Jesus and Megachurch Pastors – A Few Questions

kinnon —  June 7, 2010 — 24 Comments

I was scanning Twitter yesterday morning as I prepared to head off to St. Paul’s for the 11am service when I stopped my scan on this Tweet:

Preaching Luke 8 where Jesus ministry grows so large his own family can’t get an appt. Myth Jesus was more accessible than today’s pastor. [from @pastormark]

Now I, for one, would suggest it might be a tad dangerous to compare your ministry to that of Jesus, but since @pastormark opened the door, I think I may just step through it.

Let’s begin with the presenting 137 character symptom. Jesus’ mother and brothers “can’t get an appointment.” Actually, if you read some of the background in Mark 3, you’ll note that Mary and Jesus’ brothers thought he’d lost his mind and were attempting to take “charge of him.” But @pastormark appears to be responding to the criticism that people think Jesus “was more accessible than today’s pastor” and says that’s not true because Jesus ministry had grown “so large” not even his blood relatives could get near him. Therefore, since @pastormark has a big ministry like Jesus, people should not expect him to be accessible. Not even his mother and brothers. Even if they think he’s nuts.

Alrighty then.

If you big ministry guys are going to use Jesus as your model for ministry, I have a few questions. (Actually, I have lots of questions, but I’m only going to ask a few. Because I know how busy you are avoiding appointment requests from your mother and brothers.)

Question-Mark-02.jpg

BUILDINGS: The first one would be around buildings. Jesus didn’t have one. Well. That’s actually not true. The Temple was his Father’s but he just didn’t use it. Why not? Why didn’t he just set up there and have the crowds come to him? Think of the ministry he could have built right there in the place of peace – Jerusalem. People would have come from miles around to hear him preach. Think of the healing services he could have led.

MULTI-SITE: And think of the multi-site opportunities. Now, I recognize the technology was not in place to project Jesus onto screens in synagogues throughout Israel but this was the Man who walked on water, God Incarnate. Nothing was too hard for him. But. If he wasn’t comfortable showing his power by doing that, he could have hired Scribes to write down his words and hired assistants to preach them in the other locations the next Sabbath or Wednesday night. So, why didn’t he?

MONEY: With his gifting, think of the kind of money he could have raised from his growing audience congregation. Tithes and offerings would have been HUGE, don’t you think? Especially with his healing gifts. But I can’t find anywhere in the New Testament where Jesus got into truly effective fund-raising. Why not?

MEDIA MINISTRY: Where are the people planning the events? Jesus arrives at the well in Samaria and only meets ONE WOMAN. What’s with that? Where was the advance team? Where are the marketing pros getting the Jesus message out in advance? Where’s the drama team preparing to illustrate the message? Where are the graphic folk making the story-telling banners? Nowhere to be found in the New Testament. Must be an oversight.

MUSIC MINISTRY: Where are his minstrels? The Temple was known for killer horn players, harpists, lutists and percussionists. But Jesus didn’t have any on his team? And even if he refused to use the Temple, the minstrels would have helped him draw a crowd as he wandered the highways and byways of the Middle East, right!? They could have set their Jesus-promoting lyrics to the latest rhythms and melodies of the current Roman hits. So, why no musos?

TRANSPORTATION: And what’s with the walking around? I realize limos, Land Cruisers and Lexus sedans were not available, but surely Jesus could have had a rather nice coach pulled by four white horses – perhaps with a tasteful, yet subtle, ministry logo on the side or where we’d hang a license plate. Heck, if today’s megachurch pastors can justify flying First-Class, why didn’t Jesus travel in the style appropriate to him? This is all so confusing.

CONFERENCES: I’ve searched the New Testament high and low and can’t find Jesus doing a single conference. Sure, it would seem he had a number of rather large unplanned events where thousands showed up, but by and large it seems he spent almost all of his time with a small group of people – pouring his life into theirs. And how did THAT work out for him? Think of what could have happened if he’d gathered all the rabbis together and spoke to them in one place. Just think of that!!

THE CROSS: Never mind.

So. Recognizing how busy most megachurch pastors are, I’ll humbly stop there. The rest of you might have some questions you want to add in the comments.

After the megachurch leaders are done with their mothers and brothers, perhaps they could drop by for a moment or two and explain things to us.

I wait with bated breathe.

kinnon

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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.

24 responses to Jesus and Megachurch Pastors – A Few Questions

  1. Bill (hi, read your blog for years, never commented before – too busy hanging with my mum and brother – actually, really). You raise some great Qs in your own inimitable style… good Qs that need good answers. But a cursory glance at the website for St Paul’s raises some Qs that I’d love you to answer:
    – what did Jesus intend for “communion”. Was it a clergy in robes, sacramental liturgy etc etc)? Where do we get that from?
    – St Paul’s clearly has a building… a beautiful one, but you just said Jesus didn’t use the beautiful one he had available to him
    – and St Paul’s has various different worship styles and presumably minstrels to lead?
    – and presumably the whole thing relies on giving to keep it open and running?

    I think I can say/ask all this, given that I’m an Anglican vicar with communion services, robes, classical and contemporary worship, buildings and a dependency on giving from people.

