“I am convinced that one of the reasons so many people are turned off to the church (including pastors!) is that it all seems to explainable. How many pastors signed up to lead a revolution but are now caught in managing a spiritual business (complete with budgets, payroll, vision statements, and organizational charts)?
So many churches seem to be growing because of the excellence, efficiency, and relevancy of their programming. Of course, none of this (by itself) changes anybody; only God can do that. But we certainly act as if our programs could.
We all feel as if we have to offer a church much like the Wal-Mart Supercenter down the street. People want a vast array of inexpensive products, convenient times and locations, and smooth checkout, so we structure our churches the same way.
The problem with this, obviously, is that nothing in Wal-Mart transcends the ordinary. The same is true for most of our churches. We have little to no awareness or expectation of the presence of God directly speaking and ministering to His people. The entire ministry is mediated by well-dressed and polite people with name tags and the professionals on stage. The way the room is arranged, the worship music timed down to the second, the sermon with three points and two illustrations, the closing hymn — all these can point to human beings doing their best to be substitutes for God’s work in the lives of His people. No wonder clergy are blowing out in massive numbers. We’ve changed what church is and what pastors do — so much so that very few are able to keep this up for long.
Our definitions of success are too often aimed at bigger, better, and more, and we work ourselves into exhaustion as mini-messiahs who are poor substitute for the real thing. We may get glimpses of God’s transforming or healing power, but those are the exception rather than the rule. The ‘church as vendor of religious goods and services’ mind-set is antithetical to the Bible’s insistence that the church is the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:19-22), the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16), and the household of God (1 Timothy 3:15). This mentality is harmful not only to the church’s members but also to other churches as they compete with one another to deliver the best experience.
All of this adds up to the increasing irrelevance and isolation of the American evangelical church. Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger comment, ‘The end result of this increasing isolation is that a spiritual culture now surrounds a secular church.’”
– Mike Erre in Death by Church