by Ken Gardner

In yesterday’s paper there was an article about a church in Dallas that has literally thousands of members. The congregation consists of 1400 families—that’s how many? Maybe three or four thousand individuals, perhaps even five thousand? How many do you think show up for worship? Surely at least a couple thousand, wouldn’t you think? No. Not a thousand. Not even 500. Only about 150 attend worship on average. The congregation is Jewish and the entire newspaper article is about what they are doing to increase attendance. Consultants advised them to “embrace marketing principles, such as branding and positioning” in order to “lure potential ‘customers.’” Instead of having a traditional worship service, members and visitors now ride bikes, attend yoga classes, and listen to lectures on various subjects (one was “Kosher Sex: What Judaism Teaches About Relationships and Intimacy”). Children play games like “Jewpardy.” The “mood” is “light and lively.” The worship is “lively, unconventional” as worshipers “dance and clap.”

Ooookay. That’s what they’re doing. But does it work? That depends on your perspective. They say they are trying to “revitalize” their congregations, but it seems they are just trying to draw crowds. One man, a member who seldom attended, said other members told him, “Oh, my God, this is wonderful! Look at how many people are at services. It’s more people than we’ve had in months.” If that’s really what they’re saying, then (1) it must not bother them too much to take God’s name in vain (“Oh, my God . . .”), and (2) they’re really only interested in drawing a crowd.

What observations can we make? (1) Worship is about praising God, not entertaining ourselves. (2) Most people are more interested in their own needs than in worshiping God. (3) We cannot worship God without assembling with our brethren—at least we can’t worship with them, as God instructs, singing, praying, partaking of the Lord’s Supper, giving, and learning God’s word.

Won’t you worship God—with us?