Much of the Evangelical Industrial Complex has been created to make Christianity relevant, acceptable, and attractive to our consumer culture. Author and missional expert, Michael Frost, says this is a mistake. Instead, we should be emphasizing our faith’s weirdness and call more Christians to be eccentric—literally “off center.” Also this week: Phil and Skye take on “The Good Place,” a TV show about heaven without God or religion, the UK’s Supreme Court rules in favor of a Christian baker, and (fake) butt news from a Hawaiian seal hospital.
Those who’ve grown up in or cut their ministry teeth on the attractional movement often cannot see the ecclesiological dis-ease around them.
.. the attractional church (or “seeker church,” as it used to be called) was about getting as many people as possible inside the doors to then hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
.. In my youth ministry days, we used all manner of traditionally adolescent enticements—pizza, silly games, loud music—but the “big church” services in the attractional paradigm uses grown-up versions of these enticements
.. we might call this approach to ministry “the ol’ bait and switch”: get ’em inside with cool stuff, then share the gospel with the captive audience.
.. what you win people with is what you win them to ..
.. the gospel of Christ’s finished work became relegated to the end of a service, almost an addendum to to the real focal points of the goings-on, and then it frequently became pushed to the end of an entire message series, eventually became saved just for special occasions, and ultimately has been replaced altogether by the shiny legalism of moralistic therapeutic deism.
.. Eventually the attractional church became all bait, no switch.
.. The approach of today’s attractional church is like the Trojan Rabbit of Monty Python‘s Arthurian nincompoops—smuggled inside the castle walls with nobody inside.
Knowing the careful and introspective thought that has gone into his writing on Christianity and the Christian ministry, I’d be surprised if Peterson could make no attempt at exegetical reasons for his views. But the reality is that he offered none. He only offered that he has over the last several years met gay folks who “seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do,” and this has changed his mind.
.. Certainly knowing gay people—spiritually-minded or otherwise—will change the demeanor and tenor of many people’s speaking and thinking on same-sex attraction and their ministry toward the LGBTQ community, but as a justification for rejecting traditional views on sexuality it hardly seems to suffice.
.. it actually seems to undercut what Peterson has been carefully teaching so many of his devotees all along—that God’s word holds the wisdom that runs counter to the seasonally shifting whims of the world, that faithful ministry means, among many other things, enduring steadfast while the trends and fads of the culture swirl around us, that what really and ultimately counts is “a long obedience in the same direction.”
.. the fallout of his announcement pushes us to face a cultural crisis in evangelicalism many have not yet faced. For instance, how many more Jen Hatmakers and Eugene Petersons are out there?
.. “There are pastors all across this country who call me weekly that are thinking the same thoughts, trying to find the courage to do the same thing in evangelical churches.”
I have no doubt this is true, and I have long suspected this is the case.
.. One hallmark of the attractional ministry so dominant in American evangelicalism is the reluctance to speak out on many cultural hot topics. The attractional paradigm is a populist strategy, so its ministers rarely if ever speak up about, for instance, government corruption or civil rights abuses.
.. Tackling that or any culturally controversial matter would violate one of the attractional church’s cardinal rules: Keeping the customer satisfied.
.. Peterson has never shared much in common with the leadership-industrial complex of attractional Christianity.
.. many attractional leaders are likely to maintain their popularity and their profitability. Many have built their ministries on sentimental religion and pop-spirituality; echoing the cultural zeitgeist on homosexuality isn’t likely to feel so jarring to their most ardent supporters.
.. Jonathan Merritt’s father), tweeted shortly after the news broke: “I’ll change my mind when God changes his