Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Thursday, April 29, 2010 9:07 pm
By ARTHUR W. HUNT III
Special to The Messenger
Historically, when the authority of scripture has been lost, when the gospel has become perverted and when worship has been degraded to spectacle, there is usually a looming reason behind these changes: Self interest has replaced our interest in God.
Certainly this is the case when we recast the work of the church as a “business venture.” Business-minded churches see the pastor as CEO, the church staff as midlevel managers and the congregation as consumers. Since the ultimate goal of these churches is numerical growth, various market-proven techniques are used to “maximize” success.
Not that there is anything wrong with numbers. The book of Acts records how God added to the early church daily. But we must also remember that when Jesus told the crowds that He was the Bread of Life upon which we must feed to be His disciple, many turned away.
Demographics play an important role in market-driven churches, which divides the congregation into target subgroups so that worship is directed to children, teens, single adults, young married adults, middle-aged adults, divorced adults, retirees and ready-to-kick-the bucket adults.
Granted, church training should recognize the different intellectual and spiritual levels of congregants, but there is a danger in splintering the church in this way. Normally, ministers avoid “church splits,” but not in this case. Instead, they create them.
Churches now target themselves to specific markets or subcultures so that appeals are directed to Boomers, GenXers, Millennialists and presumably, Democrats, Republicans, Rednecks, Geeks and Skateboarders. There is even a sub-denominational group called the Cowboy Church.
What would the apostle Paul say to all of this? Would he ask, “Is Christ divided?” Didn’t he say, “Let there be no divisions among you”? (I Corinthians 1).
Reformed churches have historically directed their worship to all age groups without segmenting the audience. The practice of having a special section set aside for the youth, away from parents, undercuts the family unit and sends a wrong message.
Unity is the ideal in Reformed churches, not diversity for the sake of diversity.
“The church is the place where generational differences are to be transcended, not reinforced,” says Christian author and educator Gene Edward Veith. “Only a church which resists being merely of one generation can be relevant to them all.”
Multiculturalism, a notion that dismisses any standard with which to judge cultural values, runs rampant in market-oriented churches. Under a multicultural paradigm one cannot say, for example, the works of Shakespeare are better than the works of Madonna. Consequently, one dare not say rock-and-roll is an inappropriate music style for worship. That would be anathema. Rather, the prevailing philosophy is: “If it works, then let’s do it.”
I am not sure Christ would look favorably on His church as a business venture. The one occasion in the New Testament where we see religion positioning itself as a “market,” He got out the whip.
Editor’s note: Arthur W. Hunt III is assistant professor of communications at UT Martin and a member of Grace Community Church in Union City.
Published in The Messenger 4.29.10