by Siera Weber, written for MtTFC 2015
Some may wonder why the Church today is not as successful as she has been in the past. Before, Christianity used to thrive, drawing in thousands of souls; now it is but a dusty relic of ages past. What has caused such a dramatic change? The reason can be summarized in one word: fashion.
For too long the Church has garbed herself in the dreary drapery of hell-fire and brimstone, sin and wrath to come. It is little wonder respective suitors have fled the Church, considering that “Thou shalt not” is stamped upon her brow and “Thus saith the Lord” is continually upon her lips. Cloaked in solemnity and grimness, she wanders through the world rather as a widow than as a bride. It is high time that the Church as a whole casts off her ancient robes and adorns herself in apparel trending in today's current age.
Success in this area is not as distant as it may at first appear. Already multiple churches are employing strategies to shine and polish the Church's Word-weary visage. Yet complete and total success has not been reached by the entire Church. Stubborn local bodies of bigoted born-again believers still cling tenaciously to the dusty volume they claim contains “absolute Truth”. Such beliefs belie their ignorance, for any educated person in today's age knows that “Truth,” even absolute Truth, ebbs and flows with the fickle tides of current opinion.
It is amusing, is it not, that the Church claims to know the only way to Heaven and the only source of Truth? Her arrogance is appalling! Is not pride one of the sins that the God of the Bible claims to abhor? Only when the Church humbles herself and respects the beliefs of other religions can she remove one of her first pieces of offensive clothing, which some call the Belt of Truth.
There is much more to her ghastly garments! Once converted, Christians everywhere are expected to become a new person and don what has been called the “breastplate of righteousness.” Clearly the Apostle Paul and the Holy Spirit were unaware that personal identity and self-esteem would become such delicate issues in the Church Age. By claiming that Christians need to be “born again” and put aside their old ways of life, the Bible seems to be saying that we are not good enough on our own! But wait, the Holy Book has not yet ceased its attacks on human self-esteem. It further states, “there is none righteous, no, not one.” Imagine the hurt such news causes people today, especially when all they need is to feel loved and accepted! The Biblical church goes so far as to claim that the human heart itself is deceitful! Now, perhaps people are not perfect, but certainly we are not all bad. Besides, anyone would seem terribly wicked when compared to the Bible's standards. Once converted, Christians are expected to live up to an immense standard of holiness. Is it any wonder that the Church as a whole looks so weary all the time? White garments are difficult to keep clean.
New horrors appear as one scrutinizes the revolting raiment of the Biblical church! Her feet must wear shoes prepared to spread the gospel. This is not just any gospel, mind you, but a gospel that is deemed “foolishness” to the world. To claim that the Church is the bride of a Savior who died and then arose three days later is in and of itself foolishness. Also foolish are the beliefs that this Savior died for the so-called sins of mankind, that we, as “fallen” humans, cannot save ourselves, and that this Savior is the only way to heaven. It is little wonder that the Church, so ignorant of political correctness, is hated when she spreads her gospel message so bluntly. Most certainly her poor feet ache by now.
Accessorizing the Church's garish garb are none other than a shield of faith and a complementary helmet of salvation. The Biblical Church claims that, without the faith shield, pleasing God becomes impossible. Obviously she does not understand that we as humans have much to offer God. What need have we for faith? Furthermore, she must have forgotten the disgrace of obtaining the helmet of salvation. God would have nothing from her, not her works or righteousness, but gave her the helmet as a gift of grace. It is the modern age, an age of technology and achievements and progress! And yet the Church promotes the belief that God would have nothing from us. He believes us incapable of saving ourselves, and seeks only to give to us. He would have us view ourselves as nothing, reduced to criminals deserving of death. Such a message has never been in fashion.
Even more offensive than her apparel is the brand the Biblical Church wears, by which all men may know she belongs to God. This brand is love: love for each other, love for enemies, and, most importantly, love for God. This is not a permissive love, nor a love of emotion. It is a love of grueling sacrifice and denial of self. It is completely foreign in today's culture, which is perhaps the reason that so few embrace it. Often members of the Biblical Church herself neglect this love, for it is a love of action rather than of words. It is a love that demonstrates itself in absolute obedience and even death. How could such a love ever be popular?
After the Biblical Church's outfit has been altered, efforts can be made to reconstruct her message. The Bible itself shows us that the Savior of the Church was disdained by the world. Therefore, if He is to be the crux of the gospel, His image must be changed. Already some churches are finding solutions to the problem of Christ's lack of marketability. They present him as a Savior who rescues people from all of their perceived emotional needs. Self-esteem, personal fulfillment, happiness—you name it, Christ provides it! Little mention, if any, is made of God's righteous wrath and judgment. God's holiness is neither politically correct nor fit for mainstream audiences. By cleverly presenting the gospel as the Jesus-Plus-Everything-You-Think-You-Need package, open-minded churches are ushering thousands of people into their pews and recording fresh names on ever-growing rosters. If only more churches were willing to so alter their image. Then, perhaps, they would see their numbers grow.
An issue with this revitalized gospel and rejuvenated image is that the Christian life after salvation still contains hardship and struggle. It would seem that the Bible demands perfect obedience and sacrificial love from the Church, traits of which no humans are predisposed. God expects irrational devotion from His people. Therefore, discipleship too must be downplayed in churches seeking to draw in the world. This is not so difficult a task, however, once the main Gospel message—the driving force behind the “new life”—is done away with or merely altered.
It stands to reason that humans are naturally closer to their friends than to their enemies. The Biblical Church believes that the world is an enemy of God and, consequently, an enemy of the Church. Therefore the Church has a decision to make: win favor or win souls. If the Church's desire is to win the favor of the world and more people in her pews, then she must merely progress further upon the new path she has laid for herself. However, if her desire is to truly win souls, then she must surrender her claims to authority and submit again to her God and His plan for winning souls. Both souls and their harvest come at steep prices, however. Salvation of souls has never been in fashion.
Gary Gilley, The Market-Driven Church-Part 2, http://www.svchapel.org/resources/articles/21-church-trends/511-the-market-driven-church-part-2 (July 2000).
2 Corinthians 5:17.
2 Timothy 3:16.
Gary Gilley, The Market-Driven Church-Part 3, http://www.svchapel.org/resources/articles/21-church-trends/512-the-market-driven-church-part-3 (August 2000).
1 Peter 1:16.
1 Corinthians 1:18.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4.
1 Corinthians 15:3, Romans 5:8.
John 15:19; Mark 13:13; 1 Peter 4:14.
Hebrews 1-2; Romans 6:23.
1 Corinthians 13.
Isaiah 53:1-6; Matthew 27:22.
Gary Gilley, The Market-Driven Church-Part 4, http://www.svchapel.org/resources/articles/21-church-trends/513-the-market-driven-church-part-4 (September 2000).
Gary Gilley, The Market-Driven Church-Part 2, http://www.svchapel.org/resources/articles/21-church-trends/511-the-market-driven-church-part-2.
John 15:19; 1 Peter 3:17; Hebrews 11:36-38; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 John 3:13.
John 14:15; 1 Corinthians 13.
Proverbs 21:10; John 3:19; Ephesians 2:3.