The life and death of an evangelical church

I realize I talk quite a bit about church, and I know it’s usually quite negative.  Before I start this post, I want to let you all know that I am not against religion, christians, or churches.  That being said, having been to many churches, being heavily involved in the staff of these different churches for many years, I feel like I have enough experience to address some issues that overall lead to the corruption of religion.

The evangelical church specifically is one of the most corrupt organizations of all time.  It uses the bible along with guilt, hatred, and fear to extract money and devotion from vulnerable people.  A little harsh sounding, I know.  But, let me tell you a story.  This story is the story of about 5 different churches who have almost the exact same story from start to finish.  For the sake of privacy, I won’t mention the names of these churches, but I can almost guarantee it’s going to be the same story of at least one church you know of.

It starts off small.  A guy invites four or five people to his house for an intimate, spiritual experience.  They come together, pray, sing songs, read scripture, and have lunch.  They all decided that other churches weren’t feeding them the true gospel, and that they could get more out of this small setting than a big church.  Intentions are good; they all simply want to have a true spiritual experience among a small group of friends.

Things are going well with this, so well in fact that these people began inviting more people.  Now there are 20 or so people fitting in this small house.  It’s getting crowded, a bit noisy, and more difficult to control.  The owner of the house decides it’s time they raise money to get a building and start an actual church.  This way, they can organize a Sunday service, once a week, fit all twenty members in, and have room to grow.  All twenty people pitch some money but it’s still not quite enough to buy a building.  So, as a group, they decide to join a denomination.  Doing so will allow the denomination to fund the building, and will give the group of people the tools necessary to grow.  So, they get a nice new building, they get a sign designed and built, and other Christians driving by are immediately curious.  Oh, and that guy in the beginning who invited people to his house – he’s the pastor.

It’s opening Sunday, and they’ve drawn in a crowd.   The congregation has doubled, if not tripled.  An order of events has been decided, too.  The service would start at 10AM; the Pastor welcomes the crowd, and they immediately start the music.  They sing three to four songs, and take an offering; that event where they ask everyone in the audience to give their ten percent.  After the offering, one more song is played, and the pastor is invited back on stage.  He preaches his sermon, closes with a prayer, and dismissed the congregation by noon.

This goes on for awhile, but something unexpected happens.  The bills are going up, and the number of people attending has gone down slightly.  This means less people giving money.  So, they decided to start doing multiple services a week; they’ll have two on Sunday, and one on Wednesday.  Each time, an offering will be collected.  This should in theory triple the amount collected, right?  Wrong, instead, what happens is the members with full time jobs end up skipping out the Sunday and Wednesday, because they have to work early in the morning.  Those that do attend all three don’t give as much in each offering, so the rate of income has barely grown.

The pastor and his staff needs a plan, and they need one quick.  “We need a way to bring in more money” he thinks, “People need to learn the importance of giving to this congregation, and people need to be bringing more people in.  The more we grow, the more money we’ll make.  Oh yeah, and more people will be saved, that too.  Yeah.”  The pastor decides to strategically write up some sermons – and here we begin to see the corruption unfold.

The first set of sermons are about discipleship – going out and telling people about God.  He tells people how easy it can be, that all they need to do is “just invite your friends to church!  We’ll do the rest!”  The congregation is jazzed and excited; the preacher preached a good sermon and got people motivated to tell other people about God.  Slowly but surely, the headcount of attendees is rising, and the income is growing slowly.  The church is able to pay the bills, and everyone’s happy.  You would think this would be enough, but it’s not.

The pastor and his staff are tired.  They all have to work jobs on top of planning three services a week, and boy oh boy is that a difficult job.  The pastor and his staff decide they all deserve a payroll, so they can devote all their time to the church.  But how can they make this happen?  They just grew and are just getting by on building costs.  That’s when the pastor kicks in phase two of his plan.

For about two months, the pastor has a ‘series’ on tithing.  Now, if you don’t know what a series is, it’s basically a collection of sermons on one basic topic.  This time it’s about tithing.  The first few tell the congregation that the church is in need.  They have lots of bills and they have to be paid.  They in turn tell them that God will reward them for their sacrifices.  The pastor then preaches on the commandment of tithing.  Which, by the way, is not a commandment.  It was required by God in the old testament to give one tenth your flock as a burnt offering or sacrifice; but Jesus abolished that system by sacrificing himself – but the pastor never mentions this.  He uses this outdated practice to tell people how it’s basically a sin NOT to give 10 percent of their income.  Here in lyes the guilt factor.

The next and last two weeks of his series focus on the ‘blessings’ again.  The preacher shares stories of his own life – which are usually half truths or whole lies – about how he or someone he knew gave all they had to God, and the next day they got an unexpected bonus, stumbled across money, or got a nice new cadillac.  Times are tough these days, and what better investment could someone make than in god, right?

The drilling is done, and the oil is beginning to rise.  The pastor has succeeded in guilting and convincing his congregation to not only bring more people in, but give more money every week so that they will be rewarded with…well…more money.  But, this only worked for a little while.  Some people got tired of the whole “give me your money” series, and decided to worship god somewhere else.  While the pastor was able to quit his job and pay himself with people’s tithes, he was getting upset that his people were leaving to join the church down the street.

He decides to bring up discipleship again, but this time with a new twist.  While new people are being invited to church, he proceeds to take jabs at the other churches in town indirectly, stating how ‘the church down the street might have that good band and fancy stage lights, but we have the holy spirit, we preach the true gospel straight from the word of god.”  His put downs actually end up working, and people are leaving other churches to join his.

It’s the high life.  Then, something happens.  People are noticing the pastor has gotten a little money hungry; his sermons lack substance, and no matter what he does, people are leaving.  He decides to take his ministry elsewhere, so after years of running this church, he packs up and moves to a new town, to pastor a new church where people don’t know anything about him other than he started a church from the ground up and had a lot of attendees.  And then, the story starts over.

Meanwhile, his old church’s staff selects a new pastor from out of town who has a good heart, who has planted many churches from the ground up that had a lot of attendees.

Eventually, as history repeats itself in this church, it dies.  People catch on as pastors come in and out that something fishy is going on, so they just stop going.  No one in town has any reason to go there; after all, a new church opened up, and they’re preaching some great sermons on discipleship.

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