The Church in the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Chapter 13 Left Behind in a Megachurch World by Ruth A. Tucker

180 – “A pastor staged a funeral for his church that drew crowds. He had a coffin, flowers, and wreaths. The pastor offered an eulogy and opened the casket for parishioners to view the “body”. Attached inside the coffin was a mirror. What the people saw was their own reflection…When the body is dead, there is nothing left. A funeral is warranted. But in many instances, the body is tired or just plain lazy…the truth that this little hoax reveals is that the church cannot survive without regular folks. More than warm bodies, a church that is truly alive is identified by disciples of Christ whose commitment is demonstrated by their love for each other and a needy world outside their doors.”

The Messiness of the Left-Behind Church

Chapter 11 Left Behind in a Megachurch World by Ruth A. Tucker

165 – “So how do we process the problem of sin, of messiness in the left-behind church, or in any church for that matter? Dutch missiologist Hendrik Kraemer argues that “the Church is always in a state of crisis and its greatest shortcoming is that it is only occasionally aware of it.” This condition he sees as part of the nature of the church, that “according to the testimony of history…[the church] has always needed apparent failure and suffering in order to become fully alive to its nature and mission.”

Left Behind with a Sense of Humor

Chapter 10 Left Behind in a Megachurch World by Ruth A. Tucker

144,145 – “But a church is first and foremost a story. Far more than it is a set of rules and regulations or even size or social standing, story is the essence of a church. The rules, to be sure, are necessary, as are the doctrinal and biblical foundations that give grounds for the church’s very existence. But they form the skeleton. The body is an ongoing narrative and life of people—flesh and blood and warts and all —and the people, for better or for worse, are what others see. Churches are bodies with personalities that are far more obvious to outsiders than the skeletal framework.  In assessing the personality, perspective, and appearance of a church, it is sometimes tempting to concentrate on superficial qualities. Church growth literature emphasizes friendliness, and along with friendliness comes a smiling, happy demeanor. Radiating a sense of excitement and enthusiasm is also high on the list, as is cultural sensitivity, particularly in worship style. If hymns are “outdated” it is a sure sign of being left behind.”

145 – “Sometimes the suggestions for improving appearance are as “design-oriented” as those of the realtor who is listing my house. For a house to sell quickly, he insists, bathrooms and kitchens make or break the deal. For the church the requisites are similar. Indeed, churches are taking cues from upscale homes and fine restaurants and are turning toilets into ladies’ powder rooms with exquisite décor. The appearance of the nursery and the children’s worship space is also high on the list, at least for young families. This formula is substantiated by statistics. An increase in attendance is the proof of success.”

145 – “Should the left-behind church be focused on superficial cosmetic changes? If not, what kind of personality and appearance should distinguish the church? What about authenticity?”

145 – “Phony happiness is easily detected and quickly rejected. Humor is not happiness. Indeed, it is often a means of coping with the troubles and sorrows of this world.”

147 – Very funny story on “Shingles for the Lord”—a must read 

CrUsHeD into wOrShIp

Psalm 38

The Psalmist introduces the reader to the threat of God’s burning anger and weight of His impressionable hand. The agony in the author’s bones stems from being enveloped by sin. The psalmist, David, elaborates on the effects of ungodliness in his life.

  1. Sin is like a disease that attacks the bones
  2. Sin is like toting around weights that limit your mobility and speed
  3. Sin is like the foul smell of a rotten wound that has not been treated

Sin’s pain penetrates deep into David’s life, “I groan because of the agitation of my heart.” The psalmist wails in pain from the misery of sin and the situations of life. However, he does enter before the throne of God to sigh and moan. While withering in the anxiety of sin outside attackers jeer and scream as they observe God’s instruction and renovation in David’s life. The public spectacle leaves David crying for the Lord to be his salvation and deliver him from those who hate him.

God is unwilling to apathetically overlook his/her servant when he/she commits sin.
God is willing to teach his/her servant the miserable effects of sin.
God is willing to let his/her servant be publicly humiliated because of sin.
God desires that his/her servant would learn from sin not simply disregard it.
God does provide salvation from sin.

Left Behind in Community

Chapter 9 Left Behind in a Megachurch World by Ruth A. Tucker

128 – In the megachurch, separate youth worship is often taken for granted. But there are some who would strongly question the long-term spiritual benefits. “It is a sad fact of life that often the stronger the youth program in the church, and the more deeply the young people of the church identify with it,”writes Ben Patterson, “the weaker the chances are that those same young people will remain in the church when they grow too old for the youth program. Why? Because the youth program has become a substitute for participation in the church…When the kids outgrow the youth program, they also outgrow what they have known of the church.”