    Hmmmm.

  2. Rich,

    Thanks for the kind words and the legitimate question(s).

    Regarding St. Paul’s, fortunately the Rector doesn’t do a lot of comparing his leadership with that of Jesus (other than to suggest there is no comparison) and recognizes that the days of this style of church are coming to a close in a post-Christendom culture like Canada’s. The leadership team are committed to a mission-shaped understanding of the church going forward – and that is the primary reason we attend there (when we actually attend anywhere).

    And I confess that I find a lot of comfort in the Book of Common Prayer/Anglican liturgy. (Returning to my childhood roots, I guess.)

    I did know that by putting the link to St Paul’s in, I would be seen as operating at a level of cognitive dissonance – the state of the human condition, I would suggest.

    My point is that we need to be careful how we justify our actions based on Jesus’ ministry – when, in fact, there is an awful lot that we have added – perhaps some of it with the Spirit’s prompting.

  3. Thanks Bill. And your main point was communicated clearly, and I agree entirely! I was partly self-provoking. What’s so challenging for me, and perhaps also for your Rector, is helping people see that the future lies in a completely new model of church, in which I would be unemployed!

  4. thank you for always making me smile. the whole thing is really nuts. nuts. my friend says its a christian ponzi scheme. anyway, hope all’s well with you! peace, kathy

  5. Bill, Sound like you need some help with that anger of yours.

    Sorry you feel so complelled to dump on mega Churches. A lot of them are easy targets but are still part of the Body of Christ. Not a good thing to be so negitive when it comes to Gods Bride.

  6. Bill, I really do love your stuff. Thanks so much for this.

    Maybe @pastormark was doing it tongue-in-cheek? If not, then it really raises the issue regarding his hermeneutical methodology and his ability to interpret scripture does it not? Of course I may be using sarcasm to make my point, or I may be entirely serious :-D

    Good stuff!

  7. I think the bigger issue here is the simpler one: if this passage was actually about Jesus being inaccessible to his own mother and brothers because the time demands of his ministry, then we’d have to deal with that example, we being his disciples and all. But . . . it’s not.

    I’ve heard the argument that the command to not take the name of God in vain is best understood as the command to not try to pass off your own ideas or agenda as God’s, so as to make your own ideas or conduct more acceptable or attractive or justified or what-have-you.

    So, this is a misunderstanding/misapplication of this text (and Jesus) at best, or using Jesus to justify one’s self at worst. Not that I’m above either, but that’s what’s going on here. Jesus wasn’t “too busy” to see his family. They were opposed to what he was doing, and part of what he was doing was re-defining everything, including the concept of “family,” around loyalty to himself and God. Unless that’s the reason that pastors are inaccessible (which presents it’s own different set of questions!), then this passage ain’t the one to cite.

  8. Possibly he was using sarcasm. That doesn’t make any of your observations invalid, IMO.

    Clearly, this interpretation is not valid, but that hasn’t stopped waaay too many preachers from taking scripture out of context to make their own point.

    And beyond recognizing that his family was not in step with his ministry, he was actually taking the opportunity to include all of us as his family, which is the Good News, eh?

    …but you don’t want to really have this conversation with me, as I’m a person formerly known as pastor who is going back to being child of God and sibling of Jesus, thank you very much!

    As should the rest of you…especially the ones who are too busy. ;^)

  9. Bill –

    Attempts to proof (text) support for one’s preferred methodology often runs the risk you pointedly address. It would be far better simply to say, “This is how we do it.” The sense that we must reach to the end of the branch (passage) to get to just the right leaf (verse) in order to show biblical (tree) support for how we do what we do that is not necessarily inherently immoral, often leaves us stepping off the ladder (our hermeneutic reach) and falling out of the very tree (Scripture) we are hoping to tie our very practice to.

    Thank you for asking questions we all must answer. And, Vicar Rich is on to something.

  10. I think Todd is on to something, Driscoll’s church has fallen into the proof-texting trap and they feel compelled to proof-text everything they do. When the H1N1 flu outbreak was happening they actually proof-texted their implementation of some kind of plan to deal with the risk of an outbreak in the church community. Seriously? As if we need to check with the Bible to figure out if preventing the spread of disease is Godly or not. The proof texts in these scenarios mean whatever the speaker says they mean, unless they are about sex in which case there is no interpretive wiggle-room.

  11. Great post. The questions keep coming and coming don’t they? Thanks for asking them. People gotta ask the questions. They have power.

  12. Well … it’s probably a mistake to try and fit any notions about Jesus’ ministry into 140 characters or less. That’s the first problem with the whole thing. He could mean soooo many things by that statement and has no way to expound upon it. However, he ought to know better than to be so provocative in Twitter-dom.

    All of that said, Jesus spoke rather plainly about his relationship with his family. It’s pretty disingenuous of this pastor to then take this text and claim that his mother and brothers “couldn’t get an appointment” because Jesus was so busy. That’s … um … stupid.

  13. Hmm…

    So where does this leave a pipsqueak storytelling ministry?

