Shaun King resigned earlier this month from Courageous Church in Atlanta. Internet Monk has all the details here. In short, he realized after loosing a lot of members in his attempt to build disciples that what his congregation really wanted was the Sunday morning show. This got me thinking about what most Christians are looking for in a church.
King had followed all the advice given to him about building a congregation when starting a church. He now says that he sold his soul for attendance and never quite felt like he was able to get it back. He began preaching sermons and taking steps to get Courageous Church away from it’s Sunday morning focus and make the shift toward small groups, building disciples, and engaging the community. He lost 85% of his membership. He resigned on Sept 1, realizing what the congregation wanted and admitting that he was not the leader to give it to them. They wanted the Sunday morning show, he wants to make disciples. I read what he had to say about “Big buildings; huge crowds; few disciples” and was reminded of Isaiah 1:
“When you come to appear before me, who has required of you
this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. -Isaiah 1:12-15
The message to Israel in Isaiah 1 is that God is not interested in their worship service; he wants them to serve him the other six days of the weeks also. He goes on to say “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean. Cease to do evil; learn to do good.” We could easily replace Sabbaths and new moons with Sunday mornings; we say prayers, sing hymns and raise hands in our churches. What are we doing the rest of the week?
The typical American congregation may not have blood on their hands, but what they’re looking for is a well organized Sunday morning service. The average “Christian” wants a set of praise & worship songs from the band, an interesting speaker, a few Bible verses projected onto the big screen, and a good cup of coffee from the in-house coffee shop. THEN they want to go home and be left alone for the rest of the week. American Christians (as opposed to mission fields and underground movement in places like India, China, etc.) want to lead “good” lives six days a week and attend the show on Sunday morning. “Take up the cross and follow me” isn’t a sermon they want to hear. If you haven’t been offended yet, stay with me a moment longer.
Huge multitudes followed Jesus everywhere he went. Some came out to be fed, others to get healed. There were many seekers who were merely curious. Some in the crowd were the scribes and Pharisees just waiting for Jesus to make a mistake. From the huge multitudes of “followers” Jesus chose 12 Apostles. There will always be more followers than disciples. There will be always be believers on the fringes, interested in what’s going on but not taking part in putting it on. I’m not saying that’s good or bad just the way it is. In a congregation of 50 or 300 (I’ve never been in a megachurch but imagine it’s the same) 15% of the people do 90% of the work. The same people teaching Sunday school are the ones teaching VBS, cooking at the fish fry, going on the mission trip. That’s the nature of Christian ministry.
The Sunday morning show – that seems to be what most Christians are looking for. For the 15% of you that want something more, there are certainly many opportunities.