130 – Kovacs says, “A great church is not characterized by the numbers on its membership rolls, the size of its budget, the beauty of its sanctuary, or even the effectiveness of its preaching. A small, struggling, country church might be greater than the rich, megachurch in the suburbs.”

131 – Tucker discusses how Eugene Patterson, retired, attends a small close knit church. He says after using a tremendous example, “I think there’s a lot more going on in churches like this; they’re just totally anti-cultural. They’re full of joy and faithfulness and obedience and care. But you sure wouldn’t know it by reading the literature of church growth, would you?”

132 – Left behind does not mean hopelessly mired in the past. It does not mean a no-growth graph. It does not mean stiff formality or fundamentalist separation. But it does mean holding on to traditions, hymns, liturgy, and intergenerational togetherness.

133 – Tim Stafford in speaking of “seeker sensitive” churches, “I admire the evangelistic spirit behind this. It has attracted many people into a church building who would probably not otherwise attend. But I think it has exaggerated a sense that the church must adapt to the general public, not the other way around.”

134 – An important issue for any church to wrestle with as a community is whether the church is one that emphasizes contextualization with the culture around it or whether it sees itself as being countercultural. Contextualization is reaching out to the postmodern generation(s) in culturally relevant ways. One of the hallmarks of church growth is the church’s ability to make someone on the outside feel comfortable on the inside. And that is surely not bad. In fact, contextualization has been the buzzword for cross-cultural missions for decades…but at the same time the early church was very countercultural in standing apart from the worldliness around it. And it is on this side of the equation that the left-behind church is often better equipped to radiate the good news that stands in stark contrast with the bad news of the world around it. But the good news should not be misconstrued with the good feelings that are easily manufactured in a North American contextualization church. Our culture is one characterized by materialism and the cult of therapy, self-absorption, and political correctness. This was not the way of Jesus. Jesus was countercultural even as he so seamlessly contextualized the gospel. His listeners understood…, to follow Jesus was to step out of the crowd and be different. Jesus continually spoke of the uniqueness of the kingdom of God as opposed to the world at large. But on the surface at least, it was not the good life. Yes, there was life more abundant and for the weary there was rest, but there was also the cross to bear, one the world knows nothing of.

136 – Church growth requires a spirit of optimism and elation—certainly not one of sadness. “At Saddleback, we believe worship is to be a celebration,” writes Rick Warren, “so we use a style that is upbeat, bright, and joyful. We rarely sing a song in a minor key.”

Left Behind with a Woman’s Touch

Chapter 8 Left Behind in a Megachurch World by Ruth A. Tucker

113 – “I once attended a church service in a small Midwestern town,” writes Anne Wilson Schaef. “Afterward, I told the minister how pleased I had been with the prayer and sermon meditation. He nodded and immediately launched into a discussion of church attendance and how few people were there on communion Sundays during summer. I had commented on the quality and content of the service—and he had responded with numbers.”


Mr. James “Jim” Kay Scott 

One of the sweetest men that I have ever known in my short lifetime passed away Sunday, January 20th. Yesterday, January 23rd, we took time to celebrate his life. Mr. Scott radically impacted me as a young boy at church. Mr. Scott’s impact on me came through exceptional patience while teaching me as an obnoxious youth. I was consumed with self while he was consumed with others (me). I am totally amazed at his love and patience towards me; although I completely ignored  many of his lessons and  intentionally interrupted class.  Mr. Scott had a vision for all the young men who passed through the door of his class. These young men would be future Christian leaders, husbands, fathers, grandfathers, corporate leaders, church leaders, missionaries, teachers, etc. Mr. Scott’s patience must have stemmed from his love for the Lord and a long term vision for each of these young men.  The results of his dedication and love to our Lord resulted in watching young man after young man succeed in life. It was obvious from his funeral that he touched people from every different age bracket.  I can never be more grateful to my parents for getting me close to a man like Mr. Scott who was deeply in love with Jesus.

 Some stories that I remember….

