I was a little hesitant when I picked up this fictional novel about an associate pastor in a megachurch. It was supposed to be an extremely funny book that would keep the reader in stitches, so I decided to take a chance. I needed a little humor in my life anyway!
Well, the book was well written and actually pretty funny, so from that standpoint, it was well worth reading. However, the most important lesson I learned from it would probably have horrified the author! Yet, I'm glad that I read the book.
First off I'm not into megachurches. Members can and do get lost. Many church goers may actually like that so that they never have to take on any responsibility. In fact, after becoming totally exhausted in ministry at very small churches myself, I have many times threatened to go to a church where I could slip in on Sunday morning and slip out at the end where no one knew me or even seemed to care. I understand, but I don't believe that's what church is about.
However, I was appalled by the opulence in which the senior pastor and top people lived. Luxury cars, regular golf times at prestigious golf courses, magnificent offices, vacations in the Caribbean, and staff retreats at expensive spas were the way of life for this bunch. Was this author serious? I kept waiting for the cynical main character to disassociate himself from the church, wondering about the disconnect between the senior pastor and the third world where church and faith mean persecution, poverty, loss, and even death. But, the main character only spoke about how much good the church was doing, how many lives were changed, and how God had placed him in this wonderful church.
Also, I was bothered by the rigid set up of the Sunday morning service. It could only last exactly sixty minutes and the pastor's sermon could run no longer than twenty-five minutes. It was performance and entertainment oriented. The sanctuary was given a circus name.
Surprisingly, the main character seemed to have a personal relationship with God, although it got somewhat lost in all the references to popular rock music, movies and near swearing.
So why did I decide I was glad that I had read the book and what lesson had I learned?
There was a conversation in the book about someone wanting to become a Christian, but he was hesitant because it would mean giving up so many things. The associate pastor's answer blew me away. He said that Christianity was about freedom, even in those bad habits of his. He continued to say that God would change the believer's perspective and those habits just wouldn't seem so important any more. I almost fell off my chair! Most bad habits that we have are just plain sinful! God doesn't give us freedom to live in sin! It was then that I realized that this book was a prime example of where the church is going today. Satan must be ecstatic! There was no talk of sin or repentance. It was the "God accepts us just as we are" line that never gets around to stating how God will not leave us in sin. He demands repentance, the turning away from sin.
Where is the church headed? If we continue to follow in the line of this book, there soon won't be much of a church left, at least not the Church where there is repentance and true change to holy, righteous living. We'll just be playing church.