Have I Mentioned

kinnon —  February 3, 2006 — 20 Comments

Megachurchgame…how much I love Tim Bednar lately. (That would of course be in the brotherly, arm around the shoulder sense.)

Tim dropped me a note today to turn me on to a great new game from those krazy kool kids @ Empire. You’ll want to check it out for yourself. Warning: Continental Airlines insists this game not be played on its planes.

Note: Void where prohibited by law. No warranties expressed or implied. Your mileage may vary. Not recommended for people with an IQ over 100, small dogs or Emperor Penguins. Has been known to cause adverse side effects in laboratory rats. Use only on your doctor’s advice. Tim Bednar is a naughty, naughty boy.

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A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

20 responses to Have I Mentioned

  1. Thanks for the link.

  2. That guy better hope that Joel Olsteen prays Isa 54:17.

    I also wouldnt want to be him when it comes to be judgement time. I’m not so sure its wise to speak poorly of any church.

  3. Scott, I’m not quite sure why Tim should hope that Joel prays “No weapon formed against you shall prosper…” However, Christian satire/sarcasm has a long tradition going back to Paul’s comments in Galations 5:12.
    Regarding Joel Osteen, there are many Christians who feel that he appears to preach more from the Gospel of Norman Vincent Peale, than that of Jesus Christ.
    Check out this blog post.
    As Spencer puts it:
    I have no doubt that Joel Osteen is a Christian, but as a pastor, as a minister of the Gospel, as a preacher of Jesus Christ and salvation by grace through faith, he is a zero. Non-existent. Invisible.

    And his first sermon in the era of Lakewood’s dominance of evangelicalism shows what he is: a motivational speaker with a 15 second prayer at the end of the talk.

  4. I was serious; playing a game to build a Mega Church is to be just like Joel Osteen.

    The statement is both targeted at Joel Osteen’s method of building churches and towards all who are jealous of him. My point is to wonder why we’d want to play this game?

    Why does it have appeal? Probably because that is how we think of church growth–in terms of a game, with winners and losers.

    My point is that maybe that is wrong.

  5. Hi Bill!
    Tim’s spoof is funny, but the truth is useful for more than a good laugh (or good cry for some of you.) The Hartford Institute for Religion Research has released the findings of the largest study of megachurches to date. The Christian Science Monitor has this article.

  6. Kim,
    Not sure what you are saying with “good cry for some of you.” And I’m wondering from your post whether you would identify Willow and Lakewood as being the same theologically. Perhaps this CNN transcript might help you. And the fearless leader of the imbibing theologians at Boar’s Head Tavern has his own peculiar take (parody). Said iMonk also points to these three articles – here, here and here. Let me know what you think.

    I look forward to reading the Hartford Seminary report. Thanks for the link to the CSM story.

  7. I’ll preface this with that I really dont know much about Joel Olsteen, other than he has a big church and a book.

    Ok, I went and did a bit of research, and Joel does seem to have watered down the message (mostly from what I read in his interview with Larry King, not being willing to say that Muslims and Other religions actually wont be going to heaven.) And he really could have answered Larry better on some tough questions, like “Why does God allow _______” (everyones favorite question to ask a believer). I could have told him that Adam&Eve were given free will and chose to disobey God and spiritually sepearate themselves from God. Therefore allowing Satan to be the god of this world. (2 Cor 4:4).

    However, Lakewood and Mr. Olsteen does belive that “Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood for our sins. We believe that salvation is found by placing our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross. We believe Jesus rose from the dead and is coming again.” (Lackwood Church Website) He does belive the right things.

    Unfortunately I cant get his messages to work on my computer, but I would bet that there are salvation calls in those messages.

    What Joel Olsteen does will ultimately be his resposnibility, he will have to answer to God for what he did with his life. But if he’s at least doing something positive (yes I’m talkin about your reference to Norman Vincent Peale ) I’d much rather answer to that, then answer to why I’m attacking a man of God.

    I dont plan on arguing with you guys, you already have your minds made up. I will try to adress my concerns.


    Isa 54:17
    no weapon forged against you will prosper ,and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD.

