I read a page about a very popular "top" preacher who had been written about in a couple of publications as "Preacher Of The Year" and was also a major force in a number of national religious efforts such as Moral Majority.
And then he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease), also known as ALS.
The story caught my attention both because I serve as a preacher by congregational request and my mother spent the last 18 years of her life bed-ridden with ALS.
The story contained a poignant occurrence...
"As pastor at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a position he held for 18 years, Dobson would regularly preach to 5,000 people or more on Sundays. Back then, Dobson said he looked at himself as a man filled with lessons, proverbs and, most of all, answers.
After retirement six years ago, the massive crowds went away."
Here in the greater Atlanta area we have a number of "mega churches." You have probably seen a number of their leaders on TV. There have been a large number of "megas" around the country that once were on everyone's lips and now are faded memories.
Many of the mega church leaders here in the Atlanta Metro Area have been at the feet of other mega church leaders and gone off to form their own mega churches. Some of these mega churches were started by relatives of the founders of other mega churches. One "respected" radio preacher actually said that one of the formerly famous, scandal ridden and now defunct mega churches in east Atlanta should be declared a toxic waste site and plowed under.
What do these mega churches have in common?
One is they are built on the personalities of their leaders. If anything happens to the leader - age, scandal, sickness, what have you - they wither into wrinkled shells of their former selves.
The second thing is to draw the types of crowds required to keep the leaders in the public eye and build fortunes they quickly become used to. In order to do that, the church has to offer something for everybody. They provide every attraction they can think of to bring people in. It has to provide what the people want.
I once was involved in a study with a "member" of one of the area mega churches and I asked if she had ever read a particular passage and she told me, "No, Bibles are hard to come by at _______." They had every kind of entertainment device you could ever want but few Bibles.
The leader felt compelled to confess to the church that he was a practicing homosexual, with his co-leader wife's knowledge, certain the church would accept him. The huge facility is now the head quarters of another business organization.
Lose the leader, stop catering to the people's wants and the attendance plummets. If you give them hamburgers to get them there you have to give them hamburgers to keep them there.
The apostle Paul covers this tendency in II Timothy 4:2-4...
2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:2-4)
Leave the teachings of men behind and turn to the Word. The Bible teaches a fundamental change in people. Mega churches teach an expansion of who you are. They cater to what people want rather than what they need. They provide the answers people want rather than the answers people need.
I was riding by a Baptist church with a friend and he said, "Wow! They are doing a fantastic work for the Lord!" I asked him how he knew that. He replied, "The parking lot is full, people are parking up the road and walking toward the building!" I asked, "Or are they giving people what they want?"
The most important rule of sales is, "Don't sell them what they need, sell them what they want!"
The most important number to Christ's church is "one." Christ. Always the same, everlasting.
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