A year or so ago, a new church opened in our area. I’m guessing that that church is experiencing “success”. Only…only after receiving a phone call inviting our congregation to some event this church was sponsoring, I decided to look up the church online. Incidentally–not looking for this, but finding it nonetheless–I found out some information about the still-young pastor of this church. He’d left one church after significant financial misdeeds on his part were uncovered. Then, he managed to gain the pastorate of a large-sized church in another state, a “First Baptist”–but it was fairly quickly found out that he had not been honest about some past events, including fabricating significant parts of his resume, and he abruptly resigned from that pastorate.
I declined the invitation to take part in his new church’s event.
I just checked the church’s fancy website, and discovered that in a year’s time, the church had grown from 40 folks to over 500, now in two services; yep, they’re experiencing “success”. An article from the church’s website offers answers:
What has been the secret to this explosive growth? Obviously it has been a “God factor” but a culmination of the various things that are part of the “(Name of the church went here) experience” has also helped.
A warm friendly environment is part of the experience. Visitors are greeted as they walk through the doors and assistance is offered in finding a seat, getting children to their designated areas, etc…There are “bottomless pots” of hot chocolate and coffee upon arrival in the foyer. Dress is “whatever you like.” Attendees are encouraged to wear whatever they are comfortable in which may be a suit but also may be jeans.
As the service begins, it is evident that this is not the church of yesterday. The stage is set up with props that are connected to the current sermon series. It is not unusual to see a motorcycle on the stage or a BMW convertible parked inside the auditorium.
And here is Red Oak, the church I pastor, with a little more than 40 people like the BMW church started with a year ago, but not experiencing “growth” or “success” in a way that will land my mug on the cover of a magazine or score me an invite to one of these conferences as guest speaker anytime soon. I preach the Bible in an expository fashion. I try to care for people, to not only minister the Word to them and live an example in front of them, but to also encourage them, be real with them, and be their friend. When necessary, I challenge them…though probably not as often as I ought. I pray for them. I try to always act with integrity.
That said, I have my weaknesses, some of which are obvious to everybody, and some of which I guess I keep out of view, as we all do. But I’m a regular guy trying to follow Jesus with integrity, preach His Word, love His people, and build His kingdom. And in some past churches, that’s been rewarded by God with growth and vitality and influence; here at Red Oak, at least thus far, though there have been some wonderful victories and though I pastor some tremendous folks whom I love (and who love me, more astonishingly), those things aren’t happening. Maybe it’s that I haven’t stuck a BMW in the lobby yet or bought enough props…
Does that sound like I’m upset with God? I’m not…seriously. I’m not bitter or discouraged (well, I’m not discouraged most of the time); if I’m anything, I guess it’s that I’m a little cynical about BMW churches. But I had a blast teaching folks at Red Oak the Walk Thru the Old Testament Seminar yesterday, and they loved it, and gained from it, if their testimonies are any indication. And it may well be that the future at Red Oak holds some of that growth that seems to be all the rage in evangelical circles these days, allowing the BMW church to boast of its numbers even though its pastor is a confirmed liar and swindler. So be it; either way, blessed be the name of the Lord.
But I said all of that–stuff I hadn’t planned to say–to set up this short piece by a guy I’m really coming to appreciate and admire, named Jared Wilson. I’m not upset with God, bitter, or angry, precisely because of the truth of what Jared writes:
Go read it for yourself. And while you’re at it, read this one from Jared as well, on the legalism of the hip.