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24 March 2010

5 effective strategies for spiritual growth for one low price!

This may be my longest post ever. I'm just sayin'...

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 speaks about not dismissing prophecies -- if they hold water and measure up to the standard of the Word, then don't scoff at them: "Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil." (NLT) Similarly, in Acts 17:11 we read about a group called the Bereans in a very positive light: "And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth." (NLT, emphasis mine) So these nobody "laypeople" were searching the Bible to see if the "heavy-hitters" were actually teaching the truth?! How impertinent! But they did, and it was good for them to do it.

In that spirit, this post is not in the interest of bashing someone who's using his gifts to help and spiritually and numerically grow the Church. It will, however, show that I am not convinced that this is healthy, and to be honest, I believe it runs directly counter to many major principles that are communicated plainly in the Word of God -- the Book that this organization and many others claim to be supporting.

I received an e-mail (one of many I get) from an organization that sells its intellectual property and its products in the interest of helping worship leaders to "grow" their "worship ministry" teams. I guess it's fine if someone wants to pay to learn these things. We sell everything else God-related: Bibles, Bible studies, niche devotional books, studies (not to mention breath mints, jewelry, etc.), and the list goes on.

In fantasyland, it would be cool if we sold them simply to cover the cost of the paper and the hours that people had to pour into them. I'm rambling now, and I don't know if I want to fight that battle, to tell the truth, but it makes me scratch my head to think of the implications of having created profit centers that are "selling" spiritual growth. Sure, it's better that the resources be used on this than on pornography or on blatantly worldly things, but does that justify everything that we do?

Back to the e-mail... These kinds of sales pitches usually include at least one bullet item that references spiritual growth, so they're covered if someone tries to claim they're all about physical/numeric growth. ("Hey, we're all about spiritual growth! Check out that bullet point.")

Side note: In the world of PR, if you use numbered lists ("The 5 Keys to Success," "30 Proven Methods of Getting Away with Picking Your Nose in Public," etc.), you're more likely to get someone to buy into what you're saying, or at least do more follow-up than if you didn't use a numbered list. Those things always jump out at me and surely taint even the legitimate lists for me, even though this first chunk doesn't have too many. There's good use of exciting-sounding verbs here, too. "Maximize," "capture," and "empower" were immediately noticeable.

To be sure, there's some good stuff here; it's not all negative (in this statement I'm being serious). You can grow your team, stave off burnout, and even grow closer to Christ in the process, all for only around $90 (that's with a $10 saving for getting the download version). In this exciting e-mail offer:

You can expect to learn...

  • How to exponentially grow the number of people serving on your worship team and ensure that you're never short on volunteers again!
  • How to create a thriving auditions strategy that honors God and empowers volunteers to serve in their area of greatest gifting.
  • 5 foundations of an Effective Audition Strategy that you MUST have in order to maximize your team.
  • How to develop seasons for your team so that current members are never "burned out" and new members are always joining.
  • The powerful affect that a BIG Day of auditions has on your team.
  • How to set God-sized goals that help you maximize how many people will join your team. [Eh? Should God not be the one setting those goals if they're His size?]
  • How to develop an auditions timeline so that you can properly plan and promote it to your church.
  • How to capture over 40% of your audition sign-ups through a 30 minute pre-audition reception.
  • How to lead an actual audition, including what to say and do during the audition.
  • Actual scripts for how to follow-up with those who have auditioned.
  • How to say "No" to someone who auditions in a way that connects them to another area of your worship ministry.
  • How to deepen the commitment of your worship team to Christ, the church and the team through an easy to navigate leadership development process. [Saved the best bullet point for last?]
  • And much more!

No, there really is more! Reading the whole e-mail, I saw the opportunity to prayerfully consider joining a network of worship leaders. It requires a 10-month commitment at a couple of hundred bucks a month (to be fair, this includes lodging and air fare, so it seems reasonable), and offers these benefits, for example:

This additional purchase/commitment "will follow the outline of the 7 Leadership Challenges for Worship Pastors...  The 7 Leadership challenges include the Personal, Pastor, Planning, People, Provision, Professionalism, and Production challenges."

And the following part really got to me. If you join this network, one of the benefits is "A private weekend meeting with [the personality around whom all this is centered], exclusively for [program] participants where you will get to go behind the scenes at a [name of church] service – a $1500 value!" What?!? Spending a weekend behind the scenes at a mega-church's weekend services (with what must be a high-profile worship leader) is a $1,500 value? Are you kidding me??

