lifelines “The new church of America—Part 1”
By Ian Robinson, Major
Feb. 28, 2012, marks the 30th anniversary of our arrival in the U.S. from the U.K. It has never been declared a national holiday and no one has composed a poem or symphony to commemorate this auspicious day. No books have been written or movies made about it, and to the best of my knowledge it is not taught in public school history classes.
Nevertheless, it was an important day in our family history when we sold all our earthly goods and uprooted our children to set off on a big adventure.
But that’s a story for another time.
Driving to church the other Sunday, I noticed a lot of buses on the road—they were all heading to casinos. I couldn’t help thinking that when we arrived in this country most buses on the road on Sunday morning were filled with children headed for Sunday school.
What a difference 30 years makes! Casinos have become a major denomination in the New Church of America (NCA). Instead of worshiping God, people flock to worship Mammon. They happily pay their tithe, and often a lot more, spending hours sitting on a stool in a noisy, smoke-filled, windowless room throwing their hard-earned cash into the hands of the casino owners while their souls drift closer to hell with every click of the slot machine or roll of the dice.
Fitness clubs are another new denomination in the NCA. Every Sunday morning you can see their congregations through the massive glass windows, running and cycling their hearts out while going nowhere. The television screens around them proclaim messages of politics, business and sports mingled with worship music of never-ending commercials. At least they have something to show for their money with better health, lower weight and a lot of excess sweat.
What happened? When, and more importantly, why did people stop going to church and start going to casinos, fitness clubs, the beach or the mall on Sunday morning? We could write a hundred columns like this and only scratch the surface of that debate. But the burning question that we must face today is: What are we doing about it?
Obviously slot machines and treadmills in the corps lobby are not the answer. Slick marketing and entertainment won’t compete either. People are turning to the New Church of America because they have decided that the Old Church of America no longer meets their needs. And compromise doesn’t work. A few years ago the New Yorker magazine published a cartoon of a church sign that read:
The LITE CHURCH:
24% fewer commitments:
Home of the 7.5% tithe, 15-minute sermons, 45-minute worship service
We have only 8 commandments—your choice
We use just 3 spiritual laws and an 800-year millennium
Everything you’ve wanted in a church…and less!
Yet, giving up is not an option—I don’t remember seeing, “If you can’t beat them, join them,” in the Bible. In fact, Jesus says, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it (Matt. 16:18 NLT).
We don’t need to change the way we do church; we need to be changed. Ask God to bring us back to life, to revive us. With the psalmist we all must cry out, Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? (Ps. 85:6).