Saturday, July 30, 2005

Polarizing People 101

I've come to the conclusion that the easiest way to completely polarize people is to become the pastor of a mega-church. OK, so the "becoming a pastor of the mega-church" is admittedly difficult. But it appears that once you're there, you become a lightning rod of criticism. Not from the secular media or those on the outiside (though they do tend to look for faults), but mostly from the Christian community.

I suppose its the "if you're growing, you must be doing something wrong" mindset. I've heard more than a few make this arguement over the years. That these churches must be compromising truth in some way to explain such growth.

I'm not saying that there isn't some validity to those concerns. I sat and watched Mr. Osteen in the inaugural session for his church in the former Compaq Center in Houston, and still have concerns. He's a solid motivational speaker, says some awfully happy things, might reference scripture once in a sermon (only if it backs up his point...not the other way around...and only if its a 'happy' scripture...none of this suffering for the cause stuff), but I can't help but feel he's trying to persuade me to go for the sports car with the bucket seats and finance it through GMAC. After all, no time like right now for my best life, right?

I do know many who beat these guys up, and have made some observations...

  • often, its pastors themselves who are the ones being critical...and often, their churches aren't large or influential or noticed
  • usually, their basis of criticism is based on news reports or other Christian-slanted publications that help them decide what they think, not any personal experience
  • many of the Christian critics have never visited these churches, talked to a member, or read a book from the author/pastor in question

Suppose we should be a little less critical? If we do choose to speak up (it is America, we should hold each other accountable, etc.), think maybe doing our homework a little might be in order? Actually find out what Willow, Saddleback, Southeast Christian and Lakewood (easiest - they're on 3 of my 9 TV stations...) are all about first?

Here are a couple of fascinating articles if you have the time. The first one is rather lengthy. Rick Warren speaks to a bunch of journalists about myths regarding the mega church. A couple of others are on the panel, and then they field questions. It's long, but interesting. Here's a guy who's legitimately making some things happen. But he is extremely polarizing! Before you click to read the rest of the article, read a few of the "responses" at the end. People seem awfully mad at Rick (perhaps they're theory). Hey, if my book sales were such that I could pay the church back for all of the salary they've given me, and could work salary free, and could live off 10% of my book income and give 90% of it away, I would do it too (or would I?) Anyway, read this if you have time at Rick Warren on Myths of the Mega Church (and other things); they print a little of the article, and you have to hit a link to go to the rest. Interesting thoughts nonetheless.

The second article that floated through this week regarding the 50 Most Influential Churches. A much shorter read, but full of interesting stuff, and plenty of pastors who "polarize" pretty well. Enjoy; interested to know what you think!

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