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Author Topic: Inside the world of Christian Evangelicals
Telperion the Silver
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Very thought provoking article from Tom Brokaw.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9804232/

My own thoughts... well... I don't have much respect for evangelicals. *ducks* I know I know...keep an open mind. But here are my reasons.
One, because these mega churches aren't really churches, imho, but more like Christian music concerts. Not really a service but a pep rally. Cotton Candy Christians. They don't seem to really study the history of their religion or the deeper philosophical ideas, they just say "Jesus!" and that seems to be enough.
Two, because they don't seem to understand the idea of the separation of church and state. They want to infect all the population with their ideas. I don't like that. I have ideas that I know people don't like and there are others that I don't like. But we all get along and respect the differences. From what I've read and from some of the people I've met, they have no intention for dialogue. And put that in a political agenda... scary.
Third...well...because I'm atheist/agnostic and see this stuff as a little silly.

But I have great respect for Mormons and Catholics. Both have developed institutions for the growth and care of Civilization. Catholics come from the old Roman Empire itself, and the Mormons have a very progressive and open philosophy on the nature of their religion and reality. As OSC says: "My belief is that no religion is complete, and science by definition is incomplete. In fact, my own religion takes it as a matter of doctrine that we don't know everything and have much left to learn - about religion as about everything else."

Evangelicals seem to have no such advanced thinking, that we as humans might not know it all. They seem to have closed their minds and have chosen ignorance.

[ November 08, 2005, 01:05 AM: Message edited by: Telperion the Silver ]

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FIJC
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It doesn't seem like you have really taken the time to study the various and significant differences between Pentecostals, Evangelical Free, Non-Denominational Christian (most "mega" churches are these), and mainline Protestants, who have very different cultures than the above. I don't think it's fair or accurate to lump all Evangelicals into one group.

I am Lutheran and consider my faith to be thoughtful, full of meaning, and rich in history and tradition. In fact, I can see these desirable traits in all the Confessional sects of Christianity.

Really, this lumping together amounts to the same annoyance as when people assume I am Chinese when I am really Korean, lol.

[ November 08, 2005, 08:34 AM: Message edited by: FIJC ]

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Swampjedi
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I think you're on to something there, Telp, about the mega churches.

My problem with mega churches is not necessarily the lack of depth. Worship doesn't need to be complex and philosophical. As for the teaching, from the outside we can only see the sermons. If I were giving a sermon to 10,000 people, I'd choose the simple message to reach as many of them as possible. Now, if this is all the teaching that goes on in the megachurch, then there really is a problem.

Where I agree with you, Telp, is with the "rock concert" feel of some of these churches. To me, it seems that the services are passive - that is, the majority of the congregation comes to experience and to feel good, not to learn and participate. Cotton Candy Christians, indeed. To me, this isn't Christianity at all, but a glorified self-esteem session, or an entertainment event. Heaven forbid the choir be less than "album perfect" or the sanctuary be less than a work of art or the pastor be less than a perfectly groomed, charismatic rock star (not to mention his wife, the beautiful lady who wears all of the most expensive and fashionable "conservative" clothes).

By the way, there's a massive church somewhere here in Atlanta that the "heathens" call "Six Flags over Jesus." Seems to me the church has lost its vision, eh?

***

Good to see you over at Hatrack, FIJC.
<long time Hatrack and Ornery lurker>

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Farmgirl
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I love you anyway, Telp..... [Smile]
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dkw
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Telpy, you cannot judge whether thousands of people have any "advanced thinking" by a media interview with a handful of them.

"Evangelicals" are not a denomination in the way Roman Catholics or the LDS are. There is no document you can read that will give you the definitive answer on what all evangelicals believe. Rather, it's a broad descriptor that covers many different churches and movements. Some of which are very well thought out and some of which are more thrown together. Some of which are mega-churches and some of which are 10 people gathering for prayer on Sunday morning and running a soup kitchen every evening.

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Scott R
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The interviews are very positive, for the most part, but there are a couple unassociated, unreasonable digs in the narration.
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zgator
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quote:
One, because these mega churches aren't really churches, imho, but more like Christian music concerts. Not really a service but a pep rally. Cotton Candy Christians. They don't seem to really study the history of their religion or the deeper philosophical ideas, they just say "Jesus!" and that seems to be enough.

