Not a single cross symbol–anywhere. The lobby is an open multi-storied massive circular gateway, similar to the lobby of a grand hotel or convention hall, that leads off in different directions to portals promising exciting, exotic lands. The sanctuary is now called an auditorium; there are more than one. Like a hotel there is a Coffee Shop, Bookstore, 3-D graphics, video screens, every modern high tech devise available is utilized for maximum visual experience and bright as sunshine sparkle everywhere.
Navigating to the proper venue via escalators, entering the darkened theater, we find the steps descend sharply downward to the plush seating that looms over the stage at the bottom that is backlit with a red glow. “Interesting color choice,” I think. Electric wires drape and snake around the stage from amplifiers to instruments, waiting in restrained energy for the performers. The anticipation is palpable. Suddenly, dazzle, frazzle, laser lights, smoke and magic. Loudness. Where else can your eardrums be assaulted with a rock and roll rendition of How Great Thou Art?
Stimulating. Definitely. And just this side of frenzy.
Welcome to the dynamic church environment for the modern unchurched, for those who don’t like church, a concept created to reach the lost by way of culture, some argue not unlike building a hut in the jungle in the mission field and banging on leather drums as accompaniment to Amazing Grace. Meet them where they are. Get rid of tradition if tradition repels them. Make it The X Factor instead of The Cross Factor so as not to force them to flee from boredom.
We make excuses and rationalizations; ignore the need for a Xanax at the end of the–what to call it?–Sermon? Church? Event? So what if the experience was more a big party rather than an assembling of the faithful to worship, share, edify one another and learn? The focus is to rouse raw emotion and bring it up to bubbling over like shaking a bottle of soda. How one feels and shows emotion reveals the level of devotion. Right? Loud and rowdy gets the steam up so the goal is loud and rowdy for Christ. Right? Win modern souls to Christ in the way they can relate! Right?
Who am I to say this method is wrong? But...
Leaving the auditorium, ears still ringing, we had to work our way through a milling crowd of teens waiting to begin their Sunday Event. We agreed there are worse places teens can be than in a place where it’s still okay to say the name Jesus, and not as a cuss word. I wondered, though, is this really the best way to promote the real Jesus or does it introduce a counterfeit, “another” who just borrows the name?
I also wonder, would this new hip Jesus get more votes over the real Jesus if they had to compete head to head, coolness sparkle style to basic gospel? What biting critique would Simon have for the simpler Christ?
I admit the non-church environment is not for me. Yes, I know I am a relic from another day. In the battle for souls raging in the here and now, I still prefer a sword and shield, while we are told what is needed is laser guns, digital control consoles and unmanned drones.
And even though I get it, for some strange reason, I still want to weep. I keep thinking that in our effort to draw people closer to Jesus we have turned the concept of finding Christ into a production that is more about pandering to our needs than His, making it more about us than Him.
Seems to me, Jesus is required to meet us on our terms now, not His. And whatever happened to the concept of trusting the Holy Spirit doing the work? I’m pretty sure the Holy Spirit doesn’t need hoopla to help open eyes and ears. Is mankind that much more difficult to get to now? Are we so overstimulated by modern technology we can’t be reached without the equivalent of an electric jolt?
What happens when times get tough or the show gets cancelled and all that remains is an empty theater where the fun used to be, will those who supposedly found Christ via the razzle-dazzle feel let down and abandoned? They have been conditioned to believe that Christ’s glory is in the party not the sacrifice. They worship a hologram that is exciting but has no substance and will disappear instantly when the plug is pulled.
I can’t help but believe this is a dangerous precedence so no matter how many excuses and compromises rise up to stifle and challenge my deep disappointment that it has come to this I have to posit:
Now what? Where do we go from here?
(Matthew 24:9) Then shall they deliver you up unto tribulation, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all the nations for my name's sake. (24:10) And then shall many stumble, and shall deliver up one another, and shall hate one another. (24:11) And many false prophets shall arise, and shall lead many astray. (24:12) And because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold.