Attack of the Comparisites
Our cover story on "Megachurch Myths" is a veritable Petri dish for breeding unhealthy comparisons. While the research indicates that the megachurch phenomenon is on the rise, let's not forget that only 1 in 50 Americans attends a megachurch. As Jim Graff (himself a megachurch pastor) points out in his article "Significance vs. Size" (page 48), for those living in rural America, the prospect of attending a megachurch is often outside the realm of possibility—not even considering that many rural Americans would not be comfortable in a megachurch. Since megachurches are a phenomenon associated with the urbanization and "customization" (as researcher Scott Thumma puts it) of American life, comparing one's small-town congregation with an urban megachurch may be hazardous to that church's health.
Do Hollywood director Ron Howard and Co. have an agenda with the film they adapted from Dan Brown's bestseller, The Da Vinci Code? Absolutely. They promote the film to those in search of "the truth," but Brown's fast-and-loose historiography tells a different story: he weaves a fairy tale with spurious documents from medieval times, rather than trusting the countless reliable manuscripts from earlier church history confirming the authenticity of our faith. But The Da Vinci Code can only gain traction in a nation where careful explorations of challenging concepts like the virgin birth and deity of Christ have been exchanged for motivational speeches. If Paul could explain Christ to the cynical pagans on Mars Hill, why do we so often avoid doing so in the comfortable confines of our churches? Some may argue that theological preaching is not practical, but I wonder if they would think the same after losing a debate with a Da Vinci fan.
The Bishop's Campaign There's a new promised land ... and it's flowing with fresh-cut tobacco and pine furniture. An article in the February 22 edition of USA Today reported on Christian Exodus, a group of conservative evangelicals who moved to South Carolina, where they hope to "reestablish constitutionally limited government founded upon Christian principles." Intriguing ... but perhaps a more effective means of tackling societal ills may be that of Bishop Keith Butler, our Trendsetter for this issue (see page 16). Rather than staking out comfortable environs for promoting his political agenda in the buckle of the Bible Belt, this conservative African-American pastor is running for the U.S. Senate in the traditionally-liberal state of Michigan. In his new book, Reviving the American Spirit (FrontLine), Butler argues that moral public policy is not only good for those Americans who identify themselves as Christians—it's common sense. However, he cautions against the notion that morality can be enforced through political means: "You can't legislate morality ... but you can legislate morally, with integrity and a clear conscience." Matthew Green is managing editor of Ministry Today.