By David A. McElroy –
Critics often say “successful” churches tend to resemble country clubs, and their pastors function more like corporate executives than spiritual leaders or evangelists. We see mega-churches touted as the “feel-good”, “seeker friendly” paradigm to emulate. We should ask how this has come about, and look to the Holy Bible and some reputable research.
George Barna has long been recognized as a leading researcher of Christian issues, and recently published some shocking facts at OneNewsNow.com this month. Barna says when it comes to a controversy, he found “…less than 10% of pastors who say they will speak to it.” Who will rebuke evil if our pastors will not?
Why are some 90% of pastors, reported by Barna, avoiding controversy and carefully sidestepping certain biblical issues relevant to today’s circumstances? Barna says, as many have suspected, “Controversy keeps people from being in the seats, controversy keeps people from giving money, from attending programs.” And the measure of a church’s success, as taught in seminary courses on church administration and quarterly business reports, comes down to five metrics Barna cites:
1. Attendance (number of people)
2. Giving (number of dollars)
3. Programs (number of budgeted activities)
4. Staff (number of persons on payroll)
5. Square Footage (number of facilities)
How did these corporate metrics come to overwhelm the church and supplant the drive for biblical teaching and spiritual growth in Christ? I would posit that church boards and pastors, and, yes, the seminaries, have fallen to these metrics because material things can be precisely measured, whereas spiritual matters do not lend themselves to any system of measure. Spiritual growth is a personal matter science is not equipped to measure. And business practices demand the numbers, precise measures, statistical data. Church boards are dominated by businessmen serving as deacons, pastors, or elders, and most prominent givers are also the business people who do the math and demand accountability. But what would Jesus do?
I recall Christ let Judas handle the money in his ministry, and we know how he wound up!
Jesus always said it was his mission to do the will of his Father in Heaven. What did the Lord God Almighty say about doing things by the numbers? Read I Chronicles 21:1-8, where it begins: “And Satan provoked David to number Israel…” God expressly forbade King David from numbering his people to know the strength of Israel. God wanted the king to trust God’s strength rather the number of his troops, but David wanted that statistical information and numbered them anyway. Statistics are the measure of the state, and most statisticians are employed by governments. Do we trust God, or the numbers?
Churches, through the science of mathematics employed in business administration, have followed the state’s corporate model in doing everything by the numbers.
Speaking of the five “successful church” metrics Barna lists, he says “Now all of those things are good measures, except for one tiny fact: Jesus didn’t die for any of them.” And I would note that the fruits of the spirit are not among those five measures. Christ died to save souls that they might have eternal life abundantly in spiritual growth. Christ gave the Great Commission for our souls’ salvation and spiritual growth, not numbers in business ledgers or impressive stacks of brick and mortar with stained glass windows! He did not die so men with Texas-sized egos could prance on TV begging for money!
Why do things by the numbers? Fear of loss, the quest for material gain. What does the epistle of Paul to the Philippians say about this in 3:7-8 ? Paul wrote: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” What are we willing to lose for Christ? Are you willing, as Christ bids, to take up your cross and follow him to the bloody end? Or is a cushy pew in an air-conditioned atmosphere of non-controversial happy talk saturated with coffee and donuts your priority? What is your church board or pastor willing to risk following Christ? What loss will you bear for Jesus? Would you face beheading for the Lord Jesus like our brothers and sisters in Iraq? Why are we in prosperous churches risking nothing to rescue them?
We are called to battle evil as Christian soldiers clad in the full armor of God as we read in Ephesians 6:10-20. Christianity is not a spectator sport or a life of leisure. When Christ sent his disciples out as his emissaries, we read in Mark 6:8 that he “…commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only: no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse.” Today, ministers expect a generous salary, a nice office, a comfy house, and a church vehicle… perhaps even a plush Gulfstream jet!
Chuck Baldwin, a prominent non-denominational Baptist pastor, expounded upon Barna’s research in his New Research: Pastors Deliberately Keeping Flock In The Dark , which was published in News With Views online. Baldwin is among the proponents of the unregistered church movement, refusing the 501(c)(3) tax exemption Uncle Sam grants through the Internal Revenue Service. The primary issue is that the federal statute for that monetary consideration requires the church to obey and conform to all federal laws and policies, surrendering the headship of Christ to Uncle Sam. True Christians know Christ is the head of the church and will never surrender his Lordship. The Apostle Paul suffered execution in Rome because he refused to say Caesar was his god.
Jesus Christ said , “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s…” in Mark 12:17. Do you even know the difference? Have you or your church been sucked into Caesar’s game of numbers, the trap of mammon? Who is referenced in the motto on our coins that says “In God We Trust”? Which “God”? Do you know the meaning of that pyramid on the back of your dollar bills? Look it up. Could you perhaps do with less of Caesar’s currency and move to an alternative means of exchange? Will you submit to the “cashless society” and accept the Mark of the Beast ? It is coming!
Military chaplains are forbidden to pray in Jesus’ name or display a cross in the chapels, Gideon Bibles are prohibited in military hotels, and the Ten Commandments are not to be seen on public property. The Bible, Jesus, and prayer are forbidden in public schools. And the pulpits are largely silent on these and other issues. Alcohol, adultery, Freemasonry, pornography, homosexuality, abortion, class war, and other things are overlooked in “not wanting to offend” with talk of sin. Hell is not a pleasant subject! The pews and collection plates must be filled, the church must be, like Disneyland, “the happiest place on Earth”!
Now “President Obama has issued an executive order that requires Christians , Christian groups, and Christian ministries to have no management restriction on transgendered or homosexual lifestyles in their organizations,” reports the election forum.org August 11th.
The order applies to all organizations benefiting from federal funding, like financial aid to Christian college students and religious social service ministries. The forum article said “The president now has ordered that the only way a Christian or Christian group can work with the US government is to deny their Christian beliefs and values.” Indeed!
Soon the five corporate metrics for the “successful church” will bring us to where we find communist China’s state approved churches: large impressive bodies constrained by the metrics of the material dialectic offering a watered-down partial gospel, speaking of God but denying the power thereof as they prostrate themselves before Mammon, Molech, and Lucifer!
Onward Christian soldiers, the battle is joined! Forget about the numbers. Trust God!
By David McElroy