Over the past several weeks, I’ve made it a point to check out what’s going on in the evangelical Christian world by visiting various thriving churches. None of these congregations is one I’d want to be part of, but I was curious to see what was making them so apparently successful, at least numerically. From Phoenix to New York, and places in between. I slipped quietly into the audience and watched. Most of them had several things in common: reasonably professional-sounding praise bands which were obviously a major main draw; sophisticated settings with smiling greeters who had Dale Carnegie-style aplomb; interior design that was eye-catching and hip; casually dressed pastors whose wardrobes and mannerisms shouted “casual” and “cool.” But there was something I observed that hardly anyone else seemed to notice. It wasn’t what all these churches did, but what they didn’t do that chagrined me. It wasn’t what they had, but what they didn’t have that bothered me. It was glaringly obvious, to me, but presumably not to the oblivious, marketed masses.
I wanted to jump up in the middle of their services and shout from the top of my lungs “Where is the cross?” Go ahead, check out the Christian channels showcasing the most successful megachurches churches on TV. Church-hop a couple of Sundays. You’ll observe what I did. In most of them, not a cross anywhere. Not outside. Not on a steeple (there are very few of those any more). Not on the platform. Not somewhere behind the pulpit. Zilch. Nada. No cross. I have come to realize that this is no happenstance oversight. It is deliberate. With all the care taken to be certain that the stage design is worthy of a Broadway show with modernistic emblems and colorful lights, to augment the flashing video presentations that constantly punctuate the meetings with slick editing, no one bothers to include a cross anywhere. The conclusion? Not oversight. Intentional.
Paul told the Corinthians that the cross is the emblem of God’s power (1 Corinthians 1:18). So why had it been expunged from the churches I attended? I could only conclude that these purveyors of congregational cool didn’t want the environment to look too religious, lest some might be offended and not come back. After all, isn’t it all about being friendly to the seeker? No sense offending them with some ancient, formal symbol of Christianity. Don’t remind them of what’s uncool and traditional.
I now understand why some people think it so unusual that, in my seminars, I provoke demons with a cross in hand. And why some criticize me for doing it. It’s something believers seldom see anymore. The Christian public is losing its theological and philosophical grasp of the cross as the preeminent symbol of our faith. This one emblem has been Christianity’s universal image of the gospel for two millennia. You may think I’m over-reacting, but consider what I say against the backdrop of what churches have looked like for centuries. Some friendly advice. If you don’t see a cross somewhere in your church, think twice about coming back next Sunday. The absence of the cross speaks volumes about the implicit mindset of the church and pastor. And if you think I sound too bold or judgmental, wait until you read what I say in Part 2 of this blog next week.
This is part one of a series. Next week, Part 2.
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An encouraging word: GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT
In our world of looking out for #1, and politics of division and disrepute, the words of Paul to Timothy are a contrast: “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). Many seek contentment in the “mindfulness” of Eastern meditation. They pursue peace in drugs and lust. They hope for calm minds and bodies with yoga. But Paul says that the way to true contentment is by living a godly life. Such a pursuit is not only fulfilling, but it is “great gain” in every way, relationally and spiritually.
Bob Larson has trained healing and deliverance teams all over the world to set the captives free and Do What Jesus Did® (Luke 4:18). You can partner with Bob and support this vision to demonstrate God’s power in action by calling 303-980-1511 or clicking here to donate online