We still sell indulgences in the church. It is just that now you get a commemorative T-Shirt.
Greetings Dear Reader,
“And the three men I admire most, the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, caught the last train for the coast, the day the music died.” (Don McClean — American Pie) I once heard Casey Kasem do a walkthrough of this song and he explained that this line refers to the commercialization of the church in America. I must agree that there is very much about American Christianity that is more commercial than compassion.
The song I included earlier in this series also has a poignant line. “We’ve turned a passion for the lost into the business of saving souls.” (Steve Camp) I wonder what would happen if we stopped trying to sell salvation and began to live out the Gospel in every aspect of our lives. Would our churches fail if we stopped passing the offering plate and told people to give as their hearts were guided?
We could do many things to divest our churches and our lives of commercialism and the business of Christianity. I remember when the Jesus music movement was getting rolling and there was a concept that the music was to be shared freely. Some musicians sold concert tickets for whatever the purchaser could afford. If I want to go see Casting Crowns at the venue closest to me, I can pay anywhere from $38 to $648. I am not picking on Casting Crowns. I truly like most of their music.
What does shock me is that someone has already purchased some of the tickets in the $648 block. I suppose it should not but it does. You see, I wonder how much different the concert is if we see it as the advertised “amazing worship experience” from the $38 seat. I ponder if Jesus was less impactful on the members of the five-thousand he fed who were farthest back when the loaves and fishes were handed out.
So much of the church these days is about the package. The worship or hymns are the build-up to the offering. Giving that is supposed to be done in secret is instead a show for the ushers and the people on either side. Suggestions for programs are almost always measured out by their cost instead of the need. The core of faith leadership in our nation seems to consider the bottom line before moving in faith.
Before I get too far down the path of “the church”, we need to remember that the church only does what its members allow it to do. We are the church and we need to recall that it is a reflection of who we are. We cannot relegate responsibility for keeping commercialism out of following Christ to an entity. We must keep it out of our lives. If we do not then what we follow is something in a package and not the living Christ.
I must be vigilant not to allow the package to be more important than the practice. It is never a matter of money, format, programs, or packaging. It is always about my heart and mind belonging solely to Jesus. That, Dear Reader, is where we can meet and travel together. If we are not selling salvation but instead giving love and grace to everyone freely, we will not have to advertise. People flock to where they get their needs met. “That’s the way that it works. That’s the way it must be. You’ve got to let his blood stain you if you want to get free.” (Waterdeep)
Wishing you joy in the journey,
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, “That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a homeowner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store.”
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