    So If Tim is deciding to use his voice as an opinion against Joel Olsteen, and Olsteen believes and claims this verse, not only will Tim be refuted, but he won’t prosper. It is a dangerous thing to call down a church or a pastor.

    I also dont see how Paul dismissing rumors about his teachings on circimcision (which were purpatrated by those who stood by that it was necessary for Godliness) by telling them to become “more Godly” by “going all the way” and castrating themselves, is in any way shape or form the same way as Tim Bednar viciously attacking Joel Olsteen saying (and I am directly quoting here)

    “Do it all without a degree, license or even the Bible! Just like Joel Osteen”

    ” With network play enabled, you can steal members from other churches and earn points just like you saved them yourself.”

    Its cheap, and it makes Tim look like a fool.

    You ask,

    “Why does it have appeal? Probably because that is how we think of church growth–in terms of a game, with winners and losers.”

    Personally I dont think of church growth as a game with winners and losers. Unless the church as a whole is the winner, and Satan is the loser.

    I see it as souls being saved from a life of eternal damnation, and a living life having the opportunity to know God, live a better life on earth as a result, and to influence others to come to know God personally as well.

    If Joel Olsteen’s church causes people to come to know Jesus Christ, you have no right to attack it, no right to speak ill agaisnt it. To do so is foolish.


  8. I was referring to poor Scott, who didn’t seem to get much of a giggle out of the Megachurch: The Game.

    I’ve seen Osteen asked about sin and such and the man has done a very poor job articulating a Biblically accurate response. I can’t say whether or not he holds an orthodox view, but I will say that if he does he needs to work on spitting it out. Our pastors (at Willow) aren’t nearly so wishy-washy when talking about sin, salvation, hell, grace, the enemy, etc. And if they were our Elders would do something about it.

    I took a look at iMonk’s critique of Osteen but I didn’t finish it. I’ve said before on your blog that our churches are like our families – my church is my business, your church is your business, and judgement is the Lords. The Christians at Lakewood have the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, just like you and I, and that is more than enough to detect false teachings. We have to leave the rest to them. (Of course the exception would be criminal behavior, in which case whoever knew about it should report it.)

    Can Christians from different churches help each other as “iron sharpens iron” without making effigies out of each other’s pastors or congregations? I think so. I think that by reminding each other of the power of God to change us and by casting a bold vision of what the church is meant to be, we can create positive change in a way that unifies the universal church and honors our Father.

    About that study – did you see they’ve got one of regular churches coming out this spring? Then they are gonna compare the two! I think that will be really interesting.

  9. Scott,

    First, Isaiah 54:17 is not verse that can be used to curse another believer – scripture cannot be used this way. Scripture is always about justice tempered by grace. (Isaiah 54 is the prophetic telling of the coming Bride of Christ – The Church.) God loves Tim, Joel, you and I equally. Joel praying Isaiah 54:17 will no more hinder Tim’s prosperity than Joel praying  Psalm 3:7 will cause God to break Tim’s teeth.

    Joel is a public figure who has made himself a poster child for Evangelical Christianity – he has basked in the world’s limelight as his interview on Larry King shows. Because of his very public ministry, his book writing and his appearances in secular media, he is open to public scrutiny. And that public scrutiny has revealed him to have more in common with Tony Robbins than with Billy Graham. He is an exceptional motivational speaker. He acknowledges the Bible at the beginning of his motivational speeches and then rarely refers to it again. His message is positive and uplifting – but hardly a balanced biblical presentation. I doubt Joel would highlight all of the text in Mark 10:29-30 which promises a 100 fold return on our giving including persecution. However, I do not doubt his Christian faith, nor do I believe Tim does.

    Scott, Jesus has some strong words to say about calling someone a fool – yet that is what you are in danger of calling Tim. If I used a form of “prooftexting” for my argument, I could suggest that by your words, you are in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:21-22) I believe I would be misusing scripture to do that.

