I had a conversation with a pastor last week. He said to me, “I’m not sure you would like my church. We have multiple services.”
My heart sank when I heard those words. I have listened to several of his sermons online, and he does a phenomenal job. His perception came from a book I co-wrote back in 2009 called Franchising McChurch: Feeding America’s Obsession with Easy Christianity, which attempted to critique the entertainment culture and consumer driven mentality in American Christianity while presenting some thoughts about newer methodologies and their potential theological impact. After reading some of the pages from the perspective of someone who does not know my heart, I can see why he might have come to that conclusion. Those close to me know that I love the local church, and I desire to help pastors think through difficult issues rather than add to their already heavy burden by merely throwing rocks at the stained glass windows.
It shocked him, and may shock some of you to know that the church I now attend has multiple services; furthermore, the pastor of my church co-wrote Franchising McChurch. Our church had recently built a new sanctuary accumulating a lot of debt before they called him as pastor. After he became pastor, the church grew rapidly and ran out of space. Building a larger sanctuary is not an option because the debt is too great and in this economy the church struggles to keep up with the current budget. So he faced the decision of turning people away at the door or moving to two services.
When trying to reach largely unchurched people, turning them away at the door doesn’t work. They won’t go to another church—they will simply go home. Driven by the motivation of reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, my pastor started a second service. That service has flourished. So did he sell his soul to the devil? Of course not, but he made the decision with wisdom and understanding. Knowing that multiple services sometimes has the unintended consequence of creating two congregations that do not know each other, steps were taken to minimize the negatives so that our church can still function as one congregation bearing one another’s burdens and loving one another appropriately. Both services also use the same music set to undermine any consumer driven choice coming through musical preference.
I had a fear when writing Franchising McChurch that some would take the book the wrong way. I hope this post helps you understand a little more of my motivation. I want to be known for what I am for and not what I am against. I want to help pastors think well about theological and practical matters. I want to support and lift up the local church and its pastors.
Whenever you read something I write concerning the church, please know that my only intent is to help. Being the son of a Baptist minister, I know how hard the job can be, and pastors certainly don’t need anyone else seeking to bring them down. I hope to lift pastors up, make the job easier, and along the way provide a few ideas that may help as they think through the great calling that God has given them.