Bonnie Alba
Homogenized & pasteurized church fits the American Dream
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By Bonnie Alba
October 15, 2010

[A recent book, "Radical," making the rounds in Christian circles is decidedly making people uncomfortable. Written by David Platt, he is the youngest pastor of a mega church (four thousand) in Birmingham, Alabama.]

Platt experienced the below event on just one of several trips to visit underground Asian churches.

They walked or biked for miles, each arriving at a nondescript house separately at different times so as not to draw attention.

"Imagine all the blinds closed on the windows of a dimly lit room. Twenty leaders from different churches sat in a circle on the floor with their Bibles open. ... They had gathered in secret." News and problems were shared. One woman church leader told of a confrontation with government officials who threatened and intimidated her people; another leader told about a cult kidnapping and torturing captives from his church.

"We need to pray. Immediately they went to their knees, faces on the ground, they began calling out to God." They praised and thanked God for his love, and prayed for their needs. "They audibly wept before God...." When they arose from their prayers to depart, Platt said puddles of tears remained.

These people live "radical" lives in Asian countries which declare following Jesus illegal. They live with the knowledge that discovery is always a possibility and risk their lives and their families for Jesus Christ and their faith. Their passion is for their faith in Jesus Christ and God.

Platt could not help but contrast what he witnessed overseas with the American Church as we know it.

We arrive in comfortable vehicles; we gather in air conditioned and heated buildings with cushioned seats, choirs and bands, never varying from an orderly routine all in usually one-plus hours on Sunday. Most regular church goers exhibit no passion for "being there," neither do they open their Bibles nor take notes during the teaching-sermon; they go home and resume their other lives from Monday through Saturday.

There is no risk, no danger, in attending American churches — take it or leave it — and many are leaving. There is nothing radical about most American churches.

Church leaders and organizations are concerned about the drop in attendance among denominations. Even mega churches are losing attendees. It is apparent from recent Barna Group and Pew Forum surveys that the larger population who call themselves Christian and irregularly attend church, have no idea what or why they believe in God.

Bible book stores offer hundreds of selections with strategies for "growing churches" and building churches. Platt does this with one significant difference. He is challenging his church members to a different life style.... inside and outside of church.

Who are disciples?

Platt points to Jesus' last message to his disciples — "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

We are all disciples belonging to Jesus Christ. We are to teach others to be disciples, not just pastor-preachers. All of us. Platt stated, "...according to Jesus, people are God's method for winning the world to himself. People who have been radically transformed by Jesus."

What If?

Platt offered this idea to his other church leaders — What if we stripped away all the cool music, cushioned chairs, no powerpoint screens, no decorations, turn off the air conditioning and the comforts are removed?

Platt and his church leaders decided to try it. They called it Secret Church. They "...stripped away the entertainment value and invited people to come together simply to study God's Word for hours at a time" — but they kept the seats and indoor bathrooms. Meeting from 6 p.m. to midnight, about a thousand people showed the first night. So many wanted to come, they now take reservations.

David Platt has certainly given Christians food for our hearts and souls. That is, if our stale, lukewarm hearts can stand the wake-up call from the falsity of our split lives, one foot in the American Dream of prosperity, success and entertainment and one foot ever so lightly in our faith in God, following Jesus and churches.

Today's churches have so taken in the American Dream, they have become homogenized and pasteurized, they've lost the flavor of God — and possibly even His favor.

© Bonnie Alba

 

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Bonnie Alba

Bonnie Alba is a "politically incorrect" researcher-writer. Since 1995, her articles have appeared in California newspapers. Previously she served in various Department of Defense positions for over 16 years... (more)

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