Thursday, August 18, 2011

An End to a Long Running Variety Show...


FROM THE INTERNET MONK:

In 1978, a young Lutheran pastor named Walt Kallestad was assigned to a small church in Glendale, Arizona. Over time, that little congregation of 200 grew exponentially into a megachurch with 12,000 people in attendance. And so Community Church of Joy became something of an oxymoron: a Lutheran megachurch (there are fewer than a dozen in the U.S.).

It all started when Pastor Kallestad attended a conference that included church leaders like Bill Hybels and Rick Warren and learned about designing ministries for those who had been turned off by traditional churches. A natural evangelist, Kallestad ate it up and became committed to an approach he called, “entertainment evangelism”: “The only way to capture people’s attention is entertainment, I thought. If I want people to listen to my message, I’ve got to present it in a way that grabs their attention long enough for me to communicate the gospel.”


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However, after years of running the “show,” Kallestad became personally burned out and disillusioned by the results. He had built a great church organization, but the church was not producing disciples. After a heart attack served as a wake-up call, Walt Kallestad took a sabbatical to seek God and visit churches where God was moving and people’s lives being transformed. When he came back and observed his own congregation, he saw a marked difference and knew something had to change. In fact, radical changes were in order. “We didn’t need to tweak our methodology, we needed a modelectomy.”
 
They let their hired musicians go and began using volunteers. They stopped encouraging people to remain anonymous spectators and began challenging them to get involved in the life of the fellowship. Instead of having all “ministry” revolve around the organization, they released people to start their own ministries in the community. They moved from a high control/low accountability style of leadership to low control/high accountability.  They lost thousands of people in the process, but Kallestad thinks they are moving in the right direction.

Read more of this article on the Internet Monk link above.  It is long but worth your while...

From Me:

As the Internet Monk has described, this is but one of several high profile mega churches that have had second thoughts about the seeker model which utilized friendly entertainment forms to reach out to those who wanted nothing to do with the Church.  Now the shift has been made to an "aggressive pietism" in which discipleship and spiritual formation have replaced the spectator sport of watching others worship.  In the end, however, the great weakness of both models has not been dealt with -- it is still "me" at the center of everything.  Whether it is the "me" who seeks religious entertainment or the "me" who seeks moral improvement and personal righteousness, the wrong perspective remains the "lens" through which Christianity is understood, imparted, and defined.

The problem here is that neither model was/is Lutheran.  Now I cannot speak in the same way to those who was not identified as Lutheran Christians, but Walt Kallestad and the Community Church of Joy do identity as Lutheran.  There is another choice and that choice is the path of the Lutheran Confessions -- an evangelical catholicity in which the efficacious Word, the liberating absolution, the living baptismal water, and the life-giving Eucharist are the center of the Church's life and the individual piety of the Christian, the source from which our life flows to us and the summit to which our own lives point (the fulfillment of that baptismal vocation).

I am not yet ready to give Walt a pat on the back... he has recognized that entertainment evangelism is a shame of a methodology and does not live up to its promise... maybe he will eventually say the same about the moral perfection and personal righteousness that is his current focus.  And may be then he will give Lutheranism a real try!

8 comments:

Paul said...

We need bishops, priests and deacons who are convinced that sacramental, liturgical spirituality and mission are the only way to go about being the body of Christ in any genteration.

christl242 said...

I see that Kallestad is now affiliated with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, which says of itself:

While we understand our association to be post-denominational, we are a denomination by most societal definitions.

The freedom we enjoy allows us a variety of ways of saying who we are. We are primarily Lutheran congregations in mission for Christ.


I can certainly understand why he no longer wants to be fully affiliated with the ELCA, time will tell what his association with LCMC will produce.

As for Paul's statement:

We need bishops, priests and deacons who are convinced that sacramental, liturgical spirituality and mission are the only way to go about being the body of Christ in any genteration.

Well, that setup really hasn't worked all that well in the Church of England as far as keeping it orthodox, and then poor Pope Benedict as he visits Spain is faced with the unhappy fact that:

In Spain the church faces a congregation for whom being Catholic is more a birthmark than a way of life. A poll released in July says that while 72 per cent of Spaniards identify themselves as Catholic, 60 per cent say they "almost never" go to Mass and only 13 per cent every Sunday.

