We Americans are easily impressed by all things big and successful. We find it almost impossible to gainsay that which has massive popular endorsement. So the assumption is that if a particular message can fill churches and arenas and propel books onto bestseller lists, then it must be a good thing. – Brian Zahnd
Bigger, stronger and faster, it’s the only way to survive and thrive in the good old USA. It has become the mantra of modern-day capitalism. The consumerism culture thrives on the constant banter of “we want it now and more of it”! We as a species have been leading the charge and now are seeing the horrible and harmful effects in our communities and environment.
Within the Christian platform, we have seen how using this consumer culture tactic, enables devastating spiritual and physical carnage. The Mega Church has become the mascot of this mass consumption crusade through its ideologies and practices. Now, every entity has its anomalies (like all things in life). There are some heathy and good results coming from mega churches, no doubt (I have experienced it firsthand). But, from an overarching perspective, the fruit of the mega church doesn’t look so good.
Here are just a few examples of what happens when the tribalistic big church group think runs the show:
– Too big to fail
– Prohibits intellectual diversity
– Pastor egomaniac syndrome
– Misappropriated funds
– Sexual misconduct
All of this leads to unhealthy relationships which then produces unhealthy communities. When we make church a “corporation”, we open-up all the rules and regulations that need a corporation to be successful. It comes more of a place to compete instead of a place to heal. When this becomes the priority (bigger and better) we lose the capacity to really step into discipleship (loving the least of these).
Just recently, we have seen this model of church cause great harm and pain. The Village Church and its head pastor Matt Chandler were caught up in a tragic incident that resulted in sexual abuse. On Feb. 17, 2018, Ms. Bragg and her husband, reported to the Village that their daughter, at about age 11, had been sexually abused at the church’s summer camp for children. Since then, Matthew Tonne, who was the church’s associate children’s minister, had been investigated by the police, indicted and arrested on charges of sexually molesting Ms. Bragg’s daughter. [1.]
With this devastating tragedy, you would expect any ethical organization (especially a church) to do whatever it takes to bring justice to this girl and her family. Not only that, but love and support from the leadership. This never happened as Ms. Bragg stated:
Ms. Bragg waited for church leaders to explain what had happened and to thoroughly inform other families in the congregation. She waited for the Village to take responsibility and apologize. She waited to have even one conversation with Mr. Chandler, a leader she had long admired.
But none of that ever came.
“You can’t even take care of the family you know,” she remembered thinking as she walked out of the large auditorium. “Don’t tell more victims to come to you, because you’re just going to cause more hurt.”[2.]
AHHH! This is fucking unacceptable! How can you sleep at night Village clergy?! Matt Chandler, where are you at?! How does it come to this? Well, I think what we see here is when you are part of a non-stop “bigger, stronger, faster” locomotive church model, you plow through anything that gets in your way (disregarding all collateral damage). When you run a community based on American consumerism ethics, you become too big to fail and will not accept defeat. The machine has too much of a good thing going to worry about a little sexual abuse…what a diabolical program.
What’s the lesson we can learn from all of this? I don’t know but I think we need to realize the danger when it comes to our hyper competitive consumer culture. If we claim to participate in the divine love of the universe that engulfs the air we breathe and the people we trust, we must create healthy spaces for Christs collective to grow. This earth in time and space and the forever now that lies between is to important and precious to ignore. We must humble ourselves and let go of our egos to let the Spirit guide us to new heights. It’s the least of these that we are here to serve, not the power-hungry tyrants and their cutthroat empires…
But the modern-day church doesn’t like to wander or wait. The modern-day church likes results. Convinced the gospel is a product we’ve got to sell to an increasingly shrinking market, we like our people to function as walking advertisements: happy, put-together, finished—proof that this Jesus stuff WORKS! At its best, such a culture generates pews of Stepford Wife–style robots with painted smiles and programmed moves. At its worst, it creates environments where abuse and corruption get covered up to protect reputations and preserve image. – Rachel Held Evans