighting designer to set the mood and three large projection screens.

All that's missing here is a chorus line ...


45 posted on 10/02/2003 11:07:58 PM PDT by NYer (Pax et Bonum)
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To: anncoulteriscool
The book teaches pastors to think like entrepreneurs; for instance, encouraging them to set up strategic partnerships with nonchurch groups and to use event marketing to draw in new members.

This attitude is the reason why I no longer attend church services. I want to hear the Word, not be entertained.

46 posted on 10/02/2003 11:08:03 PM PDT by Penner
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To: NYer
And we thought amateur rock bands were bad.
47 posted on 10/03/2003 4:58:13 AM PDT by Desdemona (Kempis' Imitation of Christ online! http://www.leaderu.com/cyber/books/imitation/imitation.html)
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To: Penner
This attitude is the reason why I no longer attend church services. I want to hear the Word, not be entertained.

I hear ya! I have to drag myself there every Sunday, and am about ready to stay home myself. There are some good preachers on the radio (MacArthur, Stanley, McGee) that will fill me and convict me much more than the Saddleback style of entertainment.

48 posted on 10/03/2003 6:39:06 AM PDT by sangoo
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To: anncoulteriscool
Too much said in the replies on this thread for me to point out my disagreements with all of them but two major points need to be made:

1. The "megachurch" phenomena - good or bad - is NOT the source of the moral decline in America. This trend has only been a real force in Chrisitnity for the last 20-25 years. The moral decline in America has been a steady trend for at least 40 if not 50 years. One can argue that megachurches are a result of moral decline, but not the reverse.

2. Every generation bemoans the leaving of the "old ways" of the one before it. Many of the "traditions" we worry about losing now are relativly recent inventions themselves. Edwards & Co. never had "alter calls" for instance. Almost all the hymms we consider fine old Godly songs were at one time brand new and quite a few of them were set to the tune of pub songs (Imagine the outrage if we sang a new hymn set to the tune of "I've Got Friends in Low Places," lol).
Further, every time one of these new "inovations" became popular it was because the old traditional ways had become a cliche to those outside the church.

Look, I'm not the greatest fan of churches over 10K members. Especially if they are not starting new churches (and Saddleback has started dozens of spinoff congregations) BUT they get a LOT of unjust criticism.

These churches (at least Saddleback and Willow Creek and those in that mold...can't speak of Lakewod or that den of heresy Dollar preaches at) are designed and targeted for those folks who would never attend a traditional "old fashioned service."
Which is better, a family come in their jeans and sing a praise corus see a drama and get saved, or stay home because they refuse to wear a suit and sing a 200 year old song and listen to a hellfire sermon and never know the love of Christ? How dare we suppose that they must not only come to Jesus (who IS the ONLY way) but they must come on OUR MAN MADE terms?

Now, that said, I don't think an already established church should go to that model unless the current congregation is in agreement because those folks need ministering too in the manner that reaches their hearts as well. A pastor who just arbitrarily tries to apply those methods which reach the anti-church crowd to long time believers is risking real trouble. But when used for it's designed purpose, I think it's just another facet of God's work.
Just as there is a great diversity between a Baptist service, a carismatic service and a Lutheran service, so this is just another deminsion of the wonderful diversity of ways to be touched by God - no better or worse than any of the others.

We definatly need to discern when someone like Dollar is preaching heresy, but I think I'll be careful about criticizing methodology - especially given how very few of our traditional methodoligies have direct Biblical precedent.
49 posted on 10/03/2003 8:00:09 AM PDT by WillRain
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To: anncoulteriscool
My church would qualify as a mega church, just barely.
We just finished an over three year long look at the life of Christ. Passage by passage, verse by verse.

Are we saving souls? Yes.
Do we, "Put on a good show"? Yes.
The "Heart of America" Christmas Pageant is one of the largest in the midwest. We annually spend over $100,000 dollars on it and start getting ready for it, (music, casting, etc), in August or September. Not a penny of the money for it comes from the church budget. All the cast and crew are volunteers except for the church employees and even they volunteer on their off time.
Last year we had over 700 people make the decision to take Christ as their personal saviour during the pageant. That does not count the other people making that decision during the rest of the year.

The pastor uses scripture every Sunday to illuminate his message. If you're not using the scripture you're not saying the right things.

The first "big" church I've ever been a member of that still has a "small" church feel to it.

50 posted on 10/03/2003 8:16:44 AM PDT by Just another Joe (FReeping can be addictive and helpful to your mental health)
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