I’ve thought about publishing this post for several months. However, I have not hit the publish button until today. I have several reasons for my hesitancy. One, I don’t want to write a post that suggests I have all the answers to how autonomous congregations “do church.” Two, I don’t want to write a post that looks down on other pastors in a condescending way. Three, I don’t want to write a post that is belligerent or that is intentionally provocative. Four, I don’t want to write a post that singles out one specific church as an example of what not to do.
For all these reasons, I’ve not published this post until today … but today’s the day. In what follows, I want to share 4 church trends that make me uncomfortable.
Admittedly. my usage of the word “trend” is highly subjective. I have no statistical support to prove these 4 practices are in fact “trends” among churches today. My list is based purely on my limited experience and limited observation. Additionally, in titling this post I intentionally chose the word “uncomfortable.” In my mind, these 4 trends are not practices that automatically make a church a “bad” church. However, these are trends I don’t quite understand. They’re trends I would not want to uncritically embrace at Immanuel. And if I were searching for a church for my family, these practices would probably prevent me from joining a particular church.
Enough disclaimers and explanations. Here are 4 church trends that make me uncomfortable:
- Multi-campus churches with video preaching. I understand a pastor wanting to reach more people, and I agree that technology is a tool we ought to use for gospel advance. However, I’m not sure you can separate the message from the medium. I’m not sure it’s a good thing that so much of our lives already revolve around screens. I’m not sure it’s wise to completely separate the rolls of preacher and pastor (as is also done at many large single campus churches). I’m not sure you can escape the mentality of “celebrity pastor” when one man needs to be broadcast in multiple locations. I’m not sure this approach is going to be good for the long term health of a church (who will replace these uniquely gifted communicators?).
- Ear plugs provided because the music is too loud. I should start with a confession. Last week a woman visited our church for the first time. She called the church office Monday morning to inform us that she would not be returning to our church because the music was too loud. I admit, the Sunday she visited we had a sound board issue that resulted in some loud moments. I also realize that volume level is a relative issue. What’s too loud for some is just right for others, and what’s just right for some is too loud for others. Nevertheless, I don’t see how the necessity of ear plugs invites people across generations to participate in corporate worship. I don’t see how you avoid a performance approach to church music when many of the people in the room need protection for their ears.
- Sermon series based on popular movies and TV shows. If any “trend” on my list were a deal-breaker, it might be this one. Because I believe in the necessity of expository preaching, I just can’t embrace the trend of using popular movies and TV shows as the starting point for a sermon. I regularly use movies and TV shows as sermon illustrations, but this is entirely different than using a movie or a TV show as the basis for a sermon or a series. I understand the appeal of popular culture and the desire to be relevant. However, I don’t understand why preachers need to use movies and TV shows as the basis for a talk when we have 66 inspired books that most of our people need to understand and live out in a deeper way.
- Multi-campus churches in different regions. I’m not opposed to churches having multiple campuses. Honestly, I don’t see the difference in a church having multiple campuses and a church having multiple services, especially when those services meet in different venues on the same campus. However, I’m not sure I understand the need for a church to have multiple campuses in different regions. How am I defining “region?” I’m not. An example that does make me uncomfortable would be a church in Texas that had a “campus” in California and a campus in “Jamaica.” Those are obviously different regions, but I think the mileage threshold in my mind is smaller than across the country or across an ocean. Other than a desire to be bigger, I don’t understand the motivation here. Why not plant churches or partner to revitalize churches rather than establishing a new “campus?”
I really would love to hear your thoughts about this post. Am I overreacting? Am I being a curmudgeon? Do I need to get with the times? Or do these trends make you uncomfortable, too? What would you add to this list?