Sunday, January 28, 2007

Why Bother With Church if This is All There is to It?

I've been sitting here working on some handouts for my students with the TV on in the background. Right now a certain church minister from Texas is on. Every time I have listened to him, his "sermon" sounds like a self-help workshop. Before his sermon, he has everyone hold up his or her bible and recite a little mantra about how "I am what the bible says that I am, and I can do what the bible says that I can do." During his sermon, he doesn't open his bible, and he rarely quotes from it. When he does, it's always one verse lifed out of its context so that it works well with his topic. Today he's talking about developing good habits and overcoming bad ones, and he used Paul's words in Romans 7.14 as an illustration. Right now he's offering the opportunity for TV viewers to ask Jesus into their lives, but he never mentioned Jesus once in his whole sermon.

Every time I hear this preacher, it's the same sort of thing. It's all about self-improvement, with some asking God for help thrown in. Maybe I'm just watching on the wrong days, but I sort of doubt it. I think I can see why there are 25,000 people in attendance at his church. There's no real challenge to act like Jesus. Everything that's said is something that could be read in any popular self-help book in any bookstore. People can attend that Sunday service and come away with some decent advice on how to improve their lives, but they haven't gotten anything that will help them understand God and his purpose for the world. From everything that I have observed, people will come away with a false spirituality that will do them little good in cultivating a deeper relationship with God. I hope that the smaller Sunday school classes offered at that church are more "meaty" than what is being presented in the main service.

I'll admit that I haven't been to church much in the past 10 years. Is this the trend in churches today? If so, I'm not missing anything.


Ginger said...

Hi JMG...
In interviews I have seen with he & his wife, he appears to draw in the unbeliever with those kinds of fluffy sermons and then they get more into the "meat" of the Word in their classes. Of course, we don't see that on tv. For me, I am happy to see somebody who is so appealing to the non-churched so that it at least gets their curiosity up--hopefully enough to look into it deeper.

Yeah, I think this is definitely the trend. Lots of churches are more like social clubs now.

Tony Arnold said...

JMG, I would encourage you not to judge the church on one example, especially one that is on TV.

I can truly understand why this bothers you. Given that it does, I have to ask, why do you continue to watch? The show is likely to continue to provide fodder for what you dislike about organized religion.

I will put you on the spot a bit here, so feel free not to respond if you don't want to. When you visited OC, what was your honest impression? I really wish to know. I think it would be beneficial for me to hear your feedback.

You can email me your response rather than post if you prefer.

BTW, how are you and your husband fairing in your ENT recoveries?


JMG said...

Ginger, I was hoping that might be the case--that the smaller classes might get more at the "meat." And I'm sure there's a lot edited out for TV.

JMG said...

Tony, I don't make it a habit of watching. It just happened that the TV was on and the remote was across the room so I couldn't turn it off. And I know that many churches are not like this. I fear though that the larger churches are attracting people because of their fluffy sermons.

The day I visited OC, I enjoyed it a lot. Your pastor preached from Romans that day, and he did things that I like with the text, for example explaining the meaning of words in their original context.

Of course, having been out of church for a long time, I didn't know any of the songs.

JMG said...

Thanks for asking about our health. Husband is recovering nicely. He has a follow-up on Wednesday to see how well he's healing.

I'm having good experiences with my CPAP and have learned that the machine has reduced my instances of apnea from a high of 56 times per hour to an average of 0.8 times per hour. My doctor was pleased, and so am I.

JMG said...

Say, Tony, I liked your comment over at Phil's blog today.

BTW, are you teaching again this semester?

Tony Arnold said...

No, just the fall semesters. With a full time job and a family, one semester a year is all I can do.

JMG said...

That's understandable. I kind of wondered because you have been blogging a lot lately.

Not that I'm complaining.

Tony Arnold said...

School certainly is one reason, but another reason is that I have drastically reduced my TV watching and I am back to my old habits of reading constantly. Also, now that I don't get the local paper, I read books and magazines in the morning. It also allows me time to write out a blog and post it whenever I want.

Dr. Michael Kear said...

Unfortunately, this is the direction many of the churches are taking these days. I think it involves a fundamental doubt about the sufficiency of the message of the Gospel and the ability of the Holy Spirit to draw people to the uplifted Christ. If we cannot trust the message and the Spirit, perhaps we must offer a little philosophy, psychology, or - as one church in Missouri is doing - free beer.

professor j said...

I'll bet that free beer church has some really good services!


Dr. Michael Kear said...

Well, on the news they said that the attendance has risen from 50 people a Sunday to over 1,000. Sounds like if you want crowds, offer free beer!

Throw in free Honduran cigars and I might even show up.

JMG said...

Mike, I'm convinced that if the churches offered something to meet people's tangible needs along with their spiritual needs, then more people would attend and feel comfortable in church. Obviously, the large church referenced in my blog offers people a way to feel better. But people have real needs that aren't being met, and it's a shame that in one church some people have more than enough while others are struggling to get by. I really don't think that the early church operated that way.

As far as beer and cigars go, I'll bet that would make for a good discussion type environment.