Again, in a country with a long, proud Catholic past and magnificent churches, smells, bells, deacons, priests and bishops.

But then, a reading of the New Testament will clearly show that the "presbyters" (elders) who served with the pastors of the local congregations were actually modeled on the Synagogue with the rabbi leading his congregation.

Maybe that's what's missing, not enough people are reading the Scriptures to find out what the New Testament church really looked like rather than looking to the platonic models of ancient Greece and Rome.

Christine

Irenaeus said...

Perhaps the word "liturgical" (as in "...sacramental, liturgical spirituality and mission are the only way to go about being the body of Christ in any genteration...") needs to be explained, if not downright rescued here.

If "liturgical" means simply a specific form or type of worship, as in "smells and bells," and if there is an understanding that the simple performance of the same brings about or effects a right relationship with God(sort of an "ex opere operato" mindest), I would propose that such is not only silly idealogy, but in truth repugnant to the saving work of Christ on Calvary.

If, however, "liturgical" means Christ-centered honesty and intentionality in worship, as I believe the Confessions promote (a la "those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth"), then I would agree that liturgical worship can, indeed, aid us in being the Body of Christ.

Regardless, I am never comfortable measuring the effectiveness or benefits of anything against those who promote "entertainment evangelism" or "mega church" mentalities. Sorry!

christl242 said...

Irenaeus, I would also submit that entertainment evangelism is foreign to the New Testament. With St. Paul I believe that worship in the church should be carried out in "good order", which is largely what led to liturgical forms of worship.

However, when we get so carried away about making sure we "do" it properly, when a form of high opera is considered the "best" form of worship I'd say we are dangerously close to turning our worship into a "work" to be pleasing to God.

The Confessions call us to uphold the norms of Word and Sacrament and that is what Lutherans should be doing.

Within that framework we have a great deal of freedom.

If the Word is permitted to do it's spiritually life-giving work, then the Sacrament of the Altar will do what it is designed to do, give us the comfort that our sins are forgiven and feed us with the very life of the Risen Lord. A preparation for eternity, so to speak.

As for "ex oper operato" the phrase means "from the work done" referring to the efficacy of the Sacraments deriving from the action of the Sacrament itself as opposed to the merits or holiness of the priest or minister. So if you find out that your pastor has been secretly robbing the First National Bank on the weekends the Holy Communion he administers is still valid.

Christine

Irenaeus said...

Thanks, Christine.

Yes, I do know that "ex opere operato" is a reference to the Sacrament of the Altar; however, I was using it (borrowing it?) to make the point that the performance or execution of the liturgy in and of itself, no matter how "regal or grand" it may be viewed or considered by other, does not produce faith. In fact, I would maintain that it is actually faith that produces a good liturgy (I realize here that "good" is open to interpretation but, as you note well, the Confessions do allow many freedoms in this area as long as the Word is preached and the Sacraments rightly administered).

christl242 said...

I was using it (borrowing it?) to make the point that the performance or execution of the liturgy in and of itself, no matter how "regal or grand" it may be viewed or considered by other, does not produce faith. In fact, I would maintain that it is actually faith that produces a good liturgy

Well said, Irenaeus!

Christine

Rev. Allen Bergstrazer said...

As I recall Willow Creek has gone through a similar re-evaluation of their ministry and came up with similar conclusions. Most notably they found that most members were Biblically illiterate, unfortunately their response was not to educate the flock but in so many words to tell them they were on their own. The Mega church trend is passing and like Malls during a recession are empty shells of what they once were. In their place has come the emergent movement, which intends to solve the impersonality of the mega church with a house church setting. Yet the emergents still do not deal with the rudimentary problem of the mega church (as Pastor Peters mentioned) that felt needs are normative rather than doctrine. Woe to the church which seeks a way other than confessing Christ to gain the world’s attention.

Irenaeus said...

"Woe to the church which seeks a way other than confessing Christ to gain the world’s attention."

Amen! to that, Rev. Bergstrazer. Again I say, amen!