Whom is your church designed to please? The scriptural answer is, of course, God. But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. (I Thessalonians 2.4) The aim of any church is not to please humanity but to please God. Those leading each church should thus seek to mold their church in obedience to the precepts of Scripture for this was precisely what Jesus did. I do always those things that please him. (John 8.29)
Practically speaking, this means my aim as a pastor is to lead our church to be as scriptural and spiritually obedient as possible. My aim is not to have a big church; it is to have a Christ-like church. Would I like our church to grow? Yes, I would, for healthy things are growing things, but our focus is not on growth; it is on health. Growth is simply the by-product of spiritual health.
Contemporary American Christianity largely gets the cart of growth before the horse of obedience. CCM is embraced for precisely this reason. CCM continues – often in an established church over initial opposition – for precisely this reason. CCM is continually re-structured and reinvented for precisely this reason. The pragmatic philosophy underlying all of this is a church that aims itself squarely at the goal of attracting as many people as possible.
In order to do this such churches almost inevitably embrace a marketing approach. Research leads them to a desired demographic. The desired demographic is then studied to determine what they like and what they want in a church. The church staff goes to conferences and reads books and calls in consultants who will teach the church how to give the target demographic what they want.
…and if you cannot see anything wrong with that last paragraph you are a spiritual midget. A church does not have customers. The questions that should be asked are not what do the people want and how can we give it to them? The questions instead must be what does God want and how can we give it to Him?
Some of you reading this are thinking, "Wait just a cotton picking minute, Tom. The independent Baptist movement does that all the time. It promotes and programs and publicizes itself to bigness." I know, and every time it does it weakens itself. I just paid my respects to that in a long chapter in my recent book, Schizophrenic. But as bad as it is in the independent Baptist movement it is exponentially worse in contemporary evangelical Christianity. At least the independent Baptist movement has a love of preaching to serve as a brake on its pell-mell rush into pragmatism. The contemporary movement has no brakes at all that I can see. It was pioneered and built by men like Bill Hybels and Rick Warren with results in mind, and little else. On that it has delivered – results and little else.
Today's contemporary American church is not driven by a passionate pursuit of holiness, obedience, faith, and the power of God to shine for Him and reach people for Him. No, the contemporary movement is driven by polls, marketing, strategy, laws of attraction, and business sense. Management gurus are studied more than Jeremiah is. Success is no longer measured in terms of obedience to Scripture but in terms of size. The song selection, lighting, invitation, ministry structure, service length, instrument choice, color scheme, service schedule, budget priorities, dress code, sermon topic, audio-visual use, building plan, outreach, counseling, etc. etc. etc. are all pragmatically chosen and market driven with one unifying goal – get a bigger crowd.
Whatever happened to pursuing the power of God? Whatever happened to chasing obedience and letting Him give the increase? Whatever happened to making adherence to Scripture the goal? I will tell you what happened – CCM happened. American Christianity became overly enamored with church size and underwhelmed with scripture, with holiness, obedience, and Christ-likeness. In so doing it birthed and grew the contemporary Christian music industry. And that's a problem.