I used to go to First Baptist Orlando (Baptist World) which is a mega-church. Because the were so large, they could and did offer a multitude of adult education classes in addition to regular services. People could pick from a wide range of topics on which they wanted to further their knowledge and many of them did. It's not fair to lump everyone into the category of "saying Jesus is enough".
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dkw
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This part made me giggle:

quote:
For years, American Christians — from the Catholics in Boston, the Baptists in Dallas, and Methodists in Iowa — have worshipped in much the same way.
But now, is something totally new.
Welcome to New Life Church, in Colorado Springs. Every year, this evangelical church marks the Easter holiday with an elaborate staging of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Sounds like a medieval passion play to me.
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FIJC
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quote:
"For years, American Christians — from the Catholics in Boston, the Baptists in Dallas, and Methodists in Iowa — have worshipped in much the same way."
And since when do Catholics, Baptists, and Methodists worship the same way? Someone isn't being very observant...
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Aerto
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I am no fan of megachurches, but the church shouldn't be judged only on its Sunday, or Saturday in some cases, service. Many of these churches are very good at arranging Bible studies for small and large groups in which the participants do more than shout Jesus and throw their hands in the air. My biggest problem with some megachurches is how they sometimes refuse to stake out a position on controversial theological issues, worrying that they will offend some of their congregation and trying to preserve their ability to call themselves non-denominational. If members of the church can't look to the leader of the congregation for an answer/opinion, then I don't think that leader is fulfilling his duty.

The definition of the words "evangelical" and "fundamentalist" have become corrupted, like so many words in our "post-modern" age, that they virtually have no meaning. An evangelical Christiam is someone who evangelizes, shares their belief. An evangelical Christian could be a Catholic, a Lutheran, a Presbyterian, a Methodist, etc. Going to a really big church does not make one automtically an evangelical.

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Tresopax
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On the issue of "In God they Trust", it's the way in which evangelicals tend to trust man's interpretation of God, rather than God, that bothers me. This is a problem shared with many Morman, some Catholics, and a number of Protestant sects too. There is a notion that because God is infallible, the churchs, bibles, and other human authorities on God must be infallible too - hijacking God to justify unfounded faith in certain human conclusions.

This is far too must trust to place in human authorities. Through doing so, they can justify doing anything whatsoever, no matter how illogical or wrong it could seem - because if an infallible authority says to do something, it must be right to do so, no matter what. It becomes an excuse for the abandonment of good judgement, and is a misuse of God. I have difficult trusting the judgement of those who based decisions on such reasoning. And it tends to be the reasoning used to inject God into government policy making so much.

It should be noted, though, that there is no uniformity on this, especially among evangelicals. It's a trend, not a rule. Evangelicals seem to come from all sorts of belief and have all sorts of relationships to God, the church, and the Bible. The only thing that seems to truly unite them is their preference for a newer, fresher, more complete religious experience - that at the same time brings back tradition. And that is a good thing. It is just some of the baggage and assumptions that often tend to go along with that which are problematic.

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Brian J. Hill
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If you look VERY superficially, I could see how you could arrive at the conclusion that American Christian worship services were similar. They all generally included the same sort of "traditional hymn" music, had some sort of Sunday School, had a sermon given by a preacher, etc. But I agree that the author ain't that observant.

quote:
Sounds like a medieval passion play to me.
Yes it does. One of my areas of interest in theatre is the correlation between the "religious" impulse and the "theatrical" impulse. Theatre has its origins in religious ceremony. The Greek Theatre festivals were held mostly in worship of the god Dionysus. This developed into a vibrant theatre tradition which continued on into the Roman culture--always connected with religion. It was banned in the Dark Ages b/c it was seen as inconsistent with Christianity, but interestingly, the earliest theatre in the medieval times (around the 13th century) sprung from Christian worship services.

All of this is to say I'm not surprised at all that modern religions are putting on plays as an extension of their worship, or that religious communities are embracing theatre as a way to share their stories. They've been doing so for the past 2500 years.

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zgator
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Medieval passion plays of the 21st century.
I used to work there as an usher in high school.

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Tante Shvester
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I never really knew any evangelical Christians until I met my old neighbors and dear friends Scott and Mary. Faith is very important to them, and they are very involved in their (mega-) church. They are convinced that their faith is the ONE TRUE FAITH, and that the country (and the world) would be so much better off if it adhered to the precepts of their faith.

They march on abortion clinics, because they truly believe that in doing so they may be preventing a great evil. They vote for whatever candidate they perceive to be most sympathetic to the evangelical world view, because they honestly believe that this is the kindest, healthiest way to run the government.

As a member of a minority religion, I strongly support the separation of church and state. After all, it wouldn't be MY faith that the country would adopt. But I understand their point of view and sincerity. They really are very good people, trying to do the best they can to help make the world a better place.

Politically, we are on opposite ends of the spectrum, and for the sake of our friendship, we have realized that there are topics that just ought not to be discussed, because there are such strong feelings on both sides. But we acknowledge each other's viewpoints, and respect the sincerity and goodwill with which they are held.

They are not closed-minded. They are not hypocrits.

