I’ve researched and read hundreds of articles, blogs, and news stories about the devastation caused by Giant Church Inc. My latest read on the topic not only brought clarity about how we can resist the toxic, celebrity culture Giant Church Inc cultivates, but A Church Called Tov by Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer gave me hope.
I needed this hope as I move into what God is inviting me to, deeper into my calling to minister to the Church and any who may feel homeless or out of sorts within it. I’ll repeat what I said in a Twitter exchange last week. In Christ, we are brothers and sisters. Whether I am gathering with you on Sunday mornings or not, we are siblings. Some of us don’t feel safe at the family gatherings, or we feel unsure of where we fit. Be patient and trust that Jesus sees us and we are seeking Him. The Good Shepherd is tending to us.
Many of us left Giant Church Inc and haven’t found another place. The authors remind us that “a church is not a business, it isn’t producing a product, and it doesn’t gauge success based on measurables. Our purpose is redemptive and restorative, not for profit, position, or power,” writes Scot McKnight.
The following description of church filled me with hope about finding a place to gather with the family again. A place where I can ask questions and wrestle with the hard truths. Where we can grow and learn together. Where we encourage one another as we become more like Christ.
“A church is a local community of believers who are striving to be like Christ, both as a congregation and as individuals. Its leadership is peculiar because churches don’t function based on hierarchies and reporting relationships. They function based on the interdependence of gifted individuals working together to honor, worship, and serve God, under the exclusive headship of Jesus Christ, and empowered and inspired by the Holy Spirit.” (pp. 215-216)
Cult of Personality
I could take that definition line by line and tell stories about how this does not describe Giant Church Inc. A better definition for Giant Church Inc can be found in a high impact cut-throat leadership magazine and anyone who attends or ever been part of it can testify. Most never will though. A church can’t truthfully claim they care for the wounded and vulnerable while simultaneously silencing their stories, suppressing the truth, and telling false narratives.
From the beginning of the series, I was clear that Giant Church Inc is not about the size of the church. It has more to do with the celebrity culture cultivated by everyone in the church. “What matters is not the size of the church but the size of the pastor’s ego…..Behind every celebrity pastor is an adoring congregation that both loves and supports the celebrity atmosphere.” (p. 184)
Instead of ending with more stories of the harm caused by Giant Church Inc I’ll explain why I keep writing and speaking out about this and give you more hopeful words from the authors.
Why do I keep speaking out about Giant Church Inc and help launch books like Redeeming Power, or tell you about A Church Called Tov? Why have I partnered with GRACE to help educate and empower the Church?
One reason is this: “How we understand and feel about our relationship with God is formed and fostered by the culture of the church we’re in.” (p. 83) Giant Church Inc deforms it.
Another is that in the absence of a culture that resists abuse and promotes healing, safety, and spiritual growth, the heartbreaking truth is that churches of all shapes and sizes are susceptible to abuses of power, sexual abuse, and spiritual abuse. I want to help people know God better and know what He means for us as the Church. The authors state beautifully part of what God means for us.
Scot McKnight writes, “The purpose of the church is conformity to Christ. That is the sum total of God’s plan.”
Laura Barringer writes, “We’ve come to understand that church is not an event, and it is not about the pastor’s sermon. Church attendance is about joining a community of believers and being nurtured in the faith. Church is about soul work and confession of sin. Church is about relationships and community-which take time to build. Church is about knowing and being known, loving and being loved, serving and being served.” (pp. 214-215)
Now that’s a place I could feel right at home.