Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The "Event" (Continued)

I enjoy having fun, being inspired, learning new stuff or encountering God when I attend a Sunday Christian gathering. But the part I like best is meeting the other people who are there and learning how they experienced God this week. I love hearing about the answers to prayer and the divinely arranged "God Encounters" that have supernaturally intersected someone's week. I love to see us all praying for someone and then hearing next week how that prayer was answered. I love the challenge of living out the Scripture we read and then having someone hold me accountable for it the following week. That to me is church - the assembled, set apart saints of God who gather to worship God and encourage one another.

The "Event" seems to miss all those things. The Event is geared towards attracting a crowd and its purpose is to passively entertain. I just have a hard time calling that "church." It may attempt to be honouring to God (it is probably more God honouring than a Broadway production). It may provide good Biblical teaching, and it may inspire and create good feelings, and it might bring some people into the kingdom - but is that church? Is that what we're supposed to be doing? I'm going to repeat a quote I made in my paper because it fits here again ...

Matt Casper, an atheist commissioned by Pastor Jim Henderson to visit churches to provide an outsider’s view of what we do in church, said this about the machine that church has become. If someone who had never attended church went to visit a number of churches … “if that’s where they started, they would have to conclude that Jesus’ number one priority was that Christians invest the very best of their energy and their money into putting on a huge church service – a killer show as it were … is this what Jesus told you guys to do?” Casper simply could not imagine Jesus telling his followers that the most important thing they should be doing is holding church services. And yet this was the only logical conclusion he was able to come to based upon what he observed.

Perry Noble at NewSpring church in South Carolina supports the Event mentality but he calls it "Creating An Experience" at his blog. Bill Hinon has a great response that I thought I would post a large chunk of it here.

One of the things that Perry explains to those of us with smaller churches (or no church at all) is that Jesus was in the experience creating business:

One of the things I have realized in reading Scripture though is that Jesus was far from boring–He created experiences for His followers–experiences that they NEVER forgot…do you remember…

And just like Jesus, Perry gathers his team together to creatively plan their spectacles services.

Today I sat in a room for two hours as our creative team talked about the next several Sunday’s. We spent around 10-15 minutes on how to conclude the sermon for the 17th of this month…we are serious about Sunday’s and the experience that is created for people coming in these doors.

I can just see Jesus gathering his team around him.

Jesus: OK guys. Any suggestions for what we do next. I've done the water into wine thing, helped you guys catch a boat-load of fish and calmed a storm that was freaking you all out. What are we going to do to wow the crowd next.
Simon Peter: I'da know. What about maybe walking on the water. That would be totally amazing.
Various disciples: That would rock...Totally could we capture it?
James: Or what if you spoke to a big crowd, say 4 or 5,000 people. The only food was a loaf of bread and a few fish. But everybody left filled to the brim...with food left over.
Various disciples: We could call your sermon "Feed Your Need"...yah, or "Five Ways to Come Empty but Leave Filled."
John: You know what would completely blow people's minds...what if you raised someone from the dead. And I don't mean just recently dead...but somebody who'd been in the grave for three days...somebody already stinking.
Various disciples: You're creepin' me out, John...My stomach kinda reacts to bad smells...Couldn't you be a little less earthy, John?
Judas: whatever we do, we can't forget the offering. We need money to keep this thing going, people.

Hang on. I'm sorry. This is really bad exegesis on my part. There is absolutely no scriptural indication that Jesus ever had this kind of discussion with his disciples. Not an iota. I'm really sorry. (Other than Judas talking about money, perhaps.)

What we do know is that Jesus went off to spend a lot of time talking to his Father. And to attempt to write that conversation would probably be blasphemous, eh! But since he only did what his Dad showed him to do, do you ever think he asked "What next?"

Perry further helps us understand his methods by playing the Hollywood card:

Seriously–I believe people should look more forward to church that they do 24, Lost, or American Idol. WOW…there’s something…those shows actually put hard work and effort into their programming…and it shows! Hmmm, maybe if the church was as serious as Hollywood in reaching people…we would be reaching people.

That's right, Perry. Whenever I want to look at people who build depth and substance into relationships, I look to Hollywood. People who experience what Hollywood produces have more joy in their lives, their marriages last longer and they even have fresher breath. Who could want anything more?

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