    You do realize that Tim has not actually created a Mega Church Game – this is a parody – a form of visual satire. The Bible is full of prophetic sarcasm in the Old and New Testaments. (Job provides many examples.) And I would suggest that Paul telling those with whom he debated publicly on the issue of circumcision (including at one point, the Apostle Peter), to go all the way and castrate themselves is perhaps at least a more violent sarcastic response than Tim’s humorous and unfortunately accurate comment: “Do it all without a degree, license or even the Bible! Just like Joel Osteen.” At most, Tim can be accused of being a sarcastic Berean.

    I would invite you to read my post, What Lens? It deals with the peculiar manner in which some  church leaders seem to view the Scriptures. You may or may not find it interesting. I certainly would not want to suggest, “you already have your mind made up.”

    Please also read this article by Sam Storms, as well as the already hyperlinked above article at the Ignatius Insight Scoop blog.

  10. I didnt call Tim a fool, I said it made him look like one and that his actions were foolish. Tim seems to be a smart guy, cynical of mega churches but smart. Now as to “using scripture to curse someone” Isa 54: 17 is a promise to believers:

    “But no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall show to be in the wrong. This [peace, righteousness, security, triumph over opposition] is the heritage of the servants of the Lord [those in whom the ideal Servant of the Lord is reproduced]; this is the righteousness or the vindication which they obtain from Me [this is that which I impart to them as their justification], says the Lord.”

    Are you saying that there is no consequence of going against scriptures for christians? As far as Isa 54 being about the church – by attacking Joel (a pastor and leader of a church) who is he attacking?

    Or are his actions being excused by calling them persecution – by another member of the church itself? Seems sketchy to me…

    And I’ve already stated I’m not arguing and I’m quite aware that it was “visual satire” and most of it I dont have a problem with, but I think its in bad taste. Saying that Joel Olsteen doesnt use a bible is a foolish thing to say. He is bible based, I’ve watched a broadcast when he referenced his bible, in fact he had 3 differnt versions with him at his pulpit.

    I do have my mind made up, on the idea of calling down another church being bad taste, and foolish.

    I much more agree with kim when she says
    “Can Christians from different churches help each other as “iron sharpens iron” without making effigies out of each other’s pastors or congregations? I think so. I think that by reminding each other of the power of God to change us and by casting a bold vision of what the church is meant to be, we can create positive change in a way that unifies the universal church and honors our Father”

    How about praying for Joel Olsteen instead of attacking his crediability or calling down his ministry?

  11. Scott — you seem to think that I’m attacking Joel Osteen. Funny thing about satire; you are right and wrong. I’m attacking him AND all megachurches!

    Satire attacks human vice or folly through irony and wit. I use Joel Osteen to make a greater point which you seem to miss–that many pastors see church growth as a game.

    I think that deminishes the effectiveness of the Gospel.

    Here is a fact: megachurches have fluorished while the number of unchurched has doubled over the same time period. How are Joel Osteen and other mega churches then good for the Church. I satirized Joel Osteen because I think megachurches are bad for the Gospel and I think statistics and facts support that conclusion.

    The fact is many pastors (and laity) want to be Joel Osteen; I personally have nothing against Osteen and Lakeland per se — he was a perfect pop-icon to use in a satire.

    While I maybe attacking Joel Osteen–my greater attack is leveled against the growth of megachurches. I hope I’m doing all this in the same spirit as Kierkegaard’s Attack Upon Christendom.

    I’m systematically attacking the Christian Industry which is sometimes called evangelicalism in America.

  12. Tim

    Back in July, Michael J. McManus wrote this in his article “The 50 Most Influential Churches;”

    …the bottom line is this. If there are now tens of thousands of seeker-friendly churches, who are attracting the unchurched, why has the number of unchurched Americans nearly doubled, according to pollster George Barna, from 39 million in 1991 to 75 million in 2004?

    When I read this article I was intrigued! I went to Barna’s site to hear more about it and learned that McManus was misrepresenting the data. Here’s what I wrote after checking the facts back in July:

    According to the Barna Group “one-third of all adults (34%) remain ‘unchurched.’ That proportion has changed little during the past five years. However, because of the nation’s population continuing growth, the number of unchurched adults continues to grow by nearly a million people annually.”

