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Six Flags Over Jesus

July 24, 2007

As some people, perhaps, might already know, this spring I took a cultural studies seminar, and for the final essay I wrote about megachurches, the great bastions of evangelical excess in the United States. I’ve posted the essay via the link below, and I would love to hear what people think.

Six Flags Over Jesus

Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, KY

A thumbnail picture of Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, KY

  1. Phil permalink


    First, I agree entirely with your thesis and general argument. Much of what you said was insightful, appropriate and well-developed. While I am no expert in the field, a few criticisms:

    1) One day while running with Jim Kerr I raised my own heated suspicions of Rick Warren. I was embarassed that our church participated in a study of Purpose-Driven Life and told him so. While I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis of his movement and faults, Jim told me something surprising that complicates the issue and bears mentioning. Warren does a 90% ‘reverse-tithe’. Perhaps that just goes to his own megachurch, but it does put quite a hamper on viewing him as entirely greedy.

    2) Your analysis of the pastoral disconnect was brilliant, but needed some qualification. There is a time and place for pastoral retreat (let’s all advertise for Beaver Camp, ha): a comparison between say, a permanent gouge on the landscape that escapes urban conflict, and seeing God in natural beauty, or a riverside baptism.

    3) Honestly, I was surprised by your thesis. Andy, a thoroughgoing Marxist (I jest), claiming that the megachurches’ theology was deciding their capitalistic decadence? Reading the essay, your argument really is my expectation: church decided by means of economic activity, which I hardly disagree with as an influential factor. I felt that the thesis, however, was left unproven. The discussion on the ‘render’ passage was great, along with some other referenced analysis to other churches. But overall, more quoted representations of the megachurches’ theology was required, along with its deconstruction.

    Overall, a good read with fine insights and generally good evidence. I was glad to read an essay you so clearly care about. Thanks for posting it!

  2. Phil: You’re a comment all-star on this blog! I appreciate the feeback. What you’ve just read has all the earmarks of a seminar paper hastily constructed at the last minute before the due date. I was ashamed of how little I developed the connection to the pastoral, and your criticism about me needing to bolster my thesis more seems to be apt. It’s the same thing my professor said. He suggusted that I turn to even more primary documents and interpret them as evidence. I thought I had done a fairly thorough job in that department, but I guess I need to do more.

    And as far as Rick Warren goes, I am not unaware of his so-called generosity. Warren is a really confusing figure at times. On the one hand, he is unequovically the disseminator of bad information and bad theology. Yet on the other hand, he spearheaded a group of evangelicals to speak out against global warming, and he doesn’t appear to be a prototype evangelical huckster either. He “refunded” much of the salary that Saddleback church has paid him in recent years. He’s subsisting instead, I guess, on the royalties from The Purpose Driven Life, the fastest selling hardcover book ever.

    Still, when the rubber meets the road, I cannot exonerate Warren because so much of what he stands for is exactly that which is so deeply problematic about evangelical christianity. You should have Mr. Kerr read the article as well. Perhaps he’ll see another side to Rick Warren-mania!

  3. Hi Andrew! My, You’ve been busy on this blog! I have a lot of catch up reading to do. I’m kind-of back on my blog, but not in full swing.

  4. eleiva permalink

    If he donates 90% of his income to his own church, and then the church pays for his expenses, it’s not much of altruism, for me.

  5. Jonatha permalink

    Your thesis was well researched and thought out. I would have to agree with most of what you said. For my senior thesis from seminary I did a study on mega-churches and what we can learn from them.

    I would have to say that many are no more then a sideshow at the carnival. They are marketing whatever people want at the time. Sometimes this can be a good thing but taken to the extreme the Bible seems to be left out.

    Lakewood Church is all about making people feel good about themselves and not about making people realize they are sinners and in need of a Saviour.

    Jesus message was not always feel good and as for commercialism you need look not further then Jesus throwing the money changers out of the temple.

    There are good mega-churches out there who are spreading the gospel like Houston’s Second Baptist Church where Pastor Young preaches the gospel and many are saved. Another one would be McClean Bible Church in McClean VA. These are the exception to the rule though.

  6. Hannah permalink

    i didnt read your essay and im not commenting on that but i would like to say that calling southeast 6 flags over jesus is a totaly misjudgement. southeast may be a very large church but it also has a big heart! all though there size may be unattrative to some, others, me inparticular enjoy it. they provide many oppurtunities and with there size and are able to acommplish things that smaller churchs can’t. they open doors for people not only in the community but around they world. but most importantly they bring people to god and that is what its all about, right? im sure your familar with the saying “dont judge a book by its cover” and by you calling southeast six flags over jesus your judge the church by its size. you may not like it personally but this church has helped millions grow closer in their faith and many shown many others the power that god has. if you dont like the size go to a smaller church but calling southeast 6 flags over jesus is not only unchristian like (and if ur not a christian than its just rude!) but its also a misrepresentation of our true purpose as a church and that is to bring people closer to go so that they may no him wether it be one person or 1 million1

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