A report by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research raises questions about what megachurches are teaching their members regarding Christian commitment. It was not that long ago that megachurch pastor Bill Hybels announced that, after 22 years of megachurching, the staff and leaders at Willow Creek hadn't managed to produce many disciples. The Hartford report appears to confirm Mr. Hybels' observation. Of 25,000 people surveyed in 12 megachurches, 98% of them - pause on that: 98% - "described themselves as a 'committed follower of Jesus Christ.'" 62% of those same people indicated "they had experienced much spiritual growth in the past year." Well, that should encourage us, no? Except for this: "45% of megachurch attenders never volunteer at church and 32% give little or no money to the congregation." Goodness. What would these people be like if they were apathetic rather than committed? And who's telling them they're committed? Or who's confirming to them that this is an acceptable definition of Christian commitment? When megachurch members are challenged to do more by their pastors and told they can't just ride out their faith in the pews, "a lot of people said 'I'm perfectly happy coming here and doing that.'" Which, in the nature of the case, is doing nothing. "Perfectly happy": Ah, there's the operative phrase. May I humbly suggest that the three terms that best define the life of a committed Christian are tribulation, martyrdom, and holiness? Not happiness. Whoever is telling these people that what they are practicing in the name of the Lord Jesus and personal happiness is committed Christianity is simply lying. Who will ever stand up from the pews on Sunday morning, in the midst of some feel-good-let's-all-be-happy-and-prosperous sermon and cry out, "Pastor, dammit! I want to be a martyr for Christ! Won't you show me how?"? Churches today are filled with "committed" Christians, safely ensconced on the margins of society and culture - which, in case you haven't notice, runs right along the ledge.
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