  • I remember every Sunday Mr. Scott had clipped an article from the newspaper to apply in our Sunday School class through the lense of the Bible. He was always abreast of hot issues in our society and taught us how to handle them.
  • I remember Mr. Scott sharing with me how he was hit by a car in downtown Winston Salem while delivering letters for a company on a bicycle.
  • I remember Mr. Scott telling me about slamming on his brakes to let a tailgater run into his car.
  • I remember Mr. Scott telling me about doing push-ups and sit-ups every day of his life.
  • I remember Mr. Scott telling me about being on the USS Valley Forge as a Navy sailor. He mentioned riding waves that made the aircraft carrier fill tiny. Mr. Scott said they went through some storms where every sailor was vomiting.
  • I remember Mr. Scott’s great posture all the way to the end.
  • I remember Mr. Scott helping many people work on their lawn mowers.
  • I remember Mr. Scott collecting golf balls.
  • I remember Mr. Scott always offering me two nickels for a quarter :). The first time I took the offer, which meant I was not the best economist to go through his class ;). He definitely had a sense of humor.
  • I remember Mr. Scott visiting people on a weekly basis.
  • I remember Mr. Scott’s love for his in-laws (Stanley’s).
  • I remember Mr. Scott being compassionate and loving to his wife.
  • I remember Mr. Scott’s smile.
  • I remember Mr. Scott’s laugh.
  • I remember Mr. Scott’s voice.
  • I remember Mr. Scott dropping his offering envelope in our Sunday School Class so every young man could see that he was giving to the Lord.
  • I remember as a young boy accidentally seeing how much money Mr. Scott gave to the church weekly. I thought wow he must really love this church. At the time, I did not realize that he was just setting an example for us to follow as we grew. It was not the amount, but the heart Mr. Scott wanted us to see.
  • I remember Mr. Scott in prayer talking to the Lord like the Lord was sitting right there in the room. It was obvious, by the way he spoke to the Lord, that he had done it a lot.

I hope to never forget the impact of one man’s life. EM Bounds always made it a point to remind people that God was not looking for great programs, rather He was looking for great men. God found a great man and used this great man, Mr. Jim Scott. If I am able to model just a part of Mr. Scott’s life it change those I am around for the glory of God!

 Perhaps you are reading and you know Mr. Scott. If so ,and you recall a memory, will you be so kind to share in the comments section. I plan on returning and updating this post as more memories return to my mind.

Literature, Seminars, and Theory of Church Growth

Chapter 7 Left Behind in a Megachurch World by Ruth A. Tucker

100 – “The Father of Church Growth—the ideas and tactics behind the movement churned in the head of a missionary and theoretician, not a church pastor. Donald A. McGavran is the uncontested father of Church Growth, but the movement quickly attracted followers-and self-described leaders. The movement displayed a strong current of pragmatism founded in the discipline of sociology—concepts that ‘sound as if they were invented by a frustrated sociologist whose idea of a wild and crazy Saturday night is rearranging his sock drawer,’ writes Tom Raabe. Their books, he continues, flaunt ‘mundane titles like Understanding Church Growth, How to Grow a Church, I Believe in Church Growth, and Strategies for Church Growth.’ And their doctrines? Even the specialist is easily confused; ‘The homogeneous unit principle; the Resistance-Receptivity Axis, composite church membership; multi-individual, inter-dependent decision; E-2, 3-P evangelism; etc.’ …According to Raabe, from his mission post in India McGavran ‘sent forth a phalanx of researchers marching behind the banner of the Great (Growth) Commission: ‘Go ye therefore and study growing churches and find out what works.’ If there is one common element of church growth in all its varieties, it is pragmatism. The underlying rationale is that it is our responsibility to bring as many people to Christ as possible. A world is dying without the gospel, and if we don’t reach them who will?…Pragmatism rules the day…The end-times justifies the means….”

101 – “What McGavran did as a theoretician in the foundational stages of the movement, George Barna did as a statistician as the movement developed.”

101,102 – Barna concludes: “Without being unreasonably optimistic about the chances of a once-healthy church being turned around after a severe decline, our research demonstrates that there is relatively little reason for such optimism…In many cases, trying to revitalize a declining church is probably a wasted effort.”

102 – “It would be unfair to argue that the church growth industry and its subsidiaries have nothing to offer those who are concerned about the condition of contemporary Christianity. But it is irresponsible for a pastor or a congregation to simply accept the basic premises without challenge. Much of the church growth industry has followed cultural patterns—those related to consumerism and marketing on the one hand and to self-help and therapy on the other. “The produce/consumer market model turns possible vice into virtue.” Writes David Kelsey, “by generating its own growing and lucrative market for experts and consultants who analyze religious customers’ felt needs and help churches package their products in effective ways.” He names George Barna as the leader of these marketers, citing his book Marketing the Church, where Barna argues that “the major problem plaguing the church is its failure to embrace a marketing orientation in what has become a market-driven envionrment.” 

