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Monday, April 1, 2013

Just More Christian Junk

I went to a Christian bookstore this past week to pick up a new Bible for my wife. I normally shop on line but this store had the translation I wanted deeply discounted. The store is part of a national chain so I suppose most of their stores operate as this one. I was shocked by what I saw. Maybe all Christian bookstores have gone this route. The store looked like a K-Mart with all the junk in the aisles. There were all sorts of cheap jewelry, t-shirts, stickers and emblems for sale. Many of the books were questionable. It seemed that putting a cross on any piece of plastic enabled this store to charge ten times more than it was worth.

I stood in line to check out and found a bunch of metal crosses in a bucket with a sign that said something like, "Find Your Blessing!" I got the idea that I was supposed to reach in the bucket and get a cross. The crosses had either "hope" or "love" or "peace" or some other word that was nebulous at best. I suppose you were supposed to reach in and buy one of these crosses and claim that word on the cross as your blessing. I kept looking for one that said, "Lottery Winner!" Alas, it was not to be found.

Is this what we have come to as Christians? Do we really think that using the name of Jesus to make money is acceptable?

I have people coming to me with Christian gimmicks all the time. They try to sell these things in order to generate money. They want our church to sell mugs and t-shirts and all sorts of things which will generate an income. I have personally said that we do not sell anything at the church which will not be directly used for a mission project or create disciples of Jesus Christ. I can't see how Christian junk can do that.

Do we sell things at church? Of course. We have dinner theaters in which the youth raise money for mission trips. We have our young girls selling soup that they have made to fund a special mission project. We have books sold for discipleship classes. But we do not try to make money for ourselves by selling things. Our mission is to make disciples. A disciples is someone who does what Jesus commanded.

It is so easy to forget what the main purpose of the church is. It is easy change the focus of the church from discipleship to attendance or financial stability. But once you have lost your focus in what you should be doing it is easy to see how selling Christian junk makes sense./

We are reaping the fruit of a lack of focus on discipleship today. Most people who call themselves Christians do not know what righteousness is. They believe that love is accepting every ones' idea of what is right. They believe that hate is telling someone what he is doing is wrong. They believe that everyone will go to heaven regardless of what they have done or believes. They believe in buying Christian junk but forget Christian discipleship. They have a faith of convenience.

Somehow we have got to return to the heart of the matter. We have to focus our lives on making disciples of Jesus Christ who do what He commanded. The rest is just more Christian junk.

Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


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Anonymous said...

The crosses, per se, are alright.  There is a place, sometimes, for that wooden or metal cross, not that i know if it will scare the evil spirits away when you point one at them, but sometimes for somebody, it can be a "comfort" and a help.  I remember how my dad was dying from cancer, and at that point in time he was open to the Lord.  In his youth, my dad used to buy pendants and chains with the Jesus' picture on them.  However then, he did not embrace the faith or pursue it, but he kept them for years.  As far as I can remember my most initial encounter with the Christian faith is my finding these, together with fountains pens that my dad collected in his early life, in drawers, which became opened to us, in our teens.  And in his dying days, my dad could not read the bible or anything like that; he accepted the Lord as his Lord and Saviour, and clung onto a small wooden cross we bought him to hold in bed.

I always say the Gospel does not need to fancifully packaged, simple things like the metal or wooden crosses are fine as token telling the story of Jesus. Usually, it is the way of peddling that is the problem. I am glad you don't find one marked "lottery winner"!

I frown more at the teachings of the books we find in Christian bookstore; and I frown even more, at the erroneous teachings on the Internet, on the core doctrines and theology of the Faith. For these are more readily accessed by all, than the books in the stores.  In the past, in churches, we get warned about questionable books available at the bookstores in town, today we hardly get that.  One reason could be the church has grown to be "chicken" (scared of boycotts, retaliation or legal suit).  Another, it could be as is observed by Ps Prentis, there is just too many of them now in the stores!  Needless, to say, churches don't warn about wrong teachings on the worldwide net.

It is very correct to say the church must concentrate on core discipling. By that I mean all members of a church congregation must get the core theology of the faith right.  We won't fight over peripheral issues, but the core theology and doctrines must not be compromised.  It is not enough for the church to just get people saved; the Great Commission included "teaching them TO OBSERVE all that the Lord has commanded". Now, it is not even enough just to teach the members, it is they have to observe what the Lord has commanded. When the members have knowledge but don't live them out, it is still not enough.

The worldwide church is growing, but it is also growing in superficiality!

Anthony Chia, high.expressions