Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Frustrated with the loss of the sacred"

At Modern Reformation Shane Rosenthal describes his unsatisfying journey through a variety of Evangelical churches. His family now worships with an Orthodox Presbyterian congregation, but they make occasional excursions elsewhere:
...[M]y wife and I decided some time ago to regularly introduce our four children to other kinds of churches so they know what's going on outside their own walls. We have visited all kinds of places: Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, and various evangelical megachurches. We do this about once a year, and it always makes for great discussion afterwards. On one occasion I asked, "So, what was the first thing you noticed when you walked into the church?" "Well," replied one of our kids, "it sorta reminded me of a movie theatre." "It was loud," replied another. I still find both of these answers fascinating and provocative.

Last year we visited a church that had three huge mega-screens featuring music videos and advertisements for various things before the service began. Along the right side and back of this expansive worship center people were selling CDs, books, T-shirts, and cappuccino, all in the same room. The pastor was absent and did all of his announcements via video screen. The visiting preacher he introduced told numerous jokes and actually preached a sermon, not on a particular text of the Bible but on the subject of his latest book. And at the end of his message, he actually pleaded with us to "go to the back and take a look at the book!" Yep, it was a book tour.

When the message was over, we were forced to watch a fifteen-minute professionally produced infomercial about the virtues of tithing. "There was one month when we stopped giving to the church for one reason or the other," the woman on screen was saying, "and it was right around that time when the transmission on our truck gave out." She went on to explain that God does not exactly punish us for failing to tithe, but that we do step out of his "circle of protection" when we go against his will. This video was followed up by, you guessed it, the offering basket.

We did recognize the concluding hymn. Though it was set to a contemporary beat that caused many to stand up and sway (in fact, the same rhythmic motion that's the origin of the phrase "rock 'n roll"), we soon realized they were singing "Amazing Grace." Unfortunately, after the first verse, the congregation began repeating the words "Praise God" over and over in a kind of mantra, yet still to the tune of Newton's famous hymn. I guess the original hymn was simply too wordy.

Later that evening our family discussed the trivialization of God that we witnessed there, the lack of depth, the absence of the sacraments, and the commercialization of worship. More importantly, we noticed an alarming chumminess with which these people approached God. Sin wasn't mentioned nor our need for a mediator. Rather, Jesus, if he was presented at all, was there to help us get through life's difficulties and challenges: "He can touch your life right now; all you have to do is ask him and he'll be there for you."

After describing some of my experiences at this particular megachurch on the White Horse Blog, one commenter by the name of Jim posted the following response:
I've seen things similar to this in the evangelical world for years. That's why I started attending Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican services. I'm still trying to decide which denomination I will join. In these churches, I feel more of a reverence toward God. Although my theology is still closest to Billy Graham, I'm sick and tired of the evangelical world treating Jesus like a high school buddy that one would goof off and watch football with...with a few Bud Lights handy.
Jim's response is not unusual. Though his theology is evangelical, he has become so frustrated with the loss of the sacred that he has begun looking elsewhere, including the world of Catholicism. I'm a convinced Protestant who is passionate about salvation by grace alone, through faith alone on account of the work of Christ alone. And for various theological reasons, I would not encourage unsatisfied evangelicals to wander into Roman territory. Nevertheless, I will be the first to admit that many Catholic churches are closer to the kingdom than the type of megachurch I described. .... [more]
Modern Reformation - Abandoning Evangelicalism?
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