Are Church services really the best model?
Why does today’s Church like doing things “big”?
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Christianity is not completely limp and dying in the UK, you just need to look a bit harder! There’s actually a lot going on, lots of programmes, strategies, campaigns and initiatives. The Church really likes to do things big: The Call, Global Day of Prayer, March for Jesus (RIP), Pentecost Festival, Big Church Day Out, Spring Harvest, Alpha, all mobilising Christians in their tens of thousands, or worldwide in their hundreds of thousands. These days most Christian initiatives for worship, prayer and celebrating our faith are big corporate events, the bigger the better. A prominent media ministry, led by a very solid and charismatic teacher, has recently embarked on a programme to get one million people praying worldwide, and for this sheer force of numbers to prod God into revival action! Does it really work that way? A very large Church in the USA has so many folk coming to its services that it has to employ teams of volunteers as greeters, hosts, section hosts, traffic and transportation co-ordinators, ushers, translators, even medical alert response personnel (in case the preacher gets you worked up slightly too much!)
Through radio, TV and the Web, the whole World can watch major events, beamed out from packed stadiums and conference centres, but now multiplied in coverage through cable, wireless and the airwaves. Conferences, crusades and rallies for teens, women, men, Pentecostals and whatever. Big, big, BIG! Everything has to be global, world-reaching, mega-this and mega-that.
Christians in the USA are so desperate for revival that they create “happenings”, such as the Todd Bentley Lakeland fiasco, the Kansas student awakening and the Bay of the Holy Spirit revival and ensure that they are propagated through satellite and social media, so that others can be “blessed” through the electronic transference of the anointing (find that one in your Bible!) Yet neither these, nor Toronto and Pensacola that preceded them, changed (or will change) the world one iota, unlike the true revivals of the past (and some in the present, in the developing World), such as the Methodists or the Moravians mentioned in an earlier article.
Apparently more than 2.5 million people had received Jesus Christ as personal saviour at a Billy Graham Crusade by 1993. It’s a shame that there are no statistics on how many of those folk are still of the same mind now, but consensus opinion indicates just a small number. Perhaps the cynical, superficial, post-modern mind is no longer a good fit for such ‘pre-packaged’ mass evangelism, although of course the Holy Spirit can still work wonders with whatever raw material He has to work with!
Our current Western society delights itself with big happenings in stadia, from sports events, to pop and rock concerts. It’s where our modern day ‘icons’ come to be idolised; that’s why people come to such events. However, they may delude themselves or rationalise it as just coming for the good vibes. These places are designed for worship, perhaps that’s why so many big Christian campaigns and outreaches tend to make use of football grounds. The big question is whether God prefers to be worshipped in such a way. Is the aroma of our worship more pleasing when facilitated by mega watts of electronic amplification?
There’s a current initiative trying to raise £1 million to book Wembley stadium for a single event to get thousands of folk praying together. Bearing in mind they’ve done this before with no discernable effect nationally, is this a God-thing (Hebraic) or a man-thing (Greek), dressed up as if it were a God-thing? Do you honestly believe God would condone the use of money just to emulate the way the World does things?
It may seem logical that 80,000 folk worshipping together is 80,000 times more awesome for God than someone alone on her knees in her prayer closet, but is it Biblical?
Sure, in the Old Testament communal worship, based around the tabernacle or Temple, was the norm.
Then David said to the whole assembly, "Praise the LORD your God." So they all praised the LORD, the God of their fathers; they bowed low and fell prostrate before the LORD and the king. (1 Chronicles 29:20)
But God has not provided us with geographical limitations for His worship any more. Until, that is, some time in the future ...
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. ... The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. (Revelation 21:1-2, 24-27)
Until then, we do the best that we can.
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
More next week ...
For the next article in this series, click here.
For the previous article in this series, click here.