The other night as I was watching the tube, I noticed that American Idol is about to start up again. I liken the "American Idol" phenomenon to the current fad for Big Box Churches. They are usually huge, physically. And glitzy, with showy bands, and shops and Starbucks as well.
Corporate boards not unlike department stores or oil companies run these churches. They employ flashy and articulate "help," whose main goal appears to be packing in the crowds, so the cash flow remains high, and so that "ministries" can be moved forward. Many of these are related to recruiting members and keeping up the cash flow. Of course, they do some good work. They run youth clubs and inner-city rescue missions and house-building crusades.
My complaint with these religious behemoths is that they have little, if anything to do with the Way of Jesus! He taught people the Way. The genius of the Way of Jesus was that it was simple, it was face-to-face, and it carried out what God desired, according to Jesus.
The Way they were to follow involved very little of what we call, "religion." They were to visit and heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, clothe the naked and feed the hungry. They were to gather in his name and share a simple, common meal. They were to study their Bible, which was the Hebrew Bible. They were to live out the Way he taught them. Nothing about what they should believe, or who they should condemn - nothing about who was right and who was wrong. There was room for vast diversity in his disciple group. And when 'religious folk' challenged his ways, he told them the story of the shepherd separating the sheep from the goats. Remember the story? (Matthew 25: 31-46). Those who follow the way, Jesus reminded them - those who feed the hungry, visit and heal the sick, clothe the naked, spend time with those imprisoned - are doing these things to God, not just to ordinary people!
No huge hall, no glitzy pastor, no Starbucks, no band, and very little of what we call "religion." They were to take Jesus' talk and "walk it."
Somehow, I think that razzle-dazzle religion is a lot like American Idol. People are dazzled by it. They get drawn in - maybe even conned - by it.
Most of us know, deep in our hearts, that real singing takes place in kitchens and in showers and bars, and in small congregations where people offer their best and it is accepted. I hope most of us know that real Christianity takes place in workplaces, hockey arenas, youth centres and Seniors' Homes - and in the struggling fellowships where people still care about talking Jesus talk and walking Jesus' walk.
Congregational News January 2008 Vol. 14 No. 3
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