It should not surprise one that the church in its larger contours is eaten up with consumerist mentalities. The wider culture in North America is certainly rushing full-throttle on the capitalist train, so it should not be a shock to see the “church at large” imbibing marketing strategies and selling its product.
Furthermore, as the average person in the USA is currently predisposed to find comfort and entertainment as the answer to their otherwise futile working weeks, the church senses its need to compete for attendees.
If a shopping mall is more attractive when it has a food court and a Starbucks, we may as well have high-end coffee and donuts on offer at our congregational meetings or we might fall down the scale of the trendy and the desirable. Malls, once a thing buried deep in an innovator’s ingenuity, now provide avenues not just for purchasing things but a complete shopping extravaganza.
Also, movie theaters continue to foster the breaking of records as millions descend to their lavish screens. So, the contemporary church is utilizing film and music videos, where clips interspersed in its “sermons” or pep-talks provide the type of stimuli that patrons are used to. Recently someone on LinkedIn was praising a congregation that was on the cutting edge using 4K and HDR, if those are even the right terms. If your lighting and air-conditioning are not up to scratch you will lose many that otherwise profess to be ready to suffer for the gospel. What irony is found in the Evangelical world!
I recently read an article by an Evangelical vicar of the Church of England warning of the church’s inevitable exile from the already estranged culture. So, in addition to the dangers of compromise that this fellow-Evangelical observes, I would add that the particular American danger for the church is its preoccupation with providing an entertaining experience for the 8:00 am, 10:30 am, and 11:30 am Sunday crowd.
If football games are to be played on Sundays we will need to step up our game. Big screens and “Superbowl” parties are becoming a common theme within these edifices we nonchalantly call the “church!” The mega-church mindset, the seeker-sensitive approach to meeting perceived felt-needs, mosaic gatherings where differences in doctrine are played down, lamentably is a growing industry. “Churches,” in order to retain sustainability, must replace the old-style fire-breathing prophet types with business savvy, CEO types that can market and grow their brand.
Today it is much more common to hear tips on how to achieve self-fulfillment from a church professional than hearing about repentance from sin and self-denial. The ancient style of speaking the word of fire that is a hammer has been replaced with speaking the lie with winsomeness.
How can Christianity survive? Well, obviously we are not talking about the version of “Christianity” that is like the Ark of Noah, not just animals in it, but also the waters of the deluge. This compromised entity will sink, even as it accommodates culture. It will sink in the midst of its worldly success, but it will be too late once the Ark hits the bottom and the waters overwhelm.
No, true Christianity is the remnant church that has always been a minority within its contemporary generation. This church is the true Body of Christ and as such will survive for the gates of Hell shall not prevail against her. Her Lord is master even over the demonic forces that war against her. She shall be the church victorious on the final day as Christ Himself will vindicate her and show forth to the world that she was His beloved bride all along. What a day that will be!
But what of the interim? Now, as the uncertain times emerge, what are we to expect and how can we maneuver in such a world of shifting loyalties and foundations? It is high time to take the Bible seriously once more. We need men fearless in their commitment to truth. We need men that will herald the gospel and all its implications. We need men that will reject the game of popularity. We need men that are more concerned with holiness than happiness. We need prophets behind the sacred desk. If God were to raise up such a band of faithful radicals, the world may see what true Christianity is all about: God the Holy Trinity above all!
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