From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
[PCUSANEWS] 'An experience of God'
PCUSA NEWS <PCUSA.NEWS@ecunet.org>
Fri, 23 Jan 2004 12:59:06 -0600
Note #8087 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:
'An experience of God'
January 23, 2004
'An experience of God'
Bold ideas, actions are keys to church transformation, speaker says
by Jerry L. Van Marter
CHARLOTTE, NC - Most of the evidently successful "mega-churches" and
church-growth movements have actually been failures because they have watered
down the "radical gospel message of transformation of individual and
community lives," a leading religious innovator told a crowd of nearly 1,000
Presbyterian leaders on Jan. 23.
The Rev. Mike Slaughter, the lead pastor of Ginghamsburg (United
Methodist) Church in Tipp City, OH, near Dayton, said during the opening
plenary session of the annual Churchwide Transformation Conference that "the
mega-church has failed as a reproducible model, because the Biblical measure
of strength is not size, but faithfulness."
Although his own church is an example of rapid growth - it had 118
members when he became pastor two decades ago, and now attracts more than
3,000 to weekly worship - Slaughter says its hallmarks are the demands it
makes on people to engage in community service and to practice spiritual
"We're looking for seekers who are asking the hard 'God questions,'"
he said during the opening session of what used to be known as the
Redevelopment Conference. "We're not trying to convince the unconvinced -
this is radical, revolutionary service we're demanding, not a quick weekend
fix we're offering."
Slaughter's message clearly struck a responsive chord among the
church leaders from across the country who have come here to talk about how
Presbyterian churches in changing communities can change to serve new people
and meet new needs.
The theme of the conference, which continues through Sunday, is
"Xtreme Boldness," a reference to 2 Cor. 3:12 - "Since then, we have such a
hope, we act with great boldness." Its co-sponsors are the Evangelism and
Church Development Office of the National Ministries Division and the Network
for Churchwide Transformation.
Slaughter's advised his rapt listeners not to try to be all things to
"The church's problem is trying to reach every one in every
location," he said, noting that Christianity has "a large umbrella" that
provides "plenty of room for particular appeals to specific cultures."
As an example, he cited Jesus, who "had a specific target audience"
and a specific goal - "to seek and save the lost; moreover, the lost Jews;
and even further, poor, lost Jews."
Slaughter told ministers and other church officials to "identify the
culture that you can best relate to, and go after them."
He said his studies of "the emerging church" have revealed that all
successful 21st-century churches are:
"Post-moderns don't want to be put on a committee," he said. "They
want to be
equipped to make a difference in the lives of others."
And the reality is that U.S. communities today bring numerous
cultures together. Slaughter quoted comedian Chris Rock: "You know this
country is turned upside-down when the best golfer is black (Tiger Woods) and
the best rapper is white (Eminem)."
Churches must accept the new reality and say goodbye to the racial
homogeneity of traditional places of worship, Slaughter said, adding: "To be
Biblical, you have to be multicultural. All the tribes have to be
represented. That's what God demanded."
Ginghamsburg has forsworn building ever-larger sanctuaries to
accommodate its growth, he said. "Seekers want an experience of God, not an
explanation of God," he explained. "They want the intimacy of a cafi, not the
expansiveness of a mall. The appeal of the church is intimate relationship -
with God and with fellow seekers - not a mass movement."
Punctuating his address throughout with short video clips, Slaughter
said 21st-century life, especially for young people, is "an electronic
"The language of the post-Christian generation is multi-media," he
said. "The tutors are MTV and Sesame Street."
Churches that fail to "speak" that electronic language will not be
understood, he said.
Slaughter also sounded a warning to ministers who may take his
"Oh, you're going to get (critical) letters," he said. "You'll lose
some people. But you'll gain your community's soul. ...
"You may get crucified, but you'll be in great company. Like Jesus,
your crucifixion may just include real transformation."
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