James M. Harrison on the Biker Pastor’s Comfortable Religion
Though not an extreme environmentalist, I do sometimes find myself contemplating the number of trees that are destroyed to fill my mailbox with so much unsolicited paper. Every now and then, however, something is found in the pile of flyers, solicitations, and credit-card offers that causes me to take a second look.
Not long ago, I found another of those ministry magazines that every pastor periodically finds among his stacks of mail. It’s slick and it’s glossy and it’s received by (not “subscribed to by”) over 150,000 pastors and church leaders! I know this, because it says so on the cover, complete with exclamation point.
Like all the other magazines of this type I’ve received over the years, this one promises me the key that I need to turn my dull, traditional, irrelevant church into a dynamic, explosive, cutting-edge community consisting of, as evidenced by the pictures, beautiful young people from southern California. There’s nothing wrong with beautiful young people from southern California. I’m sure that many of them are quite nice. There simply aren’t that many of them here in New York.
The magazine also holds out the promise that one day, I, too, might be able to ride a bright, shiny Harley Davidson, just like the pastor on the cover. I never knew that so many pastors rode motorcycles until I started getting these magazines. I had a motorcycle once, but it wasn’t a Harley. I crashed it. I’ll never be on a magazine cover now.
Granted, they don’t come out and say that my church is dull, traditional, and irrelevant. That seems to be the message, though. “I didn’t want to build a church building,” says the pastor/biker. “I knew that’s not the future. I believe that people’s lives are so hard nowadays that when they come to church, it should be recreational.”
“Recreational.” That’s a term that would never come to mind when describing my church. We don’t have X-Box’s in the foyer for the kids to play with. Neither do we have a Krispy Kreme franchise in the courtyard or a theater in the basement. “Recreational”? No. That wouldn’t describe us.
I get the impression that I should feel bad about that. But I don’t. Maybe I’ve missed something along the way, but when did providing people with recreation become the purpose of the Church?
When did Christ change his call from “Take up your cross and follow me” to “Come to this place that we don’t really want to call a church, and recreate”? When did the nature of the Lord’s Day change from being a time when the people of God gather together for God-centered worship and the preaching of his Word to, as this church’s worship leader describes it, “an event that even the most anti-religious person can come [to] and feel comfortable”?
James M. Harrison is the pastor of Red Mills Baptist Church in Mahopac Falls, New York. A graduate of Denver Seminary, he serves on the executive committee of the Conservative Baptist Spurgeon Fellowship (www.cbspurgeon.org).
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