By Larry Beane
This postcard just arrived from Impact Church. On the back it says:
"At Impact Church, we don't want to add religious duty to your 'list' of stuff that occupies your time. In fact, we dislike religion as much as you do." Yes, indeed, it is trendy to bash "religion" these days. It's good marketing in the current cultural paradigm. It's the narrative.
But what does Scripture say about religion?
"Religion (θρησκεία) that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:27 ESV)."
Indeed, visiting people in their need is something that the sinful flesh dislikes, even as we like gimmicky "churches" that brag about "fun games, cool music, exciting Bible Lessons & More!" as this postcard shamelessly says.
The postcard also says a lot by what is not said.
There is nothing about sin, grace, forgiveness, or redemption. And the only cross to be seen is in the mockery of the traditional church, in the stained glass above the forlorn altar. And indeed, that is often the way Christ and His Bride are depicted by false, fly-by-night "churches" and entertainment hucksters.
Oh, and something else is missing. Or should I say someone. The name Jesus and the title Christ are nowhere mentioned, or even hinted at, on this postcard. Can there be anything more scandalous and more damning than for a group claiming to be a church to completely ignore the Lord Jesus Christ?
If you want Starbucks coffee, rock music, dancing girls, and other forms of entertainment, you can find them in lots of places. But if you yearn for depth and meaning, for transcendence and truth, for God's Word, dignified worship of the Most Holy Trinity, the theology of the cross, and "religion that is pure and undefiled" in the confession of Jesus Christ unto forgiveness, life, and salvation - you can find them at faithful traditional Evangelical Catholic churches that aren't sending out flashy postcards that mock and belittle the Bride while ignoring the Bridegroom. We are not formed by the latest Barna poll or shaped by focus groups, but rather we are called by means of Holy Baptism, forgiven by the Word, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and covered unabashedly by the atoning blood of Christ.
The counterfeit 'impact' of entertainment-worship is clear when contrasted with the Divine Service, in the preaching of Christ crucified, and in the Holy Eucharist. Churches ought not be ashamed of the name "Jesus" nor of the Gospel that He has called us to confess and proclaim. Moreover, according to James 1:27, part of "pure and undefiled" religion is to "keep oneself unstained from the world." In other words, pure and undefiled religion is countercultural and cuts across the grain of marketing experts, focus groups, the never-ending quest for hipness, popularity, and what sells.
Gimmick religion is dead. But Christ is risen!