Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Great Ms. Quarter Church Search

“When men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear" (2 Tim 4:3)

Since my move to Milwaukee, I have been looking for a new church. I value the Lutheran doctrine and tradition I grew up with, however I have also been looking at local non-denominational churches as well.

In my experience, non-denominational churches have great support for members, and many ways to be grow beyond weekly worship, whereas the LCMS churches (in my humble experience) do not. At my church in college, Hope CC, there were many ways to get involved beyond 1 hour a week, and many of the classes and small groups were designed to get to the meat of God’s Word. I get excited at the thought of finding such a place in Milwaukee.

Since my search began I’ve visited a few LCMS congregations that are mirror images of the one I grew up in: church on Sunday, Ladies’ Aid, and Sunday School.

That’s it.

Sermons being preached off of a synod-wide printout, and little to no way of being more involved or delving deeper into scripture. Needless to say, I’m a little disappointed.

Not that there aren’t great LCMS churches for mature Christians where we can grow in our faith, just that I haven’t gotten to them yet. But that isn’t the purpose of this post.

What I’ve come across lately are Mega Churches, also known as Seeker Sensitive churches. You know the ones I’m talking about: they purchase billboard ads to promote their latest “relevant to your life” message, they have videographers and worship teams that make you think you’ve walked into Hollywood, and they focus on creating an “experience” that will drive in traffic and reach more "unchurched" people.

So what’s wrong with reaching the "unchurched?" What’s wrong with using your talents at videoediting, singing, or playing guitar to help fellow Christians worship God?

The problem is when the noise of the experience drowns out the Holy Spirit.

I feel that my knowledge is not adequate to fully explore this issue and argue my point, nor do I want to plagiarize another man’s work, so I will direct you, faithful reader, to a site that discusses this problem using Perry Noble as an example of a pastor committed to the Church Growth Movement (where the success of a church is defined by number of congregants, not quality of faith and teaching).

Read Perry’s thoughts here, his rebuttal to the negative feedback from those thoughts here, then a series by Scott Oliver that exposes Perry Noble’s statements and compares them to biblical teachings here.

Now, I am not saying that all Mega Churches are bad, or that all pastors are like Perry Noble (or even that God cannot work through somewhat misguided men like Perry Noble). What I am saying is that in searching for a church (or exploring Christianity for that matter), one must be cautious and realize that no one church (or pastor) speaks for all.

Biblical foundations and theology should be the same (beware of those that are not), but each church community (or denomination) is individual in teaching styles, small group organization, even hierarchy of leadership. Find one that works for you, and helps you to grow in your faith.

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