The Megachurch Debate

I found Lyle Schaller’s article “Mega-church” (March 5) informative and sympathetic, but hardly compelling. While rigorously exploring the “most frequently asked questions” about this phenomenon (including how many megachurches there are, and why) he neglects to answer the most significant one: What is the biblical perspective on 60-acre parking lots and “faster-pace” corporate worship? It is true that in the Book of Acts Luke documents remarkable growth of the early church in numbers that would qualify it for megachurch status. But the greater lesson Luke points to is that these large numbers served as a catalyst to bring about the dispersion and expansion of the church throughout Asia Minor by dividing up and going forth with the gospel.

Debates over how much acreage to purchase for parking not only reflect a mindset of consumerist individualism but display, as well, a disregard of any sense of stewardship of the planet and vision of how God might otherwise make use of that land space. Furthermore, where are these multitudes when it comes to fighting for Christ on the forefront of the hard-core issues, like abortion?

Rev. Wendy Murray Zoba

Atlantic Highlands, N.J.

Like Christian and Faithful on their way to the Celestial City, the church has arrived at Vanity Fair. Faithful was martyred; Christian escaped barely with his life. Will the church follow suit, or compromise with the reasoning of Worldly Wiseman?

Hugh Cannelon

Bellingham, Wash.

Market-driven churches? Whatever happened to gospel-driven churches? What would we say—what could we say—if we preached a sermon entitled “A Market-Driven Ministry” and based it upon the temptations of Jesus?

Walter B. Shurden

Macon, Ga.

Needed: A Better Answer For The Disabled

What has gotten hold of Lyn Cryderman [“Worship in a Wheelchair,” Editorial, March 5]? The concept of having the government require all churches and religious organizations to put in elevators, chair lifts, or simply rebuild is silly. If a church is turning away people because of lousy access, what business is that of government? It is also bad theology to say “we sometimes need a crutch for our virtue, a nudge to move us toward the good we know we should do.” Also, here is an example of misused statistics: 35 million disabled Americans include the hearing and sight impaired as well. Does this mean that our government will also mandate what size loudspeakers we use or that we must hire a certified signer? There’s got to be a better answer.

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Rev. Paul M. Mehl

St. John’s Lutheran Church

Revillo, S.D.

Divisive Renewal Groups?

Randy Frame’s recent article “They’d Rather Fight Than Switch” [March 5] elicited strong feelings. I have been around various conservative evangelical churches and served two parishes where the “charismatic renewalist” movements have been divisive, caused bitterness and ill feelings, and became an arena for local political power upmanship. Therefore, while I’d agree with the existence of such groups, I believe they should simply leave the main church if they’re unhappy.

Name withheld on request

We Wish We’d All Been Ready

This time of year, the weather can change faster than a politician after the election, which is probably why Arvid Lessor asked the chairman of our church’s building and grounds committee to conduct a couple of tornado drills. Arvid is a ham radio operator—sort of a boy scout with whiskers—so we’re never surprised by his ideas. One year he wired an antenna stretching from the top of the steeple to the basketball rim in the church parking lot, just so he could demonstrate the amazing world of radio to the fourth-grade boys. But after hauling at least three-fourths of a ton of equipment to the fellowship hall and blowing three fuses, all he could manage was a brief conversation with another ham three houses up the street.

But hey, the guy has a heart of gold, and when he showed us pictures of a church in the next county that lost its roof in a tornado, a little emergency preparation sounded like a winner. Arvid got the go-ahead from buildings and grounds, but unfortunately, our first tornado drill was also our last—but not because we didn’t give it our best shot.

As directed in the bulletin and a special letter sent to every member, the congregation quietly exited the sanctuary and headed for the basement when Arvid pulled the fire alarm. In an orderly fashion, they scrunched up to the west wall, women and children first, of course, while the men sort of huddled over them. “Two minutes and fifty-eight seconds!” shouted Arvid from his command post next to the alarm switch. “Gotta do better than that! Let’s try it one more time.”

Too late. Before anyone knew what was happening, three fire engines, an ambulance, and a police car raced into the parking lot. As the crew assembled hoses, two firemen and a policeman sized up the situation and headed straight for Arvid. Of course, our pastor intervened, but not before Arvid got an earful about false alarms and how 18 men had risked life and limb on a beautiful Sunday morning.

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After that, Arvid was asked to find a new way to announce a tornado, phony or real. Something tells me his latest idea won’t work, either. I’d hate to think who might show up when Arvid sounds a trumpet blast from the balcony.


Who Draws The Line On Faith?

Prof. James Goff’s essay on the Word of Faith movement [“The Faith that Claims,” Feb. 19] is like an old Texas farmer telling a Bostonian, “Don’t tell me about Texas, mister—you ain’t never lived here.” The piece is rife with assumptions, errors, and insults. Word of Faith meetings give God all the glory for their receipts, worship him wholeheartedly, and hold fast Christian foundational doctrines.