    But still, the question remains, if megachurches are flourishing, why isn’t church attendance on the rise, instead of just holding steady? There are probably many conributing factors to this, but one is the decline in attendance among hispanic Catholics.

    The Barna group reports that “Catholics, whose doctrine defines absence from weekly church services to be a sin, are more likely than Protestants to stray from church events. Some of that gap is attributable to the above average percentage of Hispanics who have dropped out of the local church (41% of them are unchurched).”

    This suggests that American churches (mainline and otherwise) need to do more to serve the hispanics in their areas. Are local congregations making available spanish language church services and events? Are they conducting themselves in a manner sensitive to the unique challenges faced by hispanic Americans?

    Rather than take pot shots at easy targets like Saddleback and Willow we need to turn a critical eye inward and ask, what can my church do to reach the unchurched in my neighborhood?

  13. Kim,

    You might find Barna’s comments from his new book Revolution interesting:

    I want to show you what our research has uncovered regarding a growing sub-nation of people, already well over 20 million strong, who are what we call Revolutionaries.

    What “established systems” are they they seeking to “overthrow or repudiate” and “thoroughly replace” in Webster’s words. (Barna is referring to the Webster’s Dictionary definition of Revolutionary.)

    They have no use for churches that play religious games, whether those games are worship services that drone on without the presence of God or ministry programs that bear no spiritual fruit. Revolutionaries eschew ministries that softsell our sinful natureto expand organizational turf. They refuse to follow people in ministry leadership positions who cast a personal vision rather than God’s, who see popularity rather than the proclamation of the truth in their public statements, or who are more concerned about their own legacy than that of Jesus Christ. They refuse to donate one more dollar to man-made monuments that mark their own achievements and guarantee their place in history. They are unimpressed by accredited degrees and endowed chairs in Christian colleges and seminaries that produce young people incapable of defending the Bible or unwilling to devote their lives to serving others. And Revolutionaries are embarrassed by language that promises Christian love and holiness but turns out to be all sizzle and no substance. (Page 13-14)

    On page 30 Barna asks this question: “if the local church is God’s answer to our spiritual needs, then why are most churched Christians so spiritually immature and desperate?”

    And Barna delivers a very devasting critique of the impact of the local church(Page 118)

    Our research shows that local churches have virtually no influence in our culture. The seven dominant spheres of influence are movies, music, television, books, the Internet, law, and family. The second tier of influencers is comprised of entities such as schools, peers, newspapers, radio and businesses. The local church appears among entities that have little or no influence on society.

    I don’t buy all of Barna’s polemic. His research is noted for it’s accuracy –  his “prophetic insight” may well be flawed but we are seeing a huge societal shift taking place. He is identifying the same thing that futurist marketers are seeing. We are moving from the “I” focussed world of Boomers to the “we” focussed world of Busters and Mosaics – the Emergent Generation. The quintessential book for Boomers was “I’m OK, You’re OK“. The Emergent version would be, “I’m Screwed Up, Your Screwed Up – Let’s Get Over It and Do Something“. Emergents want to be involved. They are not interested in being “pew fodder”. (Boomers are shocked  at the number of young people signing up for military service in a time of war – but stats indicate that Emergents want to be part of something bigger than themselves and are apparently willing to die for it.)

    Churches of any size that want to impact their world will engage the Emergent generation, rather than attempt to entertain them or control them. (And I’m not taking a swipe at Willow as one of the things you’ve told me is how involved all Willow folk are and the impact that involvement had on you and your family.  I am also impressed with the focus on church planting throughout the Greater Chicago area that Willow is doing.)

    Check out the insight of Marketer Extraordinaire Roy Williams, known as the Wizard of Ads, who is a very committed believer in Christ. (The I’m OK/I’m Screwed UP reference above is his.)The insight in this particular Monday Morning Memo is apropos.

    Baby Boomers believed in big dreams, reaching for the stars, personal freedom, “be all that you can be.” Today’s generation believes in small actions, getting your head out of the clouds, social obligation, “do your part.”

    A Baby Boomer anchored his or her identity in their career. The emerging generation sees his or her job only as a job.

    Baby Boomers were diplomatic and sought the approval of others. The emerging generation feels it’s more honest to be blunt, and they really don’t care if you approve or not.

