Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Making Jesus Popular

That was on a sign at a construction site for a new megachurch being built. Really. But popularity was never Jesus' goal on earth. Just a sample (I love Biblegateway!):

All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. -Matthew 10:22

Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. -Luke 6:22

The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. -John 7:7

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.' -John 15:18-25

Yet we try so hard to be "seeker sensitive" or to be "relatable" or "relevant" instead of being radical. We dress a certain way, we incorporate multimedia into sermons, we have bands playing contemporary worship music (or cheesy pop music) instead of letting the Gospel of Jesus stand on its own.

Many flock to Saddleback Church because of Rick Warren. Thousands fill the old Alamo Dome to hear Joel Osteen. Celebrity also draws people. The fastest growing church in America is that of American Idol winner Kris Allen. Coincidence?

Once upon a time in my church, growth was used as a "sign" of God's blessing and that if the church wasn't growing at an incredible pace then there was something wrong. Spirituality soon began to be measured with numbers. If you weren't constantly bringing visitors, you were chastised. So begins the pressure to be popular.

But it is not supposed to be this way. Not to say a church that's growing old and withering on the vine is ok, but we need to check our motivations and ask if we're compromising the message of Jesus for the sake of attendance. We need to remind ourselves of what was prophesied about Jesus:

"He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." (Isaiah 53:2b-3)

No comments: