Peripheral Christianity

The other day in class, I heard a long spiel about all the good the mega-church does. For the most part, I would have to agree with him. However, there’s also a part of mega-churches that disturb me. I think they create a Christianity that requires very little of its parishioners. It’s a Christianity that they can just tack on to their life, in addition to the life they currently have. No change is required. Well, that is, instead of an abundant life, it becomes a more abundant life. It becomes a Christianity that makes no demands on you except giving to the church and joining small groups. And coming to be entertained by the pastor and band every Sunday. There is good reason though that mega-churches attract so many people. Sociologically, Americans tend to always weigh risks and rewards, whether consciously or unconsciously. At a mega-church, the rewards are very high because a church that size naturally has an overabundance of resources to use for its parishioners. And also, building on this very fact, the cost of commitment (the risk) is very, very low. If they join this church and after a while, no longer enjoy it, they lost very little or nothing. This is in opposition to a small church where abundant resources are difficult to come by. Naturally then, the requirements and commitments of its members have to be higher. Therefore, in a situation like this, the risk begins to outweigh the rewards. But it is a Christianity that requires commitment and a Christianity not built upon market principles. It is a Christianity that requires something of everybody, sometimes with very little to offer in return. You see this more and more in emerging congregations without a full-time pastor, especially those that are highly involved in the community. This type of church needs very high commitment level from its members, not to accumulate greater resources, but for mere survival. There is a reason that these communities tend to remain smaller – the risks outweigh the rewards. It requires something of you and more than likely, all of you to be a part of this group. You are not allowed to just add-on this type of Christianity . . . you must change. It’s not the gospel tacked onto your life – the gospel becomes your life and thus, everything you do has to change to correspond to this new reality.

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