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.”