But, I suspect that folk who hear "evangelical" and assume that such people are closed-minded and hypocritical need to do a little self-assessment into their own prejudices and closed-mindedness.

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UofUlawguy
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Aerto:"The definition of the words "evangelical" and "fundamentalist" have become corrupted, like so many words in our "post-modern" age, that they virtually have no meaning"

Like the word "nondenominational".

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Joldo
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The few times I've been to mega churches, I took serious issue with it. While there were indeed bible study classes, their attendance was relatively low and the whole service seemed so scripted and impersonal and superficial, like some kind of McJesus.
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Tante Shvester
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I've been, with my friends Scott and Mary. The experience is very very different than the style of worship that I am accustomed to. But, so what? Who am I to tell them that what G'd really wants is to hear the same old liturgy mumbled in an undertone, rather than some swinging percussion section and dancing in the aisles?

In fact, if it is true that G'd hears all the prayers, he may just be particularly enjoying the fun ones, just like we at Hatrack like some fluff threads mixed in with our heavy ones.

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Aerto
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quote:
Originally posted by UofUlawguy:
Aerto:"The definition of the words "evangelical" and "fundamentalist" have become corrupted, like so many words in our "post-modern" age, that they virtually have no meaning"

Like the word "nondenominational".

Very true in the sense that "nondemoninational" has been coopted by many churches that want to use it as a marketing/recruiting tool.
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Tante Shvester
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Woman: "I'd like to buy 20 of your Christmas stamps."

Postal Clerk: "What denomination?"

Woman: "So it's come to this. OK, give me 3 Methodist, 2 Lutheran, 7 Baptist, 6 Catholic, and I'll take the rest Nondenominational."

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jeniwren
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Telperion, you're speaking out of ignorance and first impressions. It would be like if I said that homosexuals are just what you see at Gay Pride parades. That that's all there is to them.

The church I attend now is a daughter church to a mega-church in Seattle. It's actually third generation. It was born out of a daughter church of the megachurch. It's small at just 300 members or so.

The church we left when we moved has plateaued at about 3,000, has rock music for corporate worship, shows dramas to illustrate the message, has a huge video screen that video clips are shown on as further illustration. If that's all you got out of a visit to that church, you wouldn't even scratch the surface. We could talk about how the resources of that church allows it to host teams of people to serve the homeless downtown. These teams go down and have small services, then serve food. Afterward, they take the coats, blankets, and sacks of food they've made and search out homeless people to serve. They crawl under bridges, go into alleyways, wherever homeless people may be, and bring them the things they need to survive another day. They don't preach at them, they just love them where they're at. That's a pretty shallow way to preach the ministry of Jesus Christ, isn't it? Another ministry in the church serves stay at home mothers of preschoolers. As a dear friend of mine goes to this, I know how much this is her sanity. She has two children under the age of two. Another ministry of the church (and bear in mind, the pastors can't possibly lead all these ministries -- these are members of the church who organize and serve the community) actively looks for needs in the community and attempts to serve them. In their ministry, they organize baby showers for poor single expectant mothers. They collect school supplies for poor children. They organize and screen mentors to come into local schools to develop friendships with at risk children. They host annual neighborhood watch parties, to help poor areas of the city police themselves. They host park cleanups in these areas, so that kids can use them, and so families have a place to go. They recently got a house from the city in one of these areas to hold classes in parenting, financial management, and 12 step groups. They wouldn't be able to do this if they didn't have the resources of a 'mega church'.

Yep, pretty shallow stuff there.

One of the mega churches listed is Saddleback Valley, led by Rick Warren. His church helps smaller churches by sharing their curriculum at very reasonable rates. I'm currently going through their '40 Days of Community' curriculum, and just one week of it shows how shallow it is not. Our group has been challenged to do service project after service project to serve the community and follow believers. Further, it has challenged us to change our mindset on how to be a group. It's been transformational for me -- someone who does not make friends easily.

We're also working on starting another of Saddleback's programs 'Celebrate Recovery'. I'm currently reading their leader's guide, and will move on to the program booklets. This isn't shallow. It's taking scripture and applying it to addictions of all sorts. It's very challenging, so much so that if you work it faithfully, you can't help but learn quite a bit about the Bible and what it says about depending on God, depending on other people, and learning to love genuinely and actively.

What I see, at the megachurches like Saddleback, or Willow Creek in Chicago, you can be as shallow as you like. But you don't have to stay that way, and from what I've seen from both of their senior pastors Rick Warren and Bill Hybels, they don't soft pedal the gospel. They challenge the believers in their congregations to go deeper, and then offer them ways outside of weekend services to do so. Truth is, smaller churches are no different -- you can go and warm a pew and never get much deeper than 'Oh, Jesus!'. Personally, I think you're making the same mistake the people who just warm pews do. They just skim the surface, make snap judgements, and think they've got their finger on the pulse of the whole organization. Pretty shallow, if you ask me.

