Monday, May 16, 2005

The 99-Cent Church Value Menu

It has been 13 years since Charles Colson wrote "The Body" and spoke of the McChurch mentality among Christians. For Colson, the problem was the sporadic attendance at various churches by people in the same manner that we choose to eat at McDonald's or Wendy's or Burger King in order to 'vary' our routine.

There is another likeness out there, though, that invites the picture of the 99-cent value menu. People are devoted to their church and to their denomination to whatever degree they can choke down the particular theological position. Being Presbyterian or Baptist or Methodist or Catholic has little to do with the doctrinal statement of the specific church that people attend – they could not care less. The amount of news recently about the office of the Pope just brings such thinking to the forefront. Many Catholics feel perfectly free to pick and choose menu items from the Catholic beliefs the way we choose chili and a junior cheeseburger deluxe. Same goes for the Baptists (which I am) and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and the [insert denomination.]

We are now living in a society in which there is no prevailing understanding of the church's authority in any way. If the church is against a couple living together out of wedlock, people just ignore this facet of biblical teaching. The even stranger aspect of such predicaments is how many people keep attending and participating in church even though they disagree with what is being taught there.

One explanation I can suggest for this is the false understanding that there is some spiritual merit in attending church that achieves better standing with God. Many people, especially in the Bible Belt of America, view church as 'good' and believe that there is a need to attend church in order to achieve a better status in the eyes of God. Church 'membership' becomes the 'get-out-of-jail-free' card that brings security to individuals. Lost is any sense of gathering to worship the God of creation, the Author of salvation, the very God who has revealed himself in Scripture.

The church is also to blame. Churches have moved to such a place as to value numbers and size so much that they are willing to compromise everything else. Not only is such thinking an injustice to the people who can attend and not hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, but it is akin to the false prophets of Jerusalem who would continually prophesy peace and good while men like Jeremiah were declaring the true message of God. Not only do so many churches water down the content of their teaching, but they seemingly promote the membership role as a God-ordained list. Do churches not teach such easy and faithless church membership when they seemingly require nothing of anyone besides a desire to join? With so little emphasis on truth and so little accountability to any particular church, it is no wonder that people feel fine having their names on a list even though they rarely attend and certainly don't consent to the church's statement of faith.

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