Religion is a lucrative business in America. In some places of the world Christians pay for their faith with their blood. But not here. Here we buy religion from churches that have become retailers. It is a profitable enterprise: many people want religion; many churches sell it.
What we find disconcerting is that among all the religions available to people today, it seems only “Christianity” has succumbed to market strategies to move ahead of the competition. In every profitable business, the record at the end of the day demonstrates success or failure by the bottom line on the ledger: In the red or in the black?
A lot of churches in America ventured into the marketplace some 40 years ago. Their entire ministry was reconstructed to attain a singular goal: expansion. Part of that expansion has to do with larger facilities because of growing numbers of customers. Part of it has to do with community relations because to be successful we need to be accepted as peddling a desirable and legitimate product. And part of expansion has to do with celebrity appeal because Americans are obsessed with entertainment.
How would you answer questions about going to church if you had only the Bible as a guide? Is it even feasible that anyone could be such a purist in the post-Christian age? Does the Bible have that kind of clout anymore? The short honest answer is, of course, No, it doesn't. As an absolute authority, very few people are amicable to biblical teaching intruding into their autonomous world. The Bible has very little influence on the postmodern church. From direct observation of the religious culture in America, the Bible has pretty much been banished to the realm of irrelevance.
Whatever the Bible teaches or doesn’t teach, many (most?) churches of America are noticeably immersed in culture. The church has been secularized. Now, there is little discernible difference between churches and retail outlets. The “campus” is built to appeal to people wanting a positive consumer experience. “Events” are planned and executed to achieve a higher profile in both the proximate community and the more distant world of the Internet. Churches are competing for the prize and it keeps them aggressively reaching for the next level of the market share. But it all depends on what sells. What people want. What they're willing to buy.
And the Bible? It remains the best-selling book of all time. But it doesn’t carry anywhere close to the weight it once did. Most people who purchase a Bible never actually read it. It's more of a keep-sake from an ancient civilization. It doesn’t seem to carry much weight in most churches today—even churches that might give it some lip-service by reading it out loud (so long as only the mellow passages are selected for public reading).
No, we prefer our autonomy in all matters, especially in religion. And the idea that our postmodern minds ought to be subject to the authority of something as ancient as the Bible is, to most people, ridiculous.
Ridiculous or not, the Bible conveys the clear truth of what the church actually is according to its Chief Architect. When is the last time you heard an advertisement for the church as the gathering of committed followers of Jesus Christ who desire above all other things to be sanctified in the truth of God's word? Interestingly, Jesus prayed for this to be the timeless characteristic of his people (see John 17:17). But who even thinks about being confirmed to the likeness of Jesus Christ as a reason for going to church or a reason to choose one church over another?
Sanctification is that activity of God the Holy Spirit by which people who are committed followers of Jesus Christ become less and less like they were before they became Christians, and more and more like what they will become when they are gathered forever in the glorious presence of the Christ of Scripture. Do you attend the church you attend because that church is centered on Christ and his word by which you are becoming less and less like the sinful world and more and more like Christ? Do you go to church to grow in righteousness? Is the church a required part of putting your sin to death in the death of Christ? Is the church integral to working out your salvation with fear and trembling? Is the church an assembly of imperfect people who are giving their all to learn to love as Jesus himself loved? Is the church the place and the people where you actively participate in this mutually edifying ministry?
While we endeavor to make our presence known, we are not part of the competition for shares in the religious marketplace. We "sell" nothing. We endeavor to serve Jesus Christ in the ways he has revealed in his authoritative word, the Bible. Our concern is not a material one. We do not look at people as potential customers. We do not look at ourselves as faddish consumers who are always looking for the state-of-the-art production.
We are sinful people, imperfect, but seeking to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. We are sinful people, but Christ Jesus has done something for us and in us that makes the world unattractive. Every time the word of God is opened to us we find Christ's beauty and glory impossible to resist--and all desire for resistance fades. We love Christ. Our souls are filled with such a gratitude that is hard to contain. Why? How?
It is because of what God has revealed in the Bible, his word. He has make known his love and grace in his Son who bore our sins in his own body on the cross. He has made known his purpose in Christ to reconcile us to himself--we who were formerly dead in our trespasses and sins. He has made known his plan to glorify us in the presence of his beloved Son in whom we have the forgiveness of sins. At the end of the day, as at the end of earthly life, we say with the humility of a broken and contrite heart, "This one thing we know: whereas once we were blind, now we see." And we dearly want for as many as are willing to have Christ open their eyes and show them the way, the truth and the life.
We invite you to join us if this is the kind of church your're looking for.