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Some might say his involvement in the conspiracy movement.
Others would say his emphasis on fellowship on Christian fellowship.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer might be most widely and famously known for his conviction that grace is costly!
(Stephen R. Haynes and Lori Brandt Hale, Bonhoeffer for Armchair Theologians, 93).
During the 1990s, “seeker-friendly” churches began popping up everywhere. Most were non-denominational churches looking to reach those who fell between the cracks and divides that separate many of our traditional denominations. These seeker-friendly churches did well for a time. The fact that many are now struggling to pay the bills has less to do with the changing economy than it does with the changing culture.
It’s no surprise that these churches did well in the 1990s. The economy was strong and people gave charitably. The same can be said of the first seven years of the Bush administration. Many seeker-friendly churches were able to break ground with new buildings, which seated thousands of congregants. They were able to fill these big buildings with scoreboard-sized video monitors and all the latest video and computer technology. They even served gourmet coffee.
But things began to change in 2008. The economy tanked and the churches had to cut back. They hoped the next election would bring change. But hope was not enough. Men cannot always bring about that kind of change. And only God can bring about lasting change.
But the one thing that has started to change in the mega-church is the message. What once was a slightly watered-down seeker-friendly version of the Gospel is now a slightly Gospel-flavored bucket of water. And it’s not enough to quench the thirst of the masses.
As one who has traveled to twenty-two states this year I’ve had an opportunity to hear pastors in several of these mega-churches. And I’ve heard some very interesting things. Some examples follow:
1. “We encourage you to sign up for one of our Bible study classes. We don’t say we have all the answers. We may not have any of the answers that you might have. We just want to start a conversation.” Oddly enough, the church where I heard this little gem doesn’t even call itself emergent. Of course, Don Miller claims he’s not emergent but I’m not buying that jazz.
2. “This church doesn’t focus on doctrine. We focus on hope.” Well, that explains why the pastor rode up to the stage on a motorcycle. By giving a sermon standing in front of a Harley Davidson, instead of a cross, he can avoid that unpleasant doctrinal stuff about sin and redemption. Pass the Starbucks. This is going to be a good one!
3. “If Christianity is to survive in the 21st Century, everything about it must change.” You can’t be serious with this one, can you? Does that mean I should cast the first stone? Can I cast it at the idiot in the pulpit? Wait, there is no pulpit. And no cross. Never mind.
4. “There’s nothing wrong with diversity. Everyone needs diversity.” But what about people who say they don’t need diversity? Are we in danger of excluding them from the conversation?
If today’s mega-churches are anything they are diverse. They typically have large numbers of traditional Christians as well as large numbers of seekers who may not have been raised in any particular faith tradition. But these days, many mega-churches are beginning to show preference for the latter – despite their emphasis on equality and inclusion. And this may prove to be their downfall.
By watering down their message to be even more seeker-friendly, today’s mega-churches are not going to achieve their crass objective: To avoid offending people in order to keep their numbers up (read: Keep the money flowing) and eventually pay their mortgage down.
Instead, their gains with seekers and the easily offended will be offset by their losses among those who are farther along in their walks and, hence, more traditional in their beliefs. This is consequential because the traditionalist, not the liberal Christian or the seeker, is always the first one to open his wallet.
Our culture is in rapid decline as we enter the Obama/post-Christian phase of American history. People are in search of bold and fearless pastors who will take a stand against evil in blunt and uncompromising – not coded and esoteric – language. In the end, pastors who refuse to mold the Gospel to accommodate the spiritual needs of the seeker or the financial needs of the church will be the last ones standing.
I predict that many of the mega-churches of today will be the shopping malls of tomorrow. When it is time to foreclose and go packing someone is going to have some heavy equipment to move. At least no one will have to pick up their cross.
Mike Adams is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and author of Feminists Say the Darndest Things: A Politically Incorrect Professor Confronts “Womyn” On Campus.
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Dietrich Bonhoeffer saw the contradiction in this…
While the people rejoiced in the new glory of Germany, Bonhoeffer privately lamented the church’s guilt in the suffering inflicted by Nazi Blitzkrieg and terroristic rule in the occupied countries (Quoted in Geffrey B. Kelly and E. Burton Nelson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 354).
As God’s people, we are not to get caught up in national pride while atrocities take place.
According to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the church in Germany did not “uphold the gospel.” The church…
…is guilty of witnessing “the lawless application of brutal force, the physical and spiritual suffering of countless innocent people, oppression, hatred and murder, and…has not raised its voice on behalf of the victims and has not found ways to hasten to their aid” (Quoted in Geffrey B. Kelly and E. Burton Nelson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 354).
In America, the church needs to stand up and defend the defenseless, people in the womb and outside the womb.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer suggested that counteraction against…Nazi evils should spring from Christian confession of Christ as the origin of all good and the center of the church in an explicit way and of state in a hidden way.
Such a course of resistance implied for Bonhoeffer, not an ecclesially orchestrated “imitation of Christ,” but a more robust “Reformation” attitude of accepting Christ’s having taken form in human lives, in history, and, more visibly, in the concreteness of church.
Faith dictates this acceptance; a Christian ethic would dictate those concrete deeds that directly and indirectly confess such faith (Geffrey B. Kelly and E. Burton Nelson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 353).
Last month marked 65 years since the doomed Nazi regime hanged German theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer on April 9, 1945. Christians across the theological spectrum continue to revere him. Some remember his advocacy for Jews, others his teaching on “costly grace,” and still more his aid to officers plotting to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
But his legacy has been disputed over time. Some have championed him as a post-Christian prophet of ethics that transcend confession. Pacifists claim Bonhoeffer because he expressed scruples about war and his help with killing a head of state, even one so evil as Hitler. Many evangelicals revere him as an opponent of “cheap grace,” champion of Life Together, and model of The Cost of Discipleship.
Eric Metaxas clears up many misconceptions, giving priority to Bonhoeffer’s own words and actions, in a massive and masterful new biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.