Now, just when I think I can explain the rise of Pentecostalism (that's for another post), it has morphed into an entirely new creature. Sociologists of religion apparently call it 'neo-Pentecostalism', but I call it the 'religion of narcissism', because it's all about you! Of course, such a religion is tailor made to flourish in a self-obsessed culture like ours. For example, just check out the spiel that headed a flyer that landed in my mailbox yesterday, sent out by a 'neo-Pentecostal' church in Brisbane advertising a worship conference 'experience' they have planned, 'The Ultimate Worshiper':
'The Ultimate Worshiper has been birthed to raise up, equip, encourage and resource an army of worshipers to become the ultimate of who God has called them to be.'If I had the technology I'd scan it for you, but underneath the headline is a picture of the husband and wife pastors of the church and several guest speakers, who, with their designer stubble and blow-dried hair, look for all the world like post-modern, trying too hard to be hip versions of Barbie and Ken...the upwardly mobile types who drive BMWs too fast down the narrow leafy streets of the once sedate inner-city suburbs of my home town, which has become the boom town of contemporary Australia and thus full of the perfect fodder for this new religious movement to feed on (Btw, does anyone know: is it somehow mandatory for these churches to have husband and wife pastor teams? And whatever happened to the unworldly pastors/priests who had regulation haircuts, wore off the rack dark suits and horn-rimmed glasses? Their appearance at least conveyed gravitas - what does a blow-dried coiffure say?).
Now, if the tortured syntax and jargonese ('birthed'?) aren't enough to irk you (memo to whoever's responsible for this: in Australia we spell it 'worshippers'), doesn't the thought of spending a weekend with people who aspire to be the 'ultimate of who God has called them to be' just make your head spin and your stomach queasy? Yet a lot of people seem to 'buy' this stuff, for the flyer informs me the church has grown to 5000 members in ten years. In the Australian context, that's quite amazing. But I wouldn't be at all surprised to discover that a majority of these folk are former Catholics, Anglicans, Reformed, Orthodox and Lutherans. It just goes to show that it's really not very hard to 'grow' a church, even in the late-modern, post-Christian, religious wasteland of Australia - the secret is just to tell people what they want to hear.