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Truth Quest or Happy Quest?

Moralistic Therapeutic Deist megachurchery in action:

“While we don’t tailor the content for unbelievers, we do tailor the experience for them,” explained [pastor Andy] Stanley to the nearly 2,500 in attendance and hundreds more watching online around the world. In a message titled, “Rules of Engagement,” he highlighted the need for pastors to “stay at the epicenter of what is happening culturally” and develop a strategy to improve and adapt their approach to ministry.

“People are not on a truth quest; they are on a happiness quest,” he said. “They will continue to attend your church – even if they don’t share your beliefs – as long as they find the content engaging and helpful.” Stanley described how the North Point Ministries model to “engage, involve, and challenge people” is designed to introduce them to a relationship with Jesus and emphasized that “the ultimate win is life change.”

Change to … what, exactly? How do you know whether the change is positive? What happens if learning the truth about oneself and one’s life is painful, and makes one unhappy, at least at first? There’s that irritating truth problem again.

Also, if the “experience” is tailored to unbelievers, what are the actual believers, chopped liver?

Says the reader who sent me this link:

Even a Baptist like me has to do a face palm over comments like this.

Serious question to readers who endorse Pastor Stanley’s point of view: can you help me understand it? I’m honestly confused over how to reconcile this to basic Christianity.

UPDATE: This reader makes a good point in the comments:

I live very close to North Point, and I’m an evangelical. I’ve visited several times, but it’s not my church home. I’m not a fan of the slickness and as a life-long Christian, I find the messages a bit shallow.

However. I know dozens of families who attend, who never went to church before visiting. Their children are professing faith in Christ and getting baptized. They show up for community worship nights and service projects and small groups. The kids are put in small groups with children that attend their schools, so they have friends from church that they see at school. I have close friends who give sacrificially of their time and money to care for the poor, inspired by their church.

What is the Orthodox church doing to reach the people? What is the Catholic church doing? Mainline Protestant denominations? I find your derision off-putting. The culture is changing (as it always does); should the church shrivel up and die?

I freely confess that whatever this church’s faults, it’s probably doing more to reach people who have never been to church than the Orthodox or the Catholics are doing. That really is a fault of ours, though it will always be true that neither Orthodoxy nor Catholicism can easily be packaged for this particular culture, at least not as readily as Evangelical Christianity can. And God knows, when the roll is called up yonder, there will surely be countless people standing there because of the work Pastor Stanley did, versus the work that I did. Again, I freely confess that, and I thank you for helping me understand better what Pastor Stanley is up to. I would like to know more about the content of what is taught to the people in the church once they’ve committed to it. If they are giving sacrificially of their time and money to the poor, it sounds like the church is doing something right in forming their conscience.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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