    Boomers were driven, self-reliant and impressed by authority. Emergents are laid back, believe in working as a team, and have less confidence in “the boss.”

    Barna would tell us the days of the growing Mega Church will have come to an end by 2025. I believe Roy would say that churches that don’t engage Emergents as active participants in the life of the Body of Christ are toast. Emergents want to be part of something in which they impact the world around them. The Church (big-C) should be the logical place for them to do that. Let’s hope it will be.

  14. What do I think about all that? Jeepers. It’s late, you know? But here’s my gut reaction – it sounds like a superfluous book.

    Here’s why (in no order, just my thoughts.)

    -EC doesn’t need Barna’s stamp of approval. If that is what God is doing that is what God is doing.

    -It seems a pretty safe bet to say many megachurches will be in decline by 2025 (doesn’t the research show that most churches start to decline after thirty years?)

    -People need to remember that megachurch is a term denoting size, not methodology. There are already some EC megachurches(Mars Hill.)

    -Common sense tells us that adaptability, not size, location, or resources, will determine which churches are still growing in 2025. If you spend too much time trying to build up for tomorrow a model that is working today (home churches, cells, or whatever) then your going to be playing catch up in ten years.

    -The universal church can’t be the hope of the world if the local church isn’t being the hope of the world first. So yeah, the local church is the hope of the world.

    -Churched christians are imperfect people? Is this breaking news? And yet God can do amazing things through these immature and desperate people. You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it. “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

    I respect Barna and his work, but not even statisticians can predict the future. And why would we need ’em to? Christ has preserved his bride for 2000 years and he will continue to do so. Now all we have to do is learn how to trust Him!

  15. Kim,

    What were you doing up so late?? (I know, it’s none of my business – just me being a Dad. I can’t help myself.)

    In terms of your  Barna response  – I  think it may be cheating to tell Tim to go to Barna’s site to read the Barna Group’s research that doesn’t support what Tim has said, and then say that Barna’s book is “superfluous” when I’ve quoted the Barna group’s research findings, rather than his polemic. ‘Twould seem to be a little of “he’s a good source when he agrees with me – and not, when he doesn’t.” But it was late at night when you responded.

    When I spoke of Emergents, I wasn’t talking about the Emerging Church at all. Emergents is a term certain demographers use to describe the group Barna calls Busters and Mosaic. (And though I would agree that Rob Bell preaches like an EC preacher, I’d probably debate whether or not Mars Hills (Grand Rapids, MI) is EC. I listen to Bell’s preaching often. And if you are referencing Mark Driscoll’s church in Seattle then I would heartily debate whether it’s EC. Driscoll has distanced himself from much of his EC journey and appears to have joined the ranks of Mega Church pastors whole heartedly – note his multiple references to the size of his church in his polemical response to Brian McLaren.) Please also note that I am not EC although I do identify with much of their lament of the modern church in a post-modern world.

    As much as I’ve always liked Hybels statement that “the local church is the hope of the world” it’s only accurate unpacked. That is that Jesus is the hope of the world – the local church is the local community outworking of the Body of Christ – the actual hands, feet, eyes, ears, mouth and “lesser parts” of the Lord working in the earth – empowered by the Holy Spirit. And as the church is a description of a local community of believers rather than a building – the local church can and will take many forms. Part of the issue that I have with many mega churches is that they aren’t, in fact, local outworkings of the local church but are actually gathering places for a form of Christian entertainment. Let me quote Barna’s research one last time (he said hopefully) “Only one out of every four churched believers says when they worship God they expect Him to be the primary beneficiary of their worship, (Most people say they expect to get the most from the experience.)” (pg 32) Too often churches promote a gospel that is “Me” centered, rather than Christ-centered. The Emerging Generation (not EC) is interested in a “We” centered society (focussed  on the community) – and the church would seem to be the logical place for them to experience that.

    I enjoy our repartee. Hope you had a good night’s sleep, afterall.

    BTW, I’m using the Xinha Here! plug-in for Firefox which makes the hyperlinks and text formatting easy. Check it out here.