All of this (not just the weekend with the famous guy at super-church, but the whole package) makes me think of Thesis #82 from Martin Luther's epic, reform-inducing 95 theses posted on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517: "Cur Papa non evacuat purgatorium propter sanctissimam charitatem et summam animarum necessitatem ut causam omnium iustissimam, Si infinitas animas redimit propter pecuniam funestissimam ad structuram Basilice ut causam levissimam?"

In case you don't read Latin, it's been translated this way: "Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a Church [St. Peter's Basilica]? The former reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial."

Luther had a non-Biblical belief in a place called purgatory. In those days people thought that they could pay a certain amount of money to go toward the building of the new, awesome mega-church building, and in turn a soul would be delivered from purgatory. Looking at motivations rather than destinations (and I understand that he was off on the purgatory bit), Luther simply asked, "Why wouldn't the pope do that for free if he could do it at all?"

In the same vein, why wouldn't someone want to give these gifts I've been talking about (not spiritual gifts, but things like team-building lessons, help with challenges, how to avoid burnout, and -- of course -- how to grow in Christ) freely for the edification and building up of the Church?

Go ahead and give me real-world "but Dean..." replies. Worship pastors need to eat, too? Cool -- I mean, if I have to eat and all, then surely it's okay to sell this gift that God gave me freely. We've built up a culture -- within the church and without -- that sees all this as normal.
I'm asking you now to question the legitimacy of what we've come to think of as "normal."
What if it's not "normal" the way God sees "normal"? What if God actually doesn't think of all this as glorifying to Him? You won't really have to dig too far into the Word to see that this is more than a strong possibility.

At this point I probably need some of you to reel me in. I really do feel like I'm overreacting in some areas. Note that I pulled every name and corporate reference out of this post, because although I'm livid, I don't want to attack a person. And it's possible that I'm off-base somewhere (which is why I ask you to reel me in). Call me crazy, but for some reason this all seems like someone is trying to sell the power of (or gifts from) God for profit. I can't help thinking of this passage:

When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power. “Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!”

But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin."
Acts 8:18-23 (NLT)


Tony M said...

Also reminds me of the "house of prayer/den of thieves" thing.

"A $1500 value!"

"Get your worship leader packets here..."

Or maybe just a circus...

Dean Lusk said...

A couple of qualifications... 

Many, many people work to use their gifts for the glory and fame of God and the benefit of His Church, and in order to make a living and continue to excel in their areas of gifting and make their knowledge, wisdom, and resources available to the Church or non-believers, they must engage in commerce.

I'm not anti-capitalist, and I'm not saying that everyone who sells a product or service in Jesus' name is anti-Jesus. The post DOES come across that way and probably requires a serious edit.

On my end, I'm very happy to be one of those who freely pays for, say, a Paul Baloche CD in order to be a blessing to him and to his family and to support what he does. (This is why I'm AR about copyright and piracy issues.)

I can't judge a motive in many cases. Neither can you. But when the motive is basically laid out in a heavy sales pitch using manipulative advertising techniques, it's difficult not to say, "I think we've gone too far with this whole thing." The religious "market" has become a high-profit entertainment industry, and it's alarming. At what point did it get that way, will it stop, and if so, who will stop it?

Hopefully I'll have time for an edit tonight. Until then, enjoy the raw, mostly unedited stream-of-consciousness post! 

Jacob Woods said...

There are many things done in the name of Christ that are seen as good, simply because they're done in the name of Christ, and have always been done in the name of Christ. I won't elaborate on what i think those things are. Generally, they follow the thought process of "as long as people are in church, then it HAS to be glorifying."

Christy said...

That wouldn't set well with me, either.

Preston N said...

Wow - this is now my 3rd reply to Dean's blog in one day. Sorry Dean its been awhile since I had visited and you've posted three homeruns here so i just have to jump in and add my comments :)

Again, formulas, formulas, formulas. This is how man operates and not God. Cookie-cutter religion or a humanistic corruption of the church IMO. I realize this sounds harsh - but when you get down to the bottom of it that is exactly what this is. If I may I would recommend one a sermon that shows the fallacy of this type of activity. Paris Reidhead preached this sermon amazingly over 50 years ago and it is startling how true this sermon is today.


Dean Lusk said...

Mighty kind of you, Preston!

Headed to listen to the strangely-named man's sermon now. :-)

Dean Lusk said...

What's the deal? WAY too much Scripture in this sermon!

(Yes, that was tongue-in-cheek.)

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