103 – “That a minister would couch motives in will-of-God terminology should not automatically sanctify the circumstances.

104 – “Loving a congregation is not necessarily as easy as it sounds. Many pastors simply do not love their people, particularly when they are out with the boys –their fellow ministers—and each one is telling war stories to top the other.”

108 – Mark 10:42,43

Megachurch Mania

Chapter 6 Left Behind In A Megachurch World by Ruth A. Tucker

88 – “Like any large corporation, a megachurch is involved in marketing. Marketing involves selling a product to more and more people so that the company can grow larger. Whatever a large company does to grow and bring in more revenue, so does the megachurch. There is advertising, trend analysis, product assessment, and headhunters in charge of securing top-notch managers—all in effort to sell products or services. Ministers who once lamented the difficulties of managing an all-volunteer organization no longer face that situation in a megachurch. Here there is a large, paid staff that more closely resembles a large, nonprofit organization than a church. Elder and deacons no longer serve in volunteer capacities to conduct church business and minister to the disadvantaged. Instead, a board of directors oversees the paid professionals who work as employees.”

  89 –” ‘Church marketers assume that marketing is a neutral process or technique that leaves the substance of the faith untouched.’ These are the words of Philip Kenneson and James Street in their book, Selling Out The Church: The Dangers of Church Marketing…We are always looking for the latest church growth methods, concepts, or fads—very often without any thought of how the very methods affect the gospel. ‘Said another way,’ the authors continue, ‘church marketers believe that marketing affects only the form in which the faith is presented, not the content of the faith itself. This assumption about the neutrality of marketing takes the church marketers off the theological hook.”

89 – Tucker sold encyclopedias one summer and was the top salesman. When she returned home her pastor asked her to teach the other members selling techniques. “I taught the group all the little techniques of how to get a foot in the door, how to get someone to say yes when they really wanted to say no, and how to push a decision before someone was ready. The gospel was not really the gospel as we went door-to-door selling it. Form has a strange ability to change content more than we could ever imagine. So it is with church growth techniques.

90 – “‘Marketing is a value-laden enterprise rooted in specific sets of convictions,’ writes Kenneson and Street. ‘Having management techniques at one’s disposal encourages one to see all people as objects to be managed and controlled, just as having marketing techniques at the center of the picture encourages one to view the entire world as a series of manageable exchanges.”

90 – “Yet the concept of marketing the church is widely touted by George Barna and other church growth experts. Indeed, Barna laments that the vast majority of churches in America do ‘not have a marketing perspective.’”

93 – “Although megachurches appear too easily buy into all that is cutting edge in contemporary culture, their theological tastes are decidedly conservative—evangelical and fundamentalist. According to Rob Marus, Southern Baptists are particularly tuned into the megachurch mentality because they, perhaps more than any other denomination, measure success in terms of numbers of baptisms or converts. ‘The more conservative and evangelical the church, the more important growth is,’ he urges. ‘It becomes almost a jockeying contest to see how many you can attract, how many you can convert, and how many you can baptize.’ It is no accident that every one of the presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention in the past two decades has been a senior pastor of a megachurch.”

95 – “‘Not…every church is called to be a large congregation.’ Those are the shocking words of Gene Appel and Alan Nelson, in their book, How to Change Your Church without Killing It. ‘Through history,’ they write, ‘people have taken a new thing God was doing and elevated it to an unhealthy level, so much so that their affections became attached to the method instead of to God.’

97 – “Form does matter. The competitive corporation core structure of the church affects the content. Marketing is not a neutral formula that leaves substance untouched. Perhaps some would argue that substance, for whatever reason, needs to be changed. And surely the case for the megachurch has been ably made by its many defenders. But that these defenders would claim that form does not affect substance amounts to a superficial analysis at best. And that the megachurch form would find its rationale largely based on the failure of the typical left-behind church is an argument that does not fly. All Christians are admonished by the words of Jesus that the last shall be first and by the words of Paul that by weakness we are made strong. Form that flies in the face of bedrock Christian principles must be challenged.”

Burnout in the Parsonage and Parish

Chapter 5 Left Behind In A Megachurch World by Ruth A. Tucker

83 – Look for Vincent van Gogh’s painting Still Life with Open Bible, Candlestick, and Novel, which he did to move beyond his failure in ministry. The symbolism was striking. The Bible lay open, but the flame on the candle alongside had gone out. Vincent van Gogh killed himself at age 37 in a small village outside of Paris.  

84 – Pastoral failure in Safenwil – This young pastor who failed in this small town was none other than Karl Barth who later succeeded.