Sunday, July 22, 2007

Business out of the ministry: Christ's Vission of a Church?

(It's sad when Christ's vission for the church is twisted for selfish reasons. When Christ's vission for the church became man's opportunity for business gains. The church's business is the ministry but it seems that it's the other way round now: Get business out of the ministry. This is not only a mega church problem but even small churches become victims of unscrupulous pastors. This is why sometimes atheism seems to be a good alternative. well, that's life. I'm sure God knows what He's doing. Perdition is reserved, may i say, God will be the judge.)

Excerpts from Earthly Empires
Similarly, the so-called mainline Protestants who dominated 20th century America have become the religious equivalent of General Motors Corp. (GM ) The large denominations -- including the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church -- have been shrinking for decades and have lost more than 1 million members in the past 10 years alone. Today, mainline Protestants account for just 16% of the U.S. population, says University of Akron political scientist John C. Green.

In contrast, evangelicalism's theological flexibility gives it the freedom to adapt to contemporary culture. With no overarching authority like the Vatican, leaders don't need to wrestle with a bureaucratic hierarchy that dictates acceptable behavior. "If you have a vision for ministry, you just do it, which makes it far easier to respond to market demand," says University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sociology professor Christian Smith.

Especially controversial are leaders like Osteen and the flamboyant Creflo A. Dollar, pastor of World Changers Church International in College Park, Ga., who preach "the prosperity gospel." They endorse material wealth and tell followers that God wants them to be prosperous. In his book, Osteen talks about how his wife, Victoria, a striking blonde who dresses fashionably, wanted to buy a fancy house some years ago, before the money rolled in. He thought it wasn't possible. "But Victoria had more faith," he wrote. "She convinced me we could live in an elegant home...and several years later, it did come to pass." Dollar, too, defends materialistic success. Dubbed "Pass-the-Dollar" by critics, he owns two Rolls Royces (RYCEY ) and travels in a Gulfstream 3 jet. "I practice what I preach, and the Bible says...that God takes pleasure in the prosperity of his servants," says Dollar, 43, nattily attired in French cuffs and a pinstriped suit.

So adept at the sell are some evangelicals that it can be difficult to distinguish between their religious aims and the secular style they mimic. Last December, Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Tex., staged a spectacular Christmas festival, including a 500-person choir, that attracted 70,000 people even though the cheapest ticket was $20. Throughout the year, some 16,000 people take part in its sports program, which uses eight playing fields and six gyms on its $100 million, 140-acre campus. The teams, coached by church members, bring in converts, many of them children, says Executive Pastor Mike Buster.

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