Megachurching

I admit not being a regular attendee of Christian services. I was raised Catholic, and the disillusionment of discovering—on my own—the depth of commitment to false doctrine in that faith caused me to move on.

Truth is what I craved. Bits and pieces of it surround us, pointing to the state of actuality our God wishes to display in His progressive revelation. To see it, one needs to look, so I did. I was, at the time, studying martial arts, and Eastern philosophy often is dominant there. Buddhism struck me as more of a philosophy, and the Zen flavor as practiced in Japan seemed an unworkable perspective of denial.

The image of Christ heading the sanctuary in every Catholic parish stuck with me, sanitized as the portrayal of the Crucifixion might be. From childhood I grasped its significance, and in my wandering my exposure to that basic truth—that the events relayed in the New Testament happened, and that the implications thereof are profound—never did entirely let me go.

Precept by precept I defined what I believed, tested those interrelationally, and remain satisfied the mission of Christ was actual, necessary, and personally needed. Step by step, my faith became R.E.A.L. I Realized my need, Explored for truth, Accepted God’s gift of forgiveness and now Live what I believe. Salvation is a simple message, really; it is so simple, a child can understand it. Its basics are all we need. What accumulates after is doctrine:  the good, bad, and cumbersome.

Because we need salvation, some, driven by fear or guilt, are desperate to have the assurance of it. Fear and faith are incompatible emotions. Of the two, opportunists leverage fear in exploitation.

I attend services to assuage the Editress or humor friends as politeness requires, and on this last occasion encountered just such a pastor, who I will not name here. I will not attending there again, as my exposure to the man leaves me with a vision of him at home, masturbating to a photo of a popular mega-church icon.

One must belong to a church to live as a Christian, you see. One must undergo baptism to belong to a church. One must tithe in support of one’s pastor. One must help the church grow so the cycle may repeat. The message with this organization is consistent, and tiring, when faith would like to hear less of obligation and more of divine love, saving grace, and the sufficiency of Christ.

While there is a Cross in each of the two locations of this growing organization I have attended, I find it significant that it displays off to the side of the sanctuary, almost as an afterthought. The messaging area is what holds prominence.

When someone tells you who he is, you should listen. Discernment, that gift of the Spirit, allows a faithful person to see others from the inside out. Followers need leaders, I guess. It is a pity that sometimes one encounters ambition in the search for edification.

As for belonging to a church, congratulations:  you have belonged to one since you accepted Christ as your savior and received Him into your heart. No one else did that. He did that, Paul tells us, so that no one should boast.

Paul also made a point that he had baptized no one but two disciples of his own and another household. The testimony of ceremonial water baptism is a beautiful thing. You should undertake it, if at all, on that basis rather than under coercion or sense of obligation.

Likewise, giving is evidence of how you live. There is no biblical obligation to allocate a given percentage to any organization, particularly when your own books have not balanced first. Your greatest contribution can be the satisfaction that you are a burden or debtor to no one. Following that happy circumstance, give as much as you wish.

Testify to what Christ has done for your soul out of the vital choice to love. Your faith will leave you no choice but to see the desperate need for clarity in the world surrounding you. God’s enemy is using pain, fear, and desperation to propagate disorder and hopelessness, in which the plans he influences will prosper for a time of trouble.

These days are necessary in God’s plan, as were every bad period for Israel, her diasporas, even the Holocaust. The world needs Christianity’s message as much here at the end of the Age of the Church as it did in the first century, and for the same reasons. Our need to find Him, the nature of truth, forgiveness, and the benefits of faith have changed not at all.

My character Jon Anthony spoke of his personal method of understanding being reduction to essence, where matters of faith become simpler when better understood. Such a mindset might not lend itself to achievement or ambition, but there is the peace of valid faith and a worthwhile way of life waiting for those who embrace it. It is my hope you will. If Jon’s, Sean’s, or Boone’s stories can help you, so much the better.

