Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Megachurches 'shallow in theology'

Do not just simply take my word for it, but hear it from the head of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in the following news report published today.
Megachurches 'shallow in theology'
From correspondents in Porto Alegre, Brazil
22 February, 2006

THE head of the World Council of Churches has expressed concern about the spread of megachurches around the world, such as Hillsong in Sydney, saying they could lead to a Christianity that is "two miles long and one inch deep".

The WCC General Secretary Samuel Kobia said megachurches - huge Protestant churches with charismatic pastors, lively music and other services - mostly ran on a business model to make worshippers feel good and were shallow in their theology.

Megachurches, which pack in thousands for rousing Sunday worship services, are popular in suburbs in the United States. Most are evangelical or Pentecostal, with few or no ties to mainline churches such as the Lutherans or Episcopalians.

Mr Kobia said the megachurch movement, which is not represented in the mostly mainline Protestant or Orthodox World Council of Churches, broke down borders among denominations with a populist message.

"It has no depth, in most cases, theologically speaking, and has no appeal for any commitment," the Kenyan Methodist said at the WCC world assembly in this Brazilian city.

The megachurches simply wanted individuals to feel good about themselves, he said.

"It's a church being organised on corporate logic. That can be quite dangerous if we are not very careful, because this may become a Christianity which I describe as 'two miles long and one inch deep'."

Reverend Geoff Tunnicliffe, international director of the 400 million member World Evangelical Alliance, said at the assembly that "historical and deeply-felt issues" separated them from other branches of Christianity.

The largest US megachurches attract some 20,000 worshippers every Sunday. Abroad, megachurches have also sprouted up in Australia, South Korea, Britain, Canada, and other countries.

According to a report by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, there were 1210 US churches drawing more than 2000 worshipers, the official minimum for a megachurch. That was double the number in 2000.

The WCC groups nearly 350 Protestant and Orthodox churches that mostly broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in the Great Schism of 1054 or in the 16th century Reformation.

Megachurches 'shallow in theology',
This obvious observation might explain the survey conducted last year that reveals the majority of American Christian teens are theologically shallow, which I suspect holds true for Christians in many countries as well.
Study: Christian Teens Theologically Shallow
By AFA Journal
April 28, 2005

(AgapePress) - Results from a recent survey conducted by a North Carolina researcher reveal that the majority of America's youth believe in God, yet there is a shallowness in their religious knowledge, and they have difficulty expressing their faith.

Christian Smith, a sociologist at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, led 133 researchers and consultants in conducting a project that involved telephone surveys of 3,370 English- and Spanish-speaking Americans and face-to-face interviews with 267 of the participants -- all ages 13 to 17. Protracted funding will allow the researchers to track these young people through 2007.

Thus far, telephone surveys reveal that young people have a broad fondness for religion, although their religious knowledge is labeled as "meager, nebulous and often fallacious" as found through the personal interview portion of the study.

In other words, teens were unable to coherently express their beliefs and the impact of faith on their lives. In addition, many participants appeared so separated from the traditions of their faith that they viewed God as a feel-good problem solver who merely existed for that purpose. There were no indications of an absolute, truth-based theology among the teens.

"God is something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist who is available when needed," Smith wrote in his new book titled Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, co-authored with Melinda Lundquist Denton.

Smith credits parental tendencies of Baby Boomers, poor educational and youth programs, and responsibilities and activities that vie for teenagers' time as reasons for their skewed view of the Almighty.

Study: Christian Teens Theologically Shallow, American Family Association
You could probably deny the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, and they would barely raise their eyebrows. But once you criticize the deviant teachings of their favorite pastors, you are denounced as "blaspheming against the Holy Spirit" as if their pastors are God Himself. Talk about a cult-like mentality.

This current state of affairs is nothing worth gloating over, but something that I find rather appalling. I think part of the blame lies in the post-modernism mindset, where methodology usurps the rightful place of theology. Thus, the gospel is watered-down in order to be seeker-sensitive.

Who cares if the evangelistic methods aren’t theologically sound, so long as they are able to woo people to church? As long as I feel “good” and the teachings meet MY needs, why bother? Don’t preach to me the “heavy” stuff as my mind cannot take the strain. Hurry up and give me the fast-food equivalent of Bible study.

Did you say Christianity is a religion? No no no… Christianity is a RELATIONSHIP. God is LOVE, therefore everything we do in love must be right, RIGHT? The God of the Old Testament is not the same as God of the New Testament. My pastor says this … my pastor says that ... Everything my pastor says MUST be true. How DARE you cast doubts on my pastor's teachings? My church is much MUCH bigger than your church, so it means that my pastor is right. You are just jealous of my BIG BIG church.

Maybe it's just me. But if I am increasingly getting this kind of reaction from many postmodern Christians who cannot even articulate the gospel as shown in the above AFA Journal article, then perhaps we may have to seriously consider readjusting our view of missions and evangelism.


Blogger Ignatius said...

... this is most true. The "My pastor says this … my pastor says that ... Everything my pastor says MUST be true. How DARE you cast doubts on my pastor's teachings?" mentality is really 'killing' the church.They have in a way replaced bible reading with just sermon listening.Sunday is just a day for God to entertain them!!"If I can't worship God in a manner I like, oyu wouldn't see me next week." I would say that this thinking is prevalent in magachurches.

They may have BIG BIG church,but the gospel may just not be preached! Being unable to articulate the gospel themselves, they just bring friends to church to enjoy themselves.This is what is often heard:"My church is very happening.... very fun!"

If I have not interpreted "happening" and "fun" wrongly, it just mean "I'm enjoying myself there. Why don't you join us?".

Yes,...maybe our view of missions and evangelism needs a serious readjustment!... May God have mercy on us!!

24/2/06 7:08 AM  
Blogger Daniel Ho said...

Amen. The church today runs dry on sandy foundation while they try to build a tower to reach heaven, when the storm comes, it won't stand. the Christians in many churches lack the spiritual discernment and their foundation is founded on the pastor or the church rather than God and His Word.

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