    More of a question than a comment…

  14. WenatcheeTheHatchet June 8, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    I don’t blame Bill for his skepticism. Driscoll presents his whole approach as “just preaching what’s in the Bible” while conflating his interpretation of the text with the plain meaning of the text. I’ve known people who expressed this concern as far back as 2002 before the church had gotten as big as it now is. I have to confess that having previously looked forward to Driscoll spending a lot of time in Luke the result is sort of “meh”. He has succumbed to the temptation to use any biblical text he’s preaching from as a rationalization of whatever he and his team have decided to do since back in 2007 with Nehemiah. I thought he’d outgrow that but it still seems to remain an unnecessarily front and center part of his preaching. It used to be that he would only tell stories when it helped to actually explain the text itself rather than having the text defend whatever he’s doing now.

  15. I admit to a high level ambivalence about megachurches as well. I am not comfortable in one, frankly I am most comfortable meeting in a borrowed room with no sound system, but I don’t feel comfortable judging them either when they may very well be doing God’s work. Are they ideal? No. But God uses all kinds of things in all kinds of crazy ways. I may be able to look at an individual megachurch and go “wow, something is NOT right with that ministry” but I can’t conscience writing off all megachurches as bad as much I might sometimes want to.

  16. Bill I’m right with you on this one! Let’s face it, the Mega Church is the lovechild of Religious Entertainment and Capitalism! Brokenness can’t be seen in a megachurch – it’s against the ethos which is follow Jesus by attending here and you to can have an income like us!

  17. I get it now, If a Church is very large and they use high tech stuff and have a good sound system and media dept and thousands attend then it can’t possibly be doing the Lords work and there Worship isn’t or can’t be pleasing to God.

    Ok, Bill, Sounds right! Most comment here are a bit sad. I wonder what you all mean by mega church? Over 3K but under 10K in attendance, what the def. And when you naswer that then tell me which ones are not doing Gods work…

  18. “Heck, if today’s megachurch pastors can justify flying First-Class, why didn’t Jesus travel in the style appropriate to him? This is all so confusing.”

    From the MHC website:

    Please be aware of the following guidelines when placing an invitation to Pastor Mark:

    • Due to Pastor Mark’s busy schedule whenever possible we prefer that he be able to fly first class so as to work while traveling. If possible we also prefer that a coach ticket be purchased for Pastor Mark to take a male assistant for purposes of remaining “above reproach”. If these requests cannot be fulfilled please make a note of what travel arrangements can be made. We know that for some organizations and events this request is not possible and is not a determining factor regarding which requests Pastor Mark will accept.

    More:

    link to mhcseattle.wufoo.com

    <

  19. Hey, Bill, are you going to the Christian media gathering in St Paul? A newcomer to our church is Loyd Jenkins who is in Christian media as well here in Grand Rapids, MI. Loyd says he’s met you. It would be cool if you two could connect at the media thing in St Paul.
    John

  20. Nicely put. More disturbing (and perhaps worth exploring) is why anyone would feel the need to publicly defend inaccessibility. Oh, and not to bee too exegetically picky, but the point of the account is that Jesus WAS accessible to his followers, for he is with them when his family comes and he prefers them over his family.

  21. WenatcheeTheHatchet June 26, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    And with a little cross-gospel references, his family also thought he was insane. His family can’t get to him to move him out of the public eye for thinking he’s an insane self-aggrandizing maniac because the crowds of followers are too big. That’s not quite the “that’ll preach” version is it? :-)

  22. new to this blog (a PP refugee), great post, Bill! Mr. Driscoll never ceases to amaze me. As much as he tries to be so different than those other mega guys, he is so much the same. The cult of personalities is alive and well.

  23. Do you all feel that good when you pat each other on the back and dig at the larger Churches? Whats up with that anyway…You guys protest I think a bit much.

  24. Another David July 3, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Great post Bill. I think Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he avoided some members of his family.

    Take James for example. He shot from relative obscurity and disbelief to head of the Jerusalem mega church in a short time. One day he’s embarrassed and the next day he’s riding nepotism to the top. This bureaucrat organized the church around the Judaic system that Jesus spent his whole career abusing. He ascended to his throne in a nepotistic fashion entirely consistent with those of the Israelite kings and established a reputation. No doubt he had visions of davidic glory. James was the descendant of David and the brother of Christ. Who better to rule? The friends of Jesus were scattered to the four corners of the the globe while he entrenched his position. James catered to the Pharisaic Christians and trounced the message of grace that the apostles were preaching to the gentiles.

    Mega churches everywhere look to James and his council as inspiration for creating the ideal church structure. Its this hierarchical structure of the Jews that makes the mega church possible. Its just a story folks. A story of the failure of man to grasp God’s purpose for the church. Its a story of how one man tried to build a church and instead created an institution. We need to keep in mind Paul’s statement with regards to the Jerusalem church: “those who were of reputation contributed nothing…”.

    I have no doubt that James spent many hours on his knees wrestling through these kinds of issues. Its significant, that by the time he penned the book of James, the Pharisaical issues are no longer of any concern to him. His tone seems to completely change. At the very end of James, is what I consider an autobiographical note: Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.” I wonder who did that for James and who will do that for the power mongers of today.

What do you think?