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.”
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...
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!