While in church yesterday morning… after the pastor prayed for the church I couldn’t help but think how blessed we are – as a people – a nation, and still we live in a constant state of want and ignorance about God. Pastor went on about how God will meet all our needs if we pray and claim our blessing. This is my take here:
1. We live in the most prosperous, powerful nation in the world, yet every Sunday we stand up and pray for the all things that God has so richly blessed us with. Most Americans live a life people in third world nations could not even imagine. In some cases, even the poorest one in America is still better off than one in the poorest nation. Yet, on the day we attend church service we pray for God to provide for our basic needs, we pray for God’s miraculous healing (we are privileged to the most advanced medicine in the world), for God to provide for our financial needs, we pray for God’s favor in all things. We pray for revival. We pray for God to return this nation to it’s original Christian roots. All good stuff to pray for.
2. Church attendees have a need for pomp and circumstance in their praise and worship. It must be difficult to worship and praise without loud instruments, and flashy lights and watered down lyrics. It would be nice to hear a simple hymn about God’s amazing grace, without all the pomp and circumstance, that one could just meditate on God, but those days are long gone. Some music leaders/pastors shout “lift up your hands. Clap your hands, dance in thanksgiving.” You can’t receive God’s blessing if your hands are not lifted up. ” Music leaders direct the physical worship just like they direct the music worship. Most people want to be entertained. They want an experience when they go to church service. Just as in any secular concert when the musician directs the crowd – clap your hands, sing along…etc. I guess they figure the louder the music the better God can hear us. Praise teams provide that need. And we know that lifting up holy hands is scriptural.
3. These days most advertising and marketing strategies, are about reaching the Millennial. The church knows that all to well. They redesign their church services to reach the Millennial. The Millennial is the one that has to have it their way. They want it now. Instant gratification. There’s a “if it feels good – just do it” mentality. And what can we say about reaching the Millennial? Who is the Millennial?
Successfully marketing to Millennials means realizing this is a very different generation and accommodating how they think and consume.
Millennials, usually defined as being from 18 to 34 years old, make up the largest demographic in the United States. Currently they are about a third of the country’s population, and in 2013 they accounted for a whopping $1.3 trillion in consumer spending. Source: here
4. Today’s mega church seems to be designed to meet the need of this new mindset. Attending a megachurch is like going to a market square for church. You can socialize, pick up a cup coffee (free sometimes), or buy church related/promoted merchandise/tickets, shop at vendor stations before service service, and of course, check in your children at daycare. All this for a message that may last maybe 15 minutes. Praise and worship = 15 min; announcements = 5-10 min; presentations = 10-15 minutes; message 10-15 minutes. That’s almost a whole hour at church. The problem with large congregations is there are so many people you can’t possibly get to know everyone. The information desk then becomes a true helpline to navigate all the church offers for today’s church goer. So the best you get out of this megachurch phenomena are groups/cliques, and that’s the basic strategy. Bring them in – then separate by geographical area – assign a group leader – then plant satellite churches. Some of these satellite churches have the pastor preach via satellite. I heard that some mega pastors hop on their private plane and travel across the country to deliver a service to their satellite church. Some have their own pastors. That’s branding – aka church growth. One will be lucky to find a small group near by. And it doesn’t matter that the pastor is more of a motivational speaker than preacher. New visitors to a megachurch beware.
5. When the experience is over people rush out the door as quickly as possible to avoid the pile-up to get out of the parking lot. (Rushing out the door is not a new phenomena.) The emotional rush begins to wear off as one waits to exit the massive grounds. This adrenaline rush may last for a while, but as soon as adversity sets in, or just the fact that the electricity bill is due and you still don’t have the money to pay it- wham! – reality sets in. You prayed for God to provide, but He didn’t come through. Now what?
6. We give thanks for all of God’s provision, His healing, His miracles – we give our thanks in the offering plate so God can bless us in return. Yet, we remain in a constant state of want.
Is God ever enough? Is His grace no longer sufficient?
Luke 10:20 “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
Daniel 3:16-20 “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
And so the church changes its platform to reach the lost to reach millennial’s that according to some stats:
- 69% of churchgoers believe that everyone will go to Heaven. Baylor Religion Surveys, Baylor University, 2011
- 40% of all Millennials believe the Bible is simply a book composed of fables, legends, and moral precepts.
- Only 45% of all Millennials are confident that God exists.
- 2 out of 3 Christians (65%) say it is better to share your faith by the way you live, rather than to speak about it. Spiritual Conversations in the Digital Age, Barna Group, 2018
- 72% of the unchurched believe the Church is filled with hypocrites. LifeWay Research
- 37% of Evangelicals believe that God will always reward true faith with material blessings. The State of American Theology, Lifeway Research, 2016
- More than half of all young people (ages 18-24) don’t believe the Bible is God’s inspired word. The 2012 Millennial Values Survey, Public Religion Research Institute, Georgetown University.
- One in four pastors (25%) say that meeting a person’s physical needs takes priority over telling them about Jesus Barna, Translating the Great Commission 2018
- Atheists and Agnostics scored 15% higher on their knowledge about religion than Evangelical Christians taking the Pews Religious Knowledge Survey. Pew Research Center 2010
- Only half of all the teenagers who grew up in a “Christian Home” had regular family conversations about God. National Study of Youth and Religion 2002-2015
- While 1 in 4 Americans are done with church, half of all Americans (48%) are done with God. Known as post-Christian, they say that God plays no role whatsoever in their life. The Barna Group, 2017
- Americans trust in faith leaders and pastors fell to a record low of 37%, ranking below multiple medical professions, teachers, and police and just above journalists. Gallup 2018
- 93% of practicing Christians aren’t comfortable to have a conversation about the Lord with their own grandchildren. The Barna Group, 2018
- 59% of Millennials believe that pornography is morally acceptable. Values and Beliefs Poll, Gallup, 2018
- Almost one-third of Evangelicals attend church out of obligation. Why Americans Go (and Don’t Go) to Religious Services, Pew Research Center, 2018.
- Half of all Americans have never read the Bible. Bible Engagement in America: Biblical Literacy, American Bible Society and Barna Group, 2016
- 24 of 25 Millennials don’t have a Biblical worldview. Worldview Measurement Project, American Culture and Faith Institute, 2017
- One in four Evangelicals are not certain that the physical resurrection of Jesus was a real historical event. State of American Theology Study, Lifeway Research, 2014
- 46% of Evangelicals agree that God accepts the worship of all religions.
State of American Theology, LifeWay Research 2016
- 31% of all young adults, who have grown up in church, have left the church because “it was boring”. David Kinnaman, Why Young Christians are leaving the Church.
Source: Stats here
And the church wants to apply Paul’s teaching to reach the lost in this Christian nation. I’ve heard this scripture quoted often to justify drastic measures to reach the lost. Is it working?
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
The one where Jesus taught how to pray and said don’t worry…
Matthew 6:5-15; 25-34
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
“Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Mt. 7:22-23; Mt. 24:4-5, 11, 24; 2nd Thessalonians