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Dan_raven
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Face it, size doesn't matter.

Its the heart behind the words that makes the difference. Whether those words are whispered by a man behind a pulpit or sung on the screen 80 feet tall, its the heart behind them that matters.

All the bells and whistles do not matter nor can they ruin the message if the message is sincere.

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FIJC
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quote:
" from what I've seen from both of their senior pastors Rick Warren and Bill Hybels, they don't soft pedal the gospel. They challenge the believers in their congregations to go deeper, and then offer them ways outside of weekend services to do so."
From my experience, churches almost never have a problem "soft pedaling" the Gospel--the Gospel a message of good news and Hope...it's the Law aspect of the Bible, actually living the life of a Christian, that many churches ("Mega" and mainline) like to ignore and soft pedal.

I have read Rick Warren's writings and really like what he has to say...can't say the same about Bill Hybels (Bill Clinton's "spiritual advisor"), but my opinion of Hybels tends to be taken more from the political stunts he's pulled, rather than what he has explicitly said about the Bible. I think it's more what Hybels doesn't say that counts.

My skepticism of "mega" churches comes more from my belief that nothing Good comes easy. The history of the Christian church is full of persecution and very trying times, but the body of Christ has never grown so easily as it seems to in mega churches. To me, if a church is really following Christ, the devil would be doing everything in it's power to tear that church of God down. I don't see that level of spiritual conflict in mega churches--they tend to grow very rapidly and have a lot of wealth at their disposal. Now, I am willing to believe that I am totally wrong, but that's just what I have come to think on the matter.

[ November 08, 2005, 01:40 PM: Message edited by: FIJC ]

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jeniwren
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My experience with Hybels has been limited to attending a simulcast leadership conference his church hosts each year. He was the keynote speaker. I've had more experience with the curriculum that comes out of his church, and with some of the staff he's trained. Our old church now employs one of their former interns, and the sr pastor of our new church was a pastor at Willow Creek originally. I appreciate the heart both of these men have -- it's firmly on serving the community and the body of believers in practical, no-nonsense ways.

I am growing to be a bigger fan of Rick Warren. When we finish the 40 days of Community, our small group is going to do the 40 days of Purpose. I haven't been through it before, so I'm really looking forward to it. I heard that the book did so well, Warren paid back every penny he was ever paid by his church, and now takes no money for leading. He's a volunteer. I thought that was pretty neat.

As for soft pedaling the Law, to be honest, I haven't really seen that in our old church. Our pastor is pretty clear about how he interprets scripture and has consistently challenged the congregation not to just take his word for it, but to check it out for themselves. He's firm about tithing, sexual immorality, marriage, taking a Sabbath, etc. He also has a sense of humor, so while he's telling you what the Bible says about whatever his message is that week, you're laughing and then later thinking. And maybe changing and growing. Some people might interpret the fact that he can make you laugh at what you might be doing wrong as softpedaling, but I call it a spoonful of sugar with the medicine. Are you more likely to take a dose? I think, yes.

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Nell Gwyn
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quote:
For years, American Christians — from the Catholics in Boston, the Baptists in Dallas, and Methodists in Iowa — have worshipped in much the same way.
But now, is something totally new.
Welcome to New Life Church, in Colorado Springs. Every year, this evangelical church marks the Easter holiday with an elaborate staging of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

When I first read that, I thought he meant that American Christians had worshipped in the same way that they each had over the years, since his point was that "now" something has changed, not that they had worshipped the same way as each other. But now I'm not sure my first read was accurate - careless writing, perhaps?

dkw, me too! Clearly he was unaware that theatre was once used constantly to preach the gospel to the illiterate masses.

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Vána
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quote:
All the bells and whistles do not matter nor can they ruin the message if the message is sincere.
No, they can't ruin the message, but I do believe they can obscure it, and they can sometimes present their own, false message. I think what bothers me most about pep-rally church services is the same problem I have with so much of the music my own church's choir director keeps making us sing - the message, too often, is "if you're a Christian, you'll be happy all the time." I can't think of a more false message, to be honest. Being a Christian is hard, and it hurts, and yes, there is comfort, but it's rarely immediate and it doesn't actually take away the pain, only soothes it a bit. The message of "if you're a Christian, you'll be happy" is so damaging, I think, especially to people just coming in to the faith. If someone joins the Church thinking that it will make them happy, what will happen to their faith when they realize that they are not, in fact, happier, and that their lives are not easier? Won't they be more likely to turn away? Feel betrayed? I know I would.
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