I’m reading Craig Groeschel’s It: How churches and leaders can get it and keep it, another of my library acquisitions from last week. I really don’t know what to make of it. I keep thinking that I hate it and then I think I’m over-reacting. It is not, after all, hugely different from any other church leadership book on the popular market. What it says is not heretical or even that controversial.
So why am I struggling with it so much?
Well, quite apart from the fact that Groeschel manages to write an entire book about it without defining it(!), I think my struggle is because of the book’s underlying assumption that the church needs to be effective in its communication and powerful in its marketing, alongside a conviction that bigger is better because it allows more people to be reached.
Now I suppose I can’t argue with that in principle but…I don’t know. I’m sure that the church has to be more than that.
Surely life change comes out of a gospel enfleshed in community; to have the gospel beamed out of HD video walls which are fifty feet by twenty-five feet in size may hit more people with truth than I might otherwise hope but will it prove transformative in the end? Or do we end up with the scenario which Willow Creek was brave enough to admit to in their Reveal survey – lots of undisciples?
And this is why I am struggling with Groeschel’s book. Perhaps all the more so as I read Fitch’s The Great Giveaway alongside it.
I’m not sure we’ve been measuring effectiveness by the right criteria. I’m not sure it’s enough to broadcast the gospel on a large-scale without also walking that through in the context of relationship. You might get plenty of converts, caught up in the emotionalism engendered by world-class music and outstandingly powerful communicators, when you do church big. But I just don’t think life change occurs apart from in community. And I’m not sure how you ensure this in a megachurch when the scale alone, alongside the use of technology which essentially moves away from incarnation, has a tendency to militate against incarnational community.
I’m not saying you can’t ensure life transformation occurs and I’m not saying that Groeschel and Life Church.tv haven’t achieved it. In fact, I categorically do not want you to read this post as a judgment of him, his church or churches like it.
I’m just saying that incarnational community which is transformative in its very nature never seems to make it into these megachurch leadership books. (Unless you count the de rigeur account of the chest-bumping camaraderie of the megachurch staff team – which might be fulfilling for them but tells me nothing about the nature of community amongst those whom the church doesn’t pay to be a team.)
And that disturbs me.
As do the countless references to weekend services as ‘worship experiences’. But maybe that last bit is just me?!
So what do you think? Is this the rant of a small-time pastor who is jealous of the money, creative talent, technology and sheer numbers of the megachurch or do you think that, even if I am jealous of (some of!) the above, I might have a point?