This reflection is now available in Daniel P. Horan, OFM’s book Franciscan Spirituality for the 21st Century: Selected Reflections from the Dating God Blog and Other Essays, Volume One (Koinonia Press, 2013).



  1. A million times yes, Dan. I totally agree with you and have been saying the same thing myself recently. You really are on to something here. What a great post.

  2. I grew up in Chicago when Willow Creek was just getting its start. It creeped me out then for reasons I couldn’t adequately explain. I’ve wondered the same things as you in this post. You don’t have to look very far afield, either, to see its effects in our own denomination. On certain Catholic blogs, news sites, etc, if you change one or two words, they’re indistinguishable from other evangelicals.

  3. Within our own Church we hearing people describe themselves as “Catholic Evangelicals” — the EWTN community, for example, and others — the rhetoric and the social/moral issues are alarmingly the same as those you pointed in your post, Dan. Where is the Gospel in all of this? Where are the radical demands of Jesus expressed in the Sermon on the Mount? Where is the proclamation of the absolutely selfless love of God for us … and were is the call to true ‘agape’, the God-like love, preached and lived by Jesus, that never seeks its own good and well-being but only that of the “other”? I think of Joel Olstein, the smiling evangelist who tells us that if we are prosperous that means that God loves us in a special way. That’s not what Jesus taught.

  4. “You can demonize the unwed and poor pregnant woman outside a Planned Parenthood office because you are not that person.”

    This is the Christianity I came into and grew in during the 80s and 90s. In my repentence of this kind of judgment and ignorance the Spirit has given me more compassion for people and passion for Jesus.

    Excellent and powerful thoughts that are true.

    grace and peace…

  5. I am uncertain about a couple of things in this post.

    1) The idea that megachurches have singularly prioritized getting bodies in the door seems incomplete. Obviously, the crowds are taken to be a marker of pastoral success (“we must be doing something right!”), but I don’t get the sense that worship attendance per se is as high a priority as you (and apparently Wolfe) suggest. This feels like a Catholic-hued analysis, from a perspective where participation in the liturgy is of heightened importance. For evangelicals, I think it’s being part of a Christian community that is critical, and I think the crowds on Sunday follow from this.

    2) I am skeptical that megachurches are actually trying to be “all things to all people.” The idea that megachurches only tell people what they want to hear seems wrong. I think the sexual norms and other individualized “purity” norms are quite demanding and result in much anguish among adherents. Of course, this theological outlook is distorted, wrong, and boring (in my view), but it is nevertheless an outlook. (I am reminded of a quote from The Big Lebowski: “Say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, but at least it’s an ethos!”) They have certainly made Christianity less like the Gospel, but I think the idea that megachurches have made church “less-like-church” reflects a rather Catholic bias that “authentic Christianity” has to look like our style of worship.

    3) Finally, the connection with religious symbolism (crosses on church buildings) is confusing to me. The megachurch crowds are perhaps more comfortable with Christian imagery than mainline crowds. (I’m thinking of cross jewelry, Jesus-fish t-shirts, bible references on everything,etc.) I don’t get the sense that they are likely to be scared off by a cross on a building, so I doubt that the symbols have been stripped in order to be more inviting. More importantly, if this is a critique of the substance of evangelical and/or megachurch theology, then the matter of “religious” adornment seems quite irrelevant.

    So, needless to say, I won’t be re-tweeting this particular offering 🙂

  6. @ David, thanks for some “interesting” views. I only respond to point out that the three scholars I referenced — and whose reflections serve as the impetus for this post — are not catholics. While I may be inextricably laden with a “catholic-hue” given my confessional outlook, those scholars are most certainly not. Their critique is from within.

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