By Steve Holt, Opinion Editor
Editor’s note: The name of the church in the following column is made up.
The pitch for the “hot-off-the-presses-red-white-and-blue” bumper stickers told the whole story.
After the senior minister at the Coastline Christian Center prepared the primarily visiting Easter Eve congregation for the offering, the weekly announcement video popped onto two massive screens.
“Be sure to come to the information booth in the lobby to get your brand new American flag Coastline bumper sticker,” a teenage girl broadcast on the professionally edited video. “That way you can show your patriotism and point people to Austin’s greatest church, Coastline.”
Wow, I said. I thought we were the church. And is there really a “greatest church?”
It didn’t get any better from there.
“Can you imagine a place where Coastline Christian Center can minister to thousands more in our city?” a voice asked as photos of ornate building plans and models flash on the screen. “Buy the brand-new Resurrection DVD in the lobby today and support the construction of the family life center.”
At this point I’ve got my wallet in a death-grip.
“Be sure to pick up ‘Coastline Worship’-our collection of powerful worship songs, many of which were written by our own worship leader Rob Jones,” said the next soliciting voice behind images of a sweaty, intense worship leader.
Man, I thought. Is “one of the country’s fastest growing churches” really this desperate for funds? I answered my own question with a resounding “no.”
Coastline Christian Center is just one example of a national trend of “Corporate Christianity,” sweeping through America’s mega-churches. Blindly, church leaders put church attendance and money-making at the forefront of their barrage of every ministry under the sun.
How could many of today’s congregations get so far off track from the New Testament example of how the church should be? The answer is simple: many church leaders today measure church growth by how much gross revenue they bring in and the attendance numbers from week to week.
For this reason, Coastline T-shirts, hats and other gear are available online and at the Coastline Shoppe in the lobby for members to “support their church,” according to the Web site.
The bride of Christ in 2003 must move away from the American, capitalist view of churches that exists in the business world. The baby church immediately following Jesus’ death had the risen Lord in the center of all it did, and he was their ultimate reason for existence.
“Corporate Christianity” robs the church of its true core, replacing it with a false sense of growth and success. But in the end, God will judge the church and its leaders on how it glorified him by bringing others to know their Lord-not on how many ministries it offers, CDs it sells or bumper stickers it distributes.