Here are my thoughts for this Sunday, the 7th Sunday after Pentecost.
I have decided to start my own church. I am going to start on the Internet and after the contributions and donations start to roll in, I will begin televising the services. Maybe we will pull in enough to even buy an old auditorium or arena and turn into a worship center.
The name of my church is going to be the “1st Internet Worship Center of the Gospel of Prosperity.” We aren’t going to call it a church because that will scare away the customers (oops, sorry; I meant to say congregants). I probably will decorate the web site and the church with a dove and, since this will be a world-wide ministry, most definitely a globe. Don’t go looking for a cross or any references to Jesus; market research has indicated those things tend to make people uncomfortable.
Since it is an internet site, you can come anytime; we will be open 24/7 and the attire is informal. That’s good because it seems that the dress code for preachers today is blue jeans and Hawaiian shirts. For right now, I will settle for t-shirts and sport shirts. Maybe when we start televising the services, I will have enough money to buy a few Armani suits.
Ours will be a Biblical ministry but each sermon will be decided by input from focus groups. People want their churches to be biblical in nature but they want their pastors to avoid mentioning the Bible. By using focus groups, we can accommodate the wishes of the people.
Most certainly, since this is a church of the gospel of prosperity, we are going to focus on how one can use God to become wealthy and prosperous. We believe that poverty is a product of sin and wealth is a sign of a righteous life.
Ours will be a church (oops, sorry – meant to say to say worship center) that celebrates life. Ours will be a celebration of family values, so if you are not part of a traditional family you will have to go some place else.
If by now you haven’t figured it out, the above paragraphs were written with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. They come from impressions of many of the churches that are on television and the Internet today. They are what people are looking for because it gives them what they are looking for. Is that what a church (and I mean church) is supposed to do?
I don’t think so. A church is a place of hope. A church is a place to call out against the sins of the world. It is a place where the Spirit of the Lord is present. But it is not a place where the people decide what the words of God are to be. It is not a place where people decide what sins are.
In the Old Testament reading for today, the prophet Amos is warned by the chief priest to take his message of repentance elsewhere as it is not welcomed in Israel. Amos’ message is a warning to the king and the people that they are headed in the wrong direction and they need to change direction. But the people don’t want to hear such words; they only want to be told good things, even if good things aren’t the truth.
And many of the churches that I see and hear today have no use for those that don’t fit their concept of Christian. Family values are a political term that many ministers have accepted and use to prevent those who need the church from benefiting from what a church can offer. Instead of opening the church to everyone, family values have become a way to close the church to outsiders.
Who should be in our church? Who is our neighbor? The Gospel reading for today is the story of the Good Samaritan. The point of the story is not just that everyone is our neighbor but that self-righteousness is as much a sin as anything else. The first two men to walk by the wounded man had valid and Biblical reasons for not helping. But their reasons, however valid, were self-centered reasons. No matter how hard we try to justify something, if we use the law to justify not doing what the spirit tells us we should do, then we are as guilty of sin as those who attacked and robbed the victim in our story.
I am not planning on opening a church on the Internet. There is too much to do in the real world. Amos tells us that we need to focus on telling the truth and the Gospel reading for today reminds us of what we are supposed to do. As Jesus told so many people after they had heard the story and understood the message, so He tells us today to go and do likewise. That is what we are supposed to do and that is what we should do.