  16. Well tim, then you’re attacking my church.

    I attened and voulenteer in what would be considered a mega church, and we view church growth as important. How else do you plan on measuring if the church is acomplishing its mandate? I know that you think we’re just stealing members from other churches, but we are not. The majority are unchurched, or have attended church as a child but not since.

    Jesus counted all throughout his ministry, feeding the five thousand, we knew he had 12 diciples, then the 70, then there were 500 people that saw him risen again. If the numbers weren’t important why were they there? Numbers are important to Jesus, because if we don’t bring numbers of people to Jesus, where are they going?

    My church may change the methods in which the gospel is presented to different people groups, but the message itself is unchangeing. Its not watered down, its not sugar coated, its the the infalliable and inspired Word of God.

  17. There was a lot going on last night! Church, the Grammys, Lost…

    Sorry Bill, I wasn’t trying to question the validity of Barna’s research, just the point of the book. But I haven’t read it. In one or two sentences, what would you say the point of this book is?

    Emerging Church, Emerging generation, Mars Hill, Mars Hill…is there an Idiots Guide to this stuff because I’m in over my head! (I was talking about Bell’s Mars Hill. I enjoy his speaking too, btw.)

    Part of the issue that I have with many mega churches is that they aren’t, in fact, local outworkings of the local church but are actually gathering places for a form of Christian entertainment. Let me quote Barna’s research one last time (he said hopefully) “Only one out of every four churched believers says when they worship God they expect Him to be the primary beneficiary of their worship, (Most people say they expect to get the most from the experience.)” (pg 32)

    Like I’ve said – megachurch means big church, it doesn’t signify an approach. I’m willing to believe that there are some that are just gathering places for Christian entertainment if you say so(though why any minister would want to commit his life’s work to something so vacuous is beyond me) but that doesn’t establish any correlation between megachurches and the findings you quote.

    Three out of four Christians DO NOT attend a megachurch. Does the research give any info about the 1 out of 4 that got the answer correct? Do they tend to be older, more mature Christians? Do they attend church more often? Do they tend to be better educated? There are many, many factors that could be at work here.

  18. ps I think the upcoming Hartford study will shed a lot of light on which of these issues are specific to megachurches and which aren’t.

  19. Kim,

    I reviewed Barna’s book here. Basically I think it’s good research that unfortunately becomes a jumping off point for Barna’s “prophetic predictions.” Here is one of my comments:

    Barna makes a number of references to a Biblical World view – but spells that world view out very much from an Anglo-American, conservative evangelical viewpoint. His Revolutionaries, although they do gather together in group expressions of their faith, are predominantly “me and Jesus” focused folk who seem consistent with the American celebration of the individual.

    CT has a very good review of the book. (Good in the sense of well written rather than positive about the book.) From the final comment:

    Do you want to become a Revolutionary? First, trade your copy of Revolution for Life Together, the manifesto written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer during the dark days of Nazi Germany. Then, if you want to do heroic and revolutionary exploits, go back to your local church. That’s something so spiritually challenging that several million people no longer want to do it.

    I think Barna is a good researcher. I’m not so sure about his gifting as a futurist.

  20. I do hope that anyone that would speak of Joel Olsteen would know something about him before speaking too much or too loudly. I would advise going to his website and listening to podcast #336 regarding criticism..not so much because of your criticism, but to hear his words for yourself. He says, “If I changed with every critic…..I know I’m called to plant a seed of hope in people’s heart. I know I’m not called to teach deep theological doctrine. I know I’m not called to explain any deep kind of doctrine. I know my gifting is in encouragment, to challenge and inspire.” So, to those who say he has watered down doctrine…no, he is simply using the gift God gave him. They are not all Billy Graham’s. Not every person being used by God has the same gift to be delivered in the same way. He knows his gift..and the truth is..he IS encouraging. He is not trying to be what he is not….and, the verse, Isiah 54-17 is also mentioned in this particular podcast..regarding how criticism comes from jealousy and should be brushed off. As long as you know in your heart that you are doing what HE wants you to be doing, don’t spend time worrying about those who would want to tear you down. I agree.


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