HOW CHURCHES BECAME CRUISE SHIPS
SkyJethani.com, 6/19/14, “How Churches Became Cruise Ships” [Excerpts]: Why am I talking about the history of the shipping industry? Well, I think it’s a helpful parallel for what’s happening in the American church and other churches in general over the last forty years....Prior to the 1960s, most churches in America were small with a very utilitarian function; they [promoted] communion with God by providing the basic necessities for living a Christian life.
But by the 60s and 70s, the Baby Boomers grew up and many stopped going to church. The culture had changed; secular values, youth culture and entertainment had taken root and the church could no longer compete. Traditional churches, built for utility, struggled. But like some ship owners at the time, entrepreneurial pastors began tinkering to see if a new purpose for the church could be found.
What these “pastorpreneurs” found was that people would still attend church in a post-Christian culture if it appealed to their felt needs. Rather than viewing the church as simply a means to an end (connecting people with God), they made the church an end in itself. But by starting with consumer’s desires they were mirroring the shift in passenger shipping away from the liner voyages to cruising. They were making the church itself the destination rather than the vehicle....The goal was no longer connecting non-believers to God but rather connecting the “unchurched” to our ministry.
Coffee shops, bookstores, health clubs, recreation centers, even auto mechanics and production studios are now common “ministries” in many mega churches. Just as modern cruise ships have redefined the passenger shipping, today’s mega churches have redefined our understanding of ministry and, like the cruise industry, mega churches have flourished.
A pastor of a mega church testified about a convicting conversation he had with a newcomer to his congregation. The man, from a Hindu background, came to the large church...because he was curious about Jesus. “Everyone here has been very friendly to me,” he reported to the pastor, “and my family has been enjoying all of the programs and facilities of the church this past month. But I do have one question, “When am I going to learn about Jesus?” The church’s reason for having its mega-building and programs is to more effectively draw people to Christ, but the pastor wondered out loud whether they had gradually confused their methods and their mission. After all, the church could survive if people don’t meet Jesus but not if they don’t meet their budget.
Mega churches, like huge cruise ships, project an appearance of stability and security, but it is precisely these qualities that make them vulnerable to disaster. The Titanic was called “unsinkable” because of her unprecedented size, but it was her size that made her unable to turn quickly enough to avoid the iceberg. Similarly, many church commentators continue to affirm the growth and stability of mega churches without recognizing the inherent vulnerability of these ecclesiastical Titanics that are far less nimble than smaller churches.
Eventually we will learn that no matter how much money, effort or innovation the church possesses, it will never be as cool as the culture. Relevance is a race it cannot win, but in our misguided attempts to compete with the culture, we risk losing sight of the only thing of value the church can offer the world – Jesus Christ.
BOOKS THAT STAYED WITH YOU
ChristianHeadlines.com, 9/15/14, “Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings Top Bible in ‘Books That Stayed with You’ Facebook Challenge” [Excerpts]: A study of Facebook’s popular meme that invites users to share “10 books that have stayed with them” found that the Harry Potter series and Lord of the Rings series topped the lists more than the Bible.
In the study from two researchers, Lada Adamic and Pinkesh Patel, the study analyzed data pulled from more than 130,000 Facebook status updates. The study then pieced together a list of the top 100 books cited by Facebook users in the last two weeks of August.
In first place was the Harry Potter series and then Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird followed by the Lord of the Rings series. The Hobbit took fourth place and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice ranked fifth. The Bible was ranked sixth in the study. Many children’s books also made the top 100 list.
“Although these may not normally be considered great works of literature, they tend to stay with us through the decades,” the researchers said in a released statement with the study.
HISTORIANS EVISCERATE CLAIM JESUS WAS A MYTH
TheBlaze.com, 10/6/14, “Historians Eviscerate Writer’s Claim That Jesus Was a Mythical Figure Who Never Walked the Earth” [Excerpts]: Two prominent Bible scholars are hitting back at a writer’s claim that Jesus Christ was a mythical figure...
Michael Paulkovich claims he analyzed the works of 126 ancient writers who lived during the first to third centuries and found no mention of Jesus, claiming that Christians invented Christ in order to have a central figure to worship. But not everyone is buying into Paulkovich’s theory. Dr. Candida Moss, professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame and Dr. Joel Baden, a professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale University, argue...that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
“Let’s get one thing straight: There is nigh universal consensus among biblical scholars — the authentic ones, anyway — that Jesus was, in fact, a real guy,” Moss and Baden wrote. “They argue over the details, of course, as scholars are wont to do, but they’re pretty much all on the same page...”
The scholars note that some of the people on Paulkovich’s list of ancient sources actually preceded Jesus and, thus, wouldn’t have commented on the Christian savior. Additionally, they noted that some of these people were philosophers—individuals not known to comment on current events.
Many of the others were mathematicians, satirists, doctors or poets....“Long story short: of the 126 people listed by Paulkovich, there are only 10 or so whom we might expect to have written about Jesus,” they wrote. “And it’s probably worth mentioning that there are, of course, writers from the first centuries CE who refer to Jesus, and even write quite extensively about him. But since those authors all got bundled into a collection called the New Testament, we should probably just dismiss them from the discussion.”
[TBC: Tacitus (Roman historian, c. AD 56) wrote of Chrestus (or Christ) who lived in the first century (Annals 15.44). Jewish historian Josephus in his Antiquities writes of James, “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ.” We cannot discount the Bible’s hundreds of references to Jesus written less than 100 years after Jesus, which, by objective standards, must be considered as reliable evidence.]