Choose to love, -DA

*****

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In production news, Novel8/Sean3, King of a Lesser Hill, is approaching the ninety-percent mark in Main Edit and remains on schedule for a late September release. Next month’s post here, God willing, will present how writing the novel personally affected me, and how this story, set in 1995, remains relevant today.

 

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12 responses to “Megachurching

  1. I tell people I’m a ‘recovering Catholic…’ I hear your frustration. We must each find our own path to The Dude Upstairs.

    • Certainly everything one needs to find salvation is there in Catholic teaching. Plenty else is better ignored, however, including the notion that error becomes valid as truth once it becomes tradition.

  2. Me write pretty one day. Excellent as always. You capture the truth and read it back to us in ways we can understand.

  3. A wonderful testimony Dale. I think most Believers have a journey to tell. I belong to CCV…. The definition of the big church you described. It’s all about the numbers, how many come, how many get baptized (and you’re right, you must be baptized by immersion to belong. I always thought baptism is a public expression of faith. I can find nothing that says you may be baptized to belong to a church. Then there are three 2-3 week sermons of you must give 10% and more. I stopped going. Christianity, my personal journey to freedom and eternal life. Miss seeing you on FB!

    • I’m sure some are stocked with wonderful people, and nothing insulates a small congregation from the vagaries of human nature. One must constantly think about one is hearing from any source to stay free. Thanks for popping in, Karen!

  4. Beautifully written. I have not been in a church for over 30 years. Except for an occasional wedding or funeral. I did attend Christian school through eighth grade. I consider myself a believer and a Christian who needs no fancy edifice or shrieking pastor to practice my religion.

    • I hear you. Sometimes extroverts want to impose their ideal for socialization on the rest of the world. Being in the world as a Christian, the light and salt of the place, is our purpose. When we can gather together to worship, it’s a beautiful thing as well. I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

  5. Great article – and I agree 100% with what you’ve said. My experience with churches – seventeen years/three churches – has been very disappointing.

    It will be eight years in October since a red light runner put me in physical, occupational, and vision therapy for nine months (after about that same amount of time of tests and seeing one specialist after another). A few months before that, the church we’d been attending for at least seven years decided it didn’t matter that my son was autistic, he’d aged out of the Sunday School class he felt most comfortable in – and he was going to move to the next level, whether we liked it or not. Two people did call, once each, to check on me after the accident though. The pastor couldn’t be bothered though.

    Clearly, if you’re not going and giving regularly, you can be quickly forgotten. Yes, there’s still a little bitterness going on. I’m working on it. But when you think you’re part of a ‘family’ and you find out you’re really not, it’s a little … hurtful.

    From all the time I’ve invested in going to those three churches, I have two close friends – not from the last church – and a few … hmm. Not quite friends but more than acquaintances. Not much to show for almost two decades, is it?

    Now I find my spiritual needs met online – with Bible Gateway and Google open to check anything I question. If it’s garbage, I move on. Spotify is also great for music. And you know what? It works for me.

    I don’t see me ever being a member of another church – unless God tells me very specifically to go. I don’t have to agree to not drink, smoke, play cards, go to movies, dance, attend insanely boring afternoon classes (between morning and evening services on Sundays), or any other man-made rule in order to be approved for membership or to help in a class or the nursery.

    Again, it works for me. 🙂

  6. Entitlement is an ugly attitude wherever it’s encountered. Sorry to hear of your experience, dear Kristy. 😦

  7. Hello. It’s been a long time since I too have attended a church service, for most of the same reasons as you cite. In my personal Search for Truth, I’ve also encountered the same sorts of personalities – and frustrations – in more than one denomination. My mind was thrilled and my heart gladdened to read your words here, finding both the comfort of commiseration and the satisfaction of vindication. Thank you so very much for sharing. It was the best “sermon” I’ve heard in a long time. Sincerely, Kimberley Kashuba Mikimber4444@gmail.com

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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