Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JOTGES 18:35 (Autumn 2005) p. 107
By the Members of the Grace Evangelical Society
“Earthly Empires: How Evangelical Churches Are Borrowing from the Business Playbook,” William C. Symonds, Business Week (May 23, 2005): 78-88.
The United States has gone through a major cultural shift in the last decade. Stressed out and tired, the average American seeks to fill his life with that which is stress free and self-serving. They yearn for low prices, big clean buildings, and hassle free shopping. This has given rise to the superstore mindset, the Wal-Mart mentality. Americans demand one stop shopping and out of this demand has grown a vast supply of mega churches, which offer everything under one roof.
Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas is just one example of the way in which American evangelicalism has reinvented itself. These mega churches attract new members with everything from coffee shops that rival Starbucks, to professional worship teams that offer “innertainment,” and Sunday school wings that look like Disney World.
Symonds writes, “To make newcomers feel at home, some do away with standard religious symbolism—even basics like crosses and pews—and design churches to look more like modern entertainment halls than traditional places of worship” (p. 84). The way these churches look is not the problem, it is the mentality. Symonds explains, “Hybel’s consumer-driven approach is evident at Willow Creek, where he shunned stained glass, Bibles, or even a cross for the 7,200 seat, $72 million sanctuary he recently built. The reason? Market research suggested that such traditional symbols would scare away non-churchgoers” (p. 87). Replacing crosses with globes so that newcomers won’t be offended is symbolic of evangelicalism’s shift from being Christ-centered to man-centered. How can anyone follow Jesus in discipleship when He said “take up your cross” and the cross is nowhere to be found in church?
When we stop talking about Christ and sin, we become nothing more than a self-help group. Unfortunately, that is exactly what many of these churches have become. Symonds quotes a Willow Creek member as saying, “When I walk out of a service, I feel completely relieved of any
JOTGES 18:35 (Autumn 2005) p. 108
stress I walked in with” (p. 88). These churches lack accountability, responsibility, and truth. True growth never occurs apart from these things.
Many of these churches have become nothing more than pacifying entertainment for the masses and padding for the pocket books of their leaders. Symonds writes, “[Creflo] Dollar, too, defends materialistic success. Dubbed ‘Pass-the-Dollar’ by critics, he owns two Rolls Royces a...
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