With our US economy looking worse each day and the likelihood of another great depression on the horizon, I cannot help wondering how this will effect the church. How long will it be before many churches are in the red because of wasteful spending, over-regulation, and taxation by our federal, state, and local governments?
The question that keeps going through my mind is this: what will churches – like NewSpring Church – that spend millions per year to employ entertainment do when they can no longer support their way of doing services? These types of churches depend on entertainment as the tool to attract new members and to keep current members happy. Entertainment is not cheap. What will these types of churches do when they can no longer afford entertainment for the grand expensive services they are used to? Will the church leadership beat the money tree even harder? Will they expand preaching the 10% tithe lie (See: Why Tithing is wrong, We are not under the law of the OT tithe, and Does God require me to give a tithe of all I earn?) by claiming that tithing is like a “winner every play” Vegas slot machine because God always blesses the 90% you keep? Will we see them go full steam ahead with proclaiming the more that you give the better and bigger your blessings will be? What will the solution be? Before I go any farther with this topic, let’s take a look how entertainment became such an important part of church culture.
The core problem
Sometimes a church’s statements of faith are in total contrast to the church’s actual actions, so we must observe the church’s actions and how it uses its funds to advance the Christian faith. I really hate to be talking so much about money, but money is the root of this problem. These churches build foundations upon man-centered gospel designed to attract and entertain the unchurched. Instead of focusing on discipleship and teaching people how to spread the Gospel, these types of churches are focused on expanding their numbers, setting number goals concerning salvation and baptisms, and they focus their vision upon popular culture as an engine to draw people to their church. This obsession with numbers and culture gradually moves them away from sound doctrine to straddling the fence in order to expand membership. As this ideology progresses, the Bible regresses in its importance and final authority concerning church government and standards.
They must be entertained
In order to expand the church market and find ways to lure people to church, the idea that the church must be excellent has emerged over the decades. Excellence in everything the church does has taken the church to a place that God never intended it to go. This slogan of “Excellence in Everything” has turned the simple church that is described in the NT, to one that is very close to the one John saw in Revelation 3:14-22! When the leadership and pastor speaks about doing everything “excellent” for God, what they are really saying is they will be spending a ton of cash on luxury and entertainment vs. using the funds responsibly. Because of this belief, we have seen churches built upon worship and music (When does worship become sin?), nice expensive buildings, in-house coffee shops, and just about any other technological luxury item that we can imagine all in the name of “excellence for Jesus.” All this is used to create a church culture that rivals the world’s counterparts. Their belief is that if the world can have these types of luxuries, then why can’t we do better for Christ! What many of the churches have built is a culture that supersedes much of what the world has to offer. They successfully add the words “Jesus,” “God is moving,” and “worshiping God” to everything the church does while maintaining a mirror image of the world. These leaders have successfully built a new church standard based upon business models that are very successful. The question is can these types of churches continue to support their current expenses?
The shake down
When the money coming in that funds these excellent entertainment-driven ministries starts to dry up, we will start to see more emphasis on tithing and giving. Because of the financial burden created by this ideology, these snake oil salesmen will promise their congregations all kinds of blessings and supernatural financial help. More time will be devoted to personal confessions of giving “X” amount to the church and getting “X” plus “Y” as evidence of God’s blessings. The ultimate goal is to convince the congregation to give more so that the church can continue the same way it has for years. Some may even make token changes as a way to counter the congregation’s concerns for financial responsibility, but the goal is to keep things running the same. If this fails to generate the desired cash flow, then this will force some change. One thing for sure is that these pastors will do everything possible to bleed the people dry before they admit the church needs to change. I fear that change will start with their community outreach programs instead of cutting the real waste and church leadership’s salaries and benefits.
If entertainment is sacrificed, then controversy may arise
What will happen when these types of churches start losing money? What will these churches do when the tithe shake down fails? I fear that some of these pastors will become more bold with their sermons, isolating the traditional church as out of touch with real life. An easy and cheap way to employ entertainment is by doing controversial sermons that are deemed offensive by the traditional conservative church. This method can be very effective, but ultimately it forces the leadership down a path where they must always top the previous antics in order to avoid boring the people. When this starts to happen, the services will be nothing but a modern day soap opera performed in the name of Jesus.
The big crash and exodus
If the United States dips into another depression, I fear that many people who are currently captivated by all the glamorous and wasteful spending of churches like NewSpring Church will find themselves in for some disturbing changes. They will either watch the service start to downplay entertainment and/or they will witness their leader focus more and more on giving. Either way, they will be exposed to a change that will certainly be a culture shock. For years churches like NewSpring Church could spend money like it grew on trees because people could give. Now, because of our economic collapse, people no longer have the means to give the same way they gave years ago.
The effect of a bad economy has a silver lining
It’s not only the mega-churches that are wasting and abusing funds. I have no use for what I call the “stained glass crowd” who waste money to beautify the church while their communities/members are in need of financial assistance. Many churches in America have forgotten the simple outline that Jesus left us with about managing our churches. The hardest hit churches will be the ones who waste the most money on luxuries and excessive entertainment. Maybe, just maybe, this economic crisis will wake us all up to what is important concerning the House of God and how we as Christians should use what God blesses us with.
What I think will happen to some mega-churches
What I see is many of these types of purpose-driven seeker-sensitive churches using more outrageous tactics to generate cash and/or downsizing. I believe that some will shut down because their members are no longer able to be entertained. I’m not saying that all of them will go away. It would be nice if they actually started rethinking their direction and relying upon the preaching of the true Gospel to lead people to Christ rather than their man-centered antics and circus shows. The truth is that many people will leave these types of churches by the masses to seek entertainment. One thing for sure is when our economy rebounds so will these types of entertainment-driven churches. Where there is a dollar to be made, we can rest assured that these greedy glory seekers will construct another Seeker-Sensitive Purpose Driven Church for the Carnal Nature of Mankind.
So in conclusion, it’s best to adhere strictly to how the Bible instructs us on how to spread the Gospel and run the church. Churches must learn to live within our means without building huge church debts. In hard financial times, a church grounded in the Biblical ways to run a church will be far better off then a church in debt because it is not obsessed with luxury and entertainment.
My prayer is that the churches who are teaching the biblical Gospel will learn from the mistakes of greed that are seen in many mega-churches today. The only way to stop the purpose-driven seeker-sensitive cancer that has invaded many churches is to cut off the money supply. Maybe God is trying to tell us something with the pending depression that is facing the United States of America.
Contemporary Christian Music: Why do you want to look so much like the world?
The Problem with Megachurches
The Seeker-Sensitive Movement: The blunt truth
The blunt truth about the gospel and the false god of purpose
The twin whores of “Excellence and Relevance” are needy harlots!