Toward a Content-Free Church: What’s the Point?

If you keep on making your tent bigger and bigger and bigger, eventually you don’t have a tent.

And if you keep on making your megachurch more and more mega, eventually you don’t have a church.

My friend’s pastor sent us a copy of the Saddleback Worship Brand Book – Saddleback being one of the most mega of megachurches, under Rick Warren – which includes a little section on Do’s & Don’ts. If you click the link, you’ll have to scroll down a bit to find it.

The Brand Book advises those who want to grow their churches to “Avoid empty phrases” and “Avoid Christianese,” the latter being words and terms that someone ignorant of Christianity or the Bible won’t be able to understand without having them explained to him. Like, who wants to go to the trouble of explaining anything?

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What interests me is two lists, “Words to Use” and “Words to Avoid.”

Here are some of the “Words to Use,” some of which strike me as empty phrases in their own right. Authentic (no empty phrases there!). Celebrate (oh, please). Heaven (as in “Everybody goes to Heaven”). Openness (I am running out of patience). Relationship. You get the idea. Happy/Fuzzy-speak.

Here are some of the “Words to Avoid.” Born again. Brothers and sisters in Christ. Fellowship (does that get rid of our “fellowship hall”?). Gospel/Good News (why would we want to steer clear of good news? Don’t we need some?). Hell (good grief! By no means ever mention Hell! That’s neither happy nor fuzzy!). Repent (“We’re all so sweet and wonderful, what in the world would we ever have to repent?”). Sanctified (You don’t need to be sanctified if you’re already sweet and wonderful).

Does this sound like someone’s on the road to a pseudo Christianity devoid of content? I mean, all they’re missing is the Play-Doh. They call it “Reaching Out in Changing Times,” but it sounds more like being conformed to a desperately confused and fallen world.

What is the point of herding thousands of people into your church if it’s not going to teach them any Christianity, but only tell them a lot of pap they want to hear?

None that I can see.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Lee Duigon, a contributing editor with the Chalcedon Foundation, is a former newspaper reporter and editor, small businessman, teacher, and horror novelist. He has been married to his wife, Patricia, for 34 years. See his new fantasy/adventure novels, Bell Mountain and The Cellar Beneath the Cellar, available on
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