Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Off-Site Post: ‘What Comes after Protestantism in the States? Magick’

The [u]nited States, with few exceptions, are Protestant nations par excellence.  If, therefore, one understands something of the nature and essence of that religion, he will also understand something of the course the States will probably follow. 

One of the fundamental elements of Protestantism is change.  It resists settledness with all its being.  Early in the Reformation, John Calvin laid down some important markers regarding it:

“The reformed and ever-reforming Church.”  This was John Calvin’s response to the Latin accusation that he and the other Protestants were innovating.  He articulated in his The Necessity of Reforming the Church that this process of reform is the work of God in the Church at all times, and is to be done “according to the Word of God” . . .  (Archpriest Josiah Trenham, Rock and Sand: An Orthodox Appraisal of the Protestant Reformers and Their Teachings, Newrome Press, 2015, footnote 210, pgs. 145-6).

The Protestant obsession with innovation, with the ‘new’, is a major tenet of modern life in the States.  One can see its ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ side in this article about the latest megachurch fad, the Crossroads Church:

The fastest-growing congregation in America is one you may never have heard of with a name you hear everywhere: Crossroads Church.

Crossroads are about as common as First Baptists among today’s non-denominational, contemporary churches. But this particular Crossroads, based in Cincinnati, could have a location near you in coming years if all goes according to plan. It has set out to take on nationwide influence, leveraging data from its app and streaming services to choose where to launch new campuses.

“There’s something in the whole package that comes together,” said senior pastor Brian Tome, whose preaching is broadcast from Crossroads’ campus in Oakley to more than a dozen other sites. “God gets the glory.”

Just over two decades old, the booming church still functions like a startup—for good reason. Described by Cincinnati Business Courier as both “an entrepreneurial church and a church for entrepreneurs,” its business mentality has been key to its growth so far and shapes how it will expand—essentially, franchise—in the future.

In 2017, Outreach Magazine and LifeWay Research named Crossroads the fastest-growing church for the second time (the first was in 2015). With 14 campuses and 38,000 in attendance, Crossroads added around 6,000 members in 2016—growing at a rate of 25 percent.

Taking ministry out of the box

While keeping focused on Scripture and the Spirit, leaders at Crossroads pride themselves on rethinking the standard tone of church life. They favor catchy language and marketing, powerful messages, and exciting programs. They credit the church’s growth to an entrepreneurial willingness to break the mold—even their own.

“We don’t set out to intentionally disrupt anything,” said Brian Tome, senior pastor of Crossroads, who mingles business metaphors and spiritual allusions.

“But Jesus said he works in new wineskins. He’s not against old wineskins. But he said he has come to do a new thing. The Holy Spirit is active in our church, causing us to do things other churches aren’t willing to do.”

Tome cites the Holy Spirit’s leadership in everything at Crossroads—from their vision to expand beyond the Midwest to how they organize their programs to why they placed beer kegs outside a prayer tent at a recent men’s event, drawing thirsty participants in for prayer.

While he has a seminary degree and a ministry background, Tome has surrounded himself with business leaders, out-of-the-box creatives, and entrepreneurs. Most of Crossroads’ founders (who invited Tome to the city to be their pastor 22 years ago) were executives at Procter & Gamble, the Cincinnati-based marketing behemoth behind brands like Tide, Febreze, Crest, Gillette, Charmin, and Pampers.

 “We’re taking risks we wouldn’t take if we were preoccupied with sustaining ourselves,” Tome said. “I think that’s the call of discipleship … We have to be willing to take the risk and be hurt if we’re going to take new ground and be formed into being the disciples Jesus asked us to be.”

Jenn Sperry, far right, leads the church’s media team as it shifts to a national focus. “we’re open-handed right now to where God is stirring up energy,” she said.

Founded in 1996, Crossroads has always built on its business background. Only a small fraction of staff members have seminary training, because the church seeks diverse staff to fill roles that go beyond preaching, music, youth, and children’s ministry.

While in-house graphic design and branding are nothing new for megachurches, Crossroads has a team that functions like an ad agency—stocked with designers, copywriters, project managers, public relations managers, and social media strategists.

It’s these initiatives and strategies that set the church apart, rather than Tome himself as some kind of celebrity pastor. (When he showed up recently at a pastors’ conference in Silicon Valley, he said no one recognized him.)

The church embraces conversational and edgy lingo, what it deems “culturally current communication.” In its manifesto, Crossroads celebrates authenticity because “hiding sucks.” The church takes a strong stance on biblical truth but points out that it doesn’t care if members wear socks with sandals or how they pronounce “GIF.” They adopted a “beer test” for leaders on stage each weekend: Anyone speaking should be approachable enough that you’d want to tip one back with them.

Tome predicts American churches will soon look radically different from what Christians have expected and experienced for the past few decades, though he doesn’t know exactly how.

To stay ahead of whatever changes might come, the church employs two full-time market researchers, as well as a sort of research and development division. The “skunkworks” team borrows its name from the corporate-world moniker for a group that operates autonomously and often secretly to pioneer new ideas. Crossroads’ leadership entrusts the skunkworks team, full of young Christian entrepreneurs, with building ideas for the future.

They aren’t supposed to play it safe. These days, for example, the high-tech team is looking into ways Crossroads could use artificial intelligence in ministry and worship. “Their task—figure out a way to put Crossroads out of business,” Tome said. “Anything short of sin is up for grabs.”

 . . .

This constant change in forms of worship is a real point of trouble for the post-Schism West (both Roman Catholic and Protestant) that touches on something much deeper than matters of taste:  the acquisition of the Grace of God.  If one rejects the Orthodox forms of worship, he also cuts himself off from God’s Grace.  Leonid Ouspensky explains:

 . . .


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!

Anathema to the Union!

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