Posts Tagged ‘church’
As a former pastor and journalist, MacDonald offers a basic premise that the contemporary American church has lost its impact on contemporary society because it has sold out to consumerism. As a result, the church’s effectiveness has not only been diluted but it has lost its primary mission of providing a conduit of authentic spiritual growth for the church body and being a powerful witness in the world of moral formation.
MacDonald starts with three stark observations aimed at church leaders. First, he notes the entertainment-orientation within the American church-at-large by citing the prevalence of hefty operating entertainment budgets, large projection screens, worship styles that are more worldly than God-honoring, and an emphasis on the cash collection devoid of a worshipful expression. He comments, “Unfortunately, a church that functions like a fun house cannot fulfill religion’s central mission. The Church can’t transform the desires of people it’s trying to titillate” (p. 36).
Second, MacDonald accuses the church of offering comfort to the exclusion of healthy confession, which has led to making church members happy at the exclusion of deep inner transformational change. He writes, “Small groups, organized around shared interests, offer indiscriminate affirmation rather than the rebuke or admonition that participants sometimes need” (p. 62).
Third, MacDonald identifies the weak moral character of the church, noting the financial indebtedness and mismanagement, evidence of rampant personal addictions, and unresolved relational conflicts that provide anything but a positive witness.
In summary, MacDonald attacks the religious consumerism that he observes running rampant in the American church as indicative of the consumerism in the American culture, which caters to a “feel-good” mentality in order to appease church-goers. He cites as an example of consumerism the practice of mega-churches opening their doors to corporate sponsors. Anyone seen Starbucks coffee available in church lobbies?
MacDonald’s admonishes, “The Church must overcome both its baggage and its present tendency to pander in order to become a character-shaping force in the twenty-first century” (p. 87). So I pose these questions ~
- Is MacDonald’s critique of the contemporary American church valid? Why or why not?
- What specific counter arguments might you offer in response to MacDonald’s criticism?
- How can the American church remain culturally sensitive without losing her soul and central mission?
Underlying this resentment is really a fear of getting lost; an uncertainty of what the world has to offer, why we should engage the world and on what terms. We disagree with the statement that the world is getting smaller. All this information overflow is not getting the world closer together; it adds more and more on top of everything until there is no knowledge of who wants what and why. This symptom is called globalophobia.
Okay, I made this up. The term globalophibia does not really exist. But it should. Because most of us are afraid of the world.
We are not afraid of any specific place, or country, or culture, or ritual. We do not mind going to Haiti, or Nairobi, or Shanghai. We can handle concise places. We can survive for a week in a country whose language we do not speak or understand. We can eat food we have never tasted, and worship with people we never met. At least once.
What we cannot handle is globalization. To be honest, we do not really know what that means. Who are we? Who can tell us who we are? Who can we trust?
Globalization is the monster that triggers our fear of the world. We do not want to be globalized. We don’t even want to be “global”. Even “international” is not an adjective with which we are truly comfortable. We don’t really even know who we are. We know what we are called. But we don’t know how to think of ourselves in terms of the world. We have learned to think of ourselves in terms of this building, that sanctuary, those people, last Sunday, or tomorrow’s baptism. But beyond those isolated coordinates we dare not see ourselves. We have lost our sense of history and what was once called the communion of saints. We are in the world but not of the world. We are afraid of the world. We are — the church.
The Scriptures record God’s ongoing frustration with people “. . . Who have eyes but do not see, Who have ear, but do not hear” (Jer. 5:21). It’s one thing to have a set of eyes and a pair of ears, but it’s another thing to use them. Human beings are notoriously effective at hearing what we want to hear. Our spiritual eyes and ears can become dull (Isa. 6:10) and that is a dangerous place to be. We listen and see selectively on our own terms, often when it is convenient and expected. Spiritual blindness and dullness of hearing can occur when we drift away from proper relationship with God…