I am currently in the land of suburban megachurches. I have to say I’m not a fan. I am the product of one, so I can say that. I have absolutely NOTHING positive to say about them. I think they’re a breeding ground for the mega-egos of the most dysfunctional pastors, they discourage openness and transparency and they exist to perpetuate their own programs. There are some exceptions, especially in more urban settings. But generally, not a fan. This is just my opinion based on my experience and I’m a person in progress, so those of you who love them, back off.
There’s a giant church right on a main freeway in Phoenix that started in a strip mall and then gradually took over the strip mall and is now a giant non-denominational institution with a lit marquee sign. As we drove past it on Wednesday the message on the sign was: Got questions? Jesus has answers!
Isn’t that comforting? Sure, for anyone who’s NEVER READ THE BIBLE, that sounds great.
Often Jesus answered questions with questions, or long parables, or difficult answers that people didn’t want to hear.
Q: What must I do to have eternal life?
A: Sell all you have and give it to the poor.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist and evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other one also.”
Teacher: Jesus, I will follow you wherever you go.
Jesus: Foxes have holes and birds have nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.
Jesus: all men will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Jesus: Who do you say that I am?
Peter: Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?
Jesus: I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.
Peter: We have left everything to follow you. What then will be there for us?
Jesus: Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as muh and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first.
Pharisees: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?
Jesus: Show me the coin. Whose portrait and inscription is this? Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.
Pharisees: What is the greatest commandment?
Jesus: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.
I’m not saying, “Come follow Jesus and you’ll be MISERABLE!” But following Jesus isn’t easy because being Jesus wasn’t easy. American Christianity is rife with a health/wealth gospel mentality that says, if things are going well, I’m clearly right with God and if things are going poorly, I either don’t have enough faith or am not right with God. If that’s how things went, then Jesus, the disciples and the Apostle Paul must have never been right with God. Jesus has answers all right, but they’re rarely the ones we want to hear. It’s not because God enjoys seeing us squirm but I know we can all say from experience that we have grown the most through adversity. The answers given by Jesus are all aimed at the realization of a bigger picture – becoming like Christ as individuals and as communities. We don’t go to Jesus as a spiritual analgesic who takes away our temporary pain, but to be shaped into people who act like Jesus to show the world what God intended for us.
Update: I drove past the same church this morning & the sign read, “Free trip to heaven. Inquire inside.” Not kidding. Threw up in my mouth a little.