From a reader:
On the recent Osteen posts, and indeed whenever the topic of evangelical megachurches comes up, there seems to be a tendency to compare their apparent (numerical) success with Catholicism’s apparent failure. As I am currently reading Ratzinger’s God is Near Us, this brought to mind
his concluding thought from the homily "God’s Yes and His Love."
If I may excerpt:
"Did Jesus fail? Well, he certainly was not successful in the same
sense as Caeser or Alexander the Great. From the wordly point of view,
he did fail in the first instance: he died almost abandoned; he was
condemned on account of his preaching. The response to his message was
not the great Yes of his people, but the Cross. From such an end as
this, we should conclude that Success is definitely not one of the
of God and that it is not Christian to have an eye to outward success
numbers. God’s paths are other than that: his success comes about
through the Cross and is always found under that sign…. The Church of
the suffering…is God’s sign of success in the world; the sign…which
reaches beyond mere thoughts of success and which thereby purifies men
and opens up for God a door into this world."
This reflection is also a nice antidote to the ever-present poison of
the prosperity Gospel. That Ratzinger is a pretty wise fellow.
Thanks for letting me share this, and I hope you find it interesting/useful/something.
A good point, and it gives me an opportunity to clarify my interest in megachurches.
For, me this isn’t about numbers. Truth is, as someone pointed out in a comments box, a big parish with six masses a weekend is a megachurch, too.
To me, it’s about bringing people to Christ and the fullness of truth.
When I read about the megachurches, emergent churches, and so on, I’m not interested in their numbers for their own sake. I’m listening to the reasons people give for finding this church or this style of church meaningful, listening to their stories of how it has changed their lives or brought them closer to God. Very often, those stories begin with "When I went to the Catholic church…."
But taking it another step, I’m not listening to those stories to see how the Catholic Church can "compete" on the same playing field. I don’t accept the evangelical megachurch playing field as my playing field. I do, however, accept the lives of normal Americans in the 21st century as my playing field, and I’m interested, not in how we can adapt what the Church is to what they want or expect, but how we can make clear that what they want and are yearning for, the answers to their questions can be found in Catholicism.
This is the tactic I used in the Prove It books, and not just because it’s a tactic, but because it’s the truth. Teens have a million questions about God, and legitimate ones at that. The answers are there. You don’t have to label your answer "This is what the tradition of the Catholic Church says" in order to draw upon that tradition to answer the question.
The tricky part, of course, as discussed here once or twice, is making what people experience on the local level match up the truth that is the Catholic Church. Well, yes, Catholic tradition does point to Christ and a personal relationship with him, and the whole spiritual and sacramental system of the Church is geared to that, in an amazingly full and rich way that binds us, not only to Jesus, but to each other and all of creation in deep, ever-growing ways. Well, yes, Jesus does reach out to the outcast through the Church, and offer abiding love. Yes to all of that and more.
But if the big Fellowship down the street is drawing Catholics and the unchurched seeker…we need to listen to what they’re saying. Not for the purpose of imitation, but in order to figure out how we’re missing the boat on communicating the living, nourishing truth that’s right here -that we’ve been entrusted to share.