Aren’t all things named in prayer claimed in faith? Who among us officially decides conclusively where to draw the line on what and how much God offers for the happiness of his children? Maybe the jury should ponder their verdict lest while they’re out the Judge dismiss the case.

Don A. Coker

Paige, Tex.

No Easy Solutions To Health Care

I expect to read many letters from outraged physicians whose “sacred ox” was gored by Everett Wilson’s essay on health care [“When Mercy Becomes a Business,” Feb. 19]. Any solution to the crisis that does not involve greater increases in this country’s already whopping per-capita cost will surely involve a general decrease in many physicians’ income as resources are shifted from “high-cost/high-tech” medical care to a more rational distribution emphasizing primary care. This will decrease many physicians’ outrageous incomes and reduce the use of many of our “bright, shiny toys.” Shifting resources from intensive and expensive efforts to extend the life of one person into areas such as prenatal care, immunizations, proper sanitation and nutrition, and routine primary care will certainly yield higher benefits in decrease in death and disease per dollar spent than “last-ditch” interventions.

The real issue is to what degree we are willing to force other citizens (by taxation and other means) to contribute to the charitable provision of health care to those who cannot afford it otherwise. I ask these questions not to belittle Wilson’s position, but rather to point out the profound question that we must answer: To what extent should we force other citizens of this country to behave in a moral manner? I cannot stomach standing idly by while many of my patients cannot afford simple antibiotics for a child’s pneumonia. Ideas, anyone?

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Jeremy C. Klein, M.D., A.B.F.P.

Salem, W.V.

Like so many laymen, Wilson only touches a portion of the iceberg. The Canadian health care system, as well as national health care systems in other countries, is an economic disaster. The Canadian health system is broke; it has completely folded in upon itself to a point now where it is rationing the quality of care as well as the quantity of care. Physicians and nurses are overworked, underpaid, and totally disenchanted. In fact, I encounter several physicians each year from Canada who are trying to reestablish their practices in the United States. Believe me, it is not for economic reasons. They are completely broken as professionals.

Thomas H. Mallory, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Columbus, Ohio

Christian Proclamation: Many Faceted

Robert Brow, in spotlighting the “Evangelical Megashift” [Feb. 19] of emphases in evangelism and Christian teaching, seems to me to be tacitly positing false dichotomies. I see no division or contradiction between God as Judge and as Father; between his justice and wrath against sin and correction; between hell as “gray” and joyless and as outer darkness and burning (different strokes for different folks), between the church as safe “stockage,” as evangelistic “agency,” and as God’s family with a teaching ministry, and so on. Since these are all biblical models of spiritual realities, Christian proclamation ought also to be many faceted, balanced, and inclusive to them, and it should reflect the emphases made in the Bible.

Ruth Dodson

Fairfax, Va.

We have six theologians here debating evangelicalism, as if the word means something. But is our emphasis really to be on evangelicalism or Christianity? Our preoccupation with labels only serves to further divide the body of Christ. We are not evangelicals, or fundamentalists, or charismatics, or ecumenists, or catholics, or protestants; we are “children of God.”

Stephen D. Watkins

Providence, R.I.

“Evangelical Megashift” gave insight into our congregation and my own preaching. The demand for an upbeat sermon with the preacher smiling from ear to ear seems the norm for today. If the minister isn’t smiling, the people tend to get upset. I have avoided a direct sermon on hell for the last few years. Thanks to your article, my next sermon is on hell.

Rev. David J. Vohar

New Vineyard, Maine

The English Church

I write to comment on “The Remaking of English Evangelicalism” [CT Institute, Feb. 5]. Thank you for affirming the brilliant ministry of Dick Lucas in the financial district of London. I also felt your survey on the house-church movement was reported rather well.

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But I do not understand why you would refer to the Evangelical Alliance as having “shifted from an organization with a clear doctrinal identity to a fuzzy, experiential movement.” This is wrong. It is precisely because the Evangelical Alliance was fuzzy that Dr. [Martyn] Lloyd-Jones was led to break from it in 1966. He would not have stood up as he did had the Evangelical Alliance been as it is now under the leadership of Clive Calver. As a matter of fact, I recommended to our deacons that we return to the Evangelical Alliance if only to affirm Calver’s robust stand for the truth.

I felt the comment that there are no young men bridging the gap between charismatics and noncharismatics was also an implicit denial of what is probably Calver’s greatest contribution. He is 41 (I call that young) and doing more to bring charismatics and noncharismatics together than anybody I know!

Dr. R. T. Kendall

Westminster Chapel

London, England

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