Monday, July 18, 2005

Big Bird, The Death Star & The Mega Church

I had to put "Death Star" in the title since Chuck's friend Lucas mentioned the other day that Chuck's daughter refers to a mega-church in the Dallas area as "the Death Star Church." I don't really think that has anything to do with the rest of this post which initially I began as a comment...but then I started rambling and couldn't seem to stop.

My mother hated Sesame Street.

Maybe hate is too strong a word, but when Sesame Street rolled out nationally in 1969 my mother certainly had disdain for it and she willingly expressed her opinion to anyone who'd listen. Since I was 12 at the time, I had no choice...I was her captive audience.

Mom died in 1972, and to the best of my knowledge her opinion of Sesame Street hadn't changed but perhaps it would have in the decades since.

My mother was a school librarian. When I was in elementary school she was "my" school librarian.

I know her thoughts on Sesame Street might seem odd considering the TV program teaches kids how to read, do basic math and a variety of other very worthwhile things, but my mother disliked the entire concept. Giant bird puppets, songs, cartoons...they're all very effective in helping pre-schoolers learn...but Mom saw something else - pre-schoolers who grew into regular school kids. She saw them come to school and wonder why there were no cartoons except for some crummy film strips. She noticed their dismay at finding out that their teacher wasn't a big yellow bird. Mom watched their little hearts sink when they were told no one sang except in music class or in the choir...and sometimes music class was hard.

The cookie monster was no where to be found, although some of the cafeteria ladies were a little spooky.

My mother saw Sesame Street as a threat to education because she believed, rightly or wrongly, that it confused children into thinking education was "entertainment."

Whether that belief had any validity, I don't know. Obviously a lot of people reading this grew up watching Sesame Street and presumably you're okay...I only know that's what Mom thought.

I mention that today in light of the comments about my earlier post regarding Lakewood Church. As I said in the original post, I have nothing in particular against mega-churches...but I know they aren't for me. I wonder how I would get a sense of "community" in a crowd of 16 thousand...I think building meaningful relationships with fellow believers would be tough for me there...but mostly I think that such a giant church - with light shows, American flags hanging from the rafters and huge choirs - might "distract" me as I struggle to grow in my relationship with God. Again, that's only me. I know people who go to mega-churches and they are very loving Christians. God uses many tools to reach people; I'm certainly not going to say mega-churches are not part of God's arsenal.

I will say however that every one of the people whom I personally know who has opted to go to a mega-church...was already attending another church some place else. They left their churches to go to the big shiny church where they were dazzled by lights and stage productions, famous preachers and star athletes who stood on big stages backed by giant colorful choirs and orchestras.

Maybe God led them there...and not the klieg lights, but I worry that in order for churches like Lakewood to thrive...some little houses of worship will die. Small communities of believers will disband. Friends on a journey of fellowship and faith will part ways.

I suppose it's not a big problem for God but to me it's a real concern.

Our little church is struggling financially right now...ironically one of the primary reasons is that we tried to become "too big too fast." We overspent on our Sunday school building - construction material costs went up and we went over 30 thousand dollars.

30 thousand dollars. It wiped out all of our savings and will literally take us years to get the church back on its feet. We may fail. There is a real danger our little church may not make it. I will be heartbroken if that happens.

I won't blame mega-churches though. I won't blame anyone...but I will wonder about God's plan.

I must admit there are times when I worry we're screwing up God's call to us by trying to put on a big show.

We've had "The Star Attraction" all along.

Is Jesus really that tough a sell?

I suppose the "Death Star" fits the title a little better than I expected.