Bird on a Bare Branch

Attempting to fling a frail song in my little corner of the world

More Thoughts on Preachers from My Country April 3, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jen @ 7:49 am

Here are some things I’ve been thinking about in response to the comments on “Preachers from My Country”:

  1. The Protestant Church in Mozambique is, for the most part, charismatic.
  2. Most pastors are untrained.
  3. People, in general, are uneducated. An “educated” person is someone who has completed secondary school. And any education a person has received is not quality education.
  4. Therefore, people do not read. They might know how to, but they don’t really have access to books or the time to read them. They listen to radio and CDs and watch TV and DVDs. An average Mozambican Christian could not be expected to sit down with C.S. Lewis, for example.
  5. John Stott is not shown on the God Channel (as far as I know). Joel Osteen is.
  6. Churches or auditoriums filled with thousands of people are impressive.
  7. Big-name evangelists have huge budgets to broadcast themselves into many different countries and be translated into many different languages.
  8. Many missionaries also like these evangelists.
  9. Other American imports that Mozambicans love: Early 90’s love ballads (How often have I found myself singing along to “Everything I Do”?), hip-hop (“What?! You don’t know Akon? But he’s from your country!”), cheesy action flicks (“Jen, do you watch Rambo? What about Van Damme?”)
  10. Most things cheesy have an appeal to them because they are simple, catchy, and cross-cultural.
  11. By knowing this much about America, Mozambicans actually know far more about America than most Americans know about Mozambique.
  12. Whether we like it or not, Joel Osteen, Rambo, and Akon represent America as much as Rob Bell, Garden State, and Norah Jones.
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10 Responses to “More Thoughts on Preachers from My Country”

  1. John Hubers Says:

    Actually its not all that surprising . . . they have the same kind of appeal here. That’s why they have 10,000 people in their churches and are on TV! This is human nature, not specifically African.

    Unfortunately what gets missed is that the vast majority of Christians do not draw from this sometimes poisoned well either in America on anywhere else. It’s kind of like watching Dr. Phil and thinking you know what therapists are like when, in fact, he’s the exception rather than the rule . . .

  2. jhubers Says:

    Yeah, but are the vast majority of Christians drawing from much of anything?

  3. jhubers Says:

    And who are the vast majority of Christians worldwide?

  4. John Hubers Says:

    They are mostly people who worship in local churches with congregations of anywhere from 30 to 400 or so, the kind that will never get on TV. They may out of curiosity watch the mega evangelists and find some things there that are helpful, but for the most part their spirituality is drawn from the local community with whom they worship.

    Here’s a little known fact: the majority of churches in America in which the majority of Americans worship have congregations of 100 or less. The numbers at the smiley guy’s church in Houston may look impressive and they are. But even in Houston the vast majority of the thousands of people who are living out their Christian faith in any number of different ways are going to small to large-ish, but not mega, churches.

    That’s the only point I was making. The TV mega-churches do not necessarily define a normative Christianity. The Crystal Cathedral is the only Reformed Church that gets on TV. It is anything but the norm . . .

  5. renee Says:

    but it seems to me that the smaller churches in America are dying . . . Zach and I looked for a year at different small churches in Houston (because we loved URC and Campus Chapel so much) and felt like the Spirit was not there. Then we visited FPC, 4,000 members, and felt that the Spirit was moving. Granted, it had it’s problems, but it was full of Bible believing, praying, wonderful Christians.

    Perhaps that’s because things in the South are different? But then why is that the case? The few people I knew who went to Joel Osteen’s church were amazing Christians. I don’t think that had anything to do with Joel Osteen. I think it was because of the dynamic smaller communities they were involved in, within the larger church.

  6. renee Says:

    maybe dying wasn’t the right word. struggling is better.

  7. John Hubers Says:

    Good point, Renee. But this was less a comment on the spiritual life of different congregations than the fact that most Christians (80% in America) worship at non-mega churches. I don’t imagine you wish to say that only the 20% who go to mega-churches are getting the real deal. And having watched Joel and the Crystal Cathedral and other TV evangelists I can’t say that what they’re teaching has a lot to commend it. Most of these churches have good small groups where the substance of the Gospel is passed on. But the Mozambicans who are watching these evangelists on TV aren’t hearing that.

    Jennnifer is certainly right to say that the Moz. are seeing a slice of genuine Americana when they watch these TV evangelists. TV evangelists are, in fact, often more reflective of American pop culture than they are of a thoughtful reflection on the biblical message. But that’s the problem, as they think they’re getting solid biblical teaching. They aren’t.

  8. jhubers Says:

    That’s not to say the small congregations are necessarily getting solid biblical teaching either. Or that small congregations are all that thoughtful. I’ve come across some pretty lame pastors in small churches. And many times, as Renee said, there are reasons why those congregations are so small.

  9. John Hubers Says:

    This is certainly true, as well. But I actually wasn’t so much making a case for small churches as mega versus normal, especially mega churches that are also on TV, which are the only kind that the Mozambicans would be aware of.

    The main point was to say that the message that is being preached by tele-evangelists is not necessarily reflective of what the vast majority of Christians are hearing in “normal” churches. That’s all. It is also to say that simply because these preachers are able to gather a lot of people together and raise enough money to get their faces on TV that it necessarily means what your Mozambican friends think it does – that it must be the best preaching and teaching. It just means that these people are good entertainers.

    The fortunate thing is that most Christians are not drawing the substance of their faith from people like Joel Osteen and the other prosperity preachers. Christianity would be in deep do-do if that was the case because there’s so little substance here. This says nothing about the presence or lack of biblical substance in small churches or any other sized churches. It just says that we shouldn’t necessarily hold up TV evangelists as the best that Christianity has to offer.

  10. John Hubers Says:

    I should have said how much I agree with what you’re both saying about small churches. I was the supervisor of a church that only stayed open because they had rental monies coming in. It was small because it did poor ministry. And there are a lot of bad spiritual leaders out there. All of this is absolutely true.

    What I should have been stressing the odd nature of the kind of ministry you find on TV. Its not a big church small church thing. Its a community church versus a tv ministry. Given the choice I take a community church every time.

    We found a small CRC church here in Chicago, by the way, that feels a lot like URC. Sorry you couldn’t find something like that in Houston. But isn’t Houston kind of an odd city in that everything there is big . . . . Even a Lutheran church I spoke at there was big, extremely big. And they didn’t fit any of the stereotypes of thriving evangelical ministries.

    Here’s another interesting statistic — liberal churches are growing again, sometimes as fast or faster than conservative churches. . .


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