“If They Have a Bowling Alley, They’ve Got it All ... ”
Recently, a young man and his wife turned back to religion. They represent a growing number of middle class American society who once rejected religion but now are being “converted.” The young man had been deeply involved in drugs, and his wife had experienced severe family problems. Both of them said the bowling alley at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas converted them.
A young lady teaching an adult Bible class had quit the Baptists several years ago but now had rejoined that denomination. Her reason? Her own testimony was that previously her church (the Baptists) would never hear of a divorced person participating in church functions, now it is different. So say a number of Baptists today, and so says their own creed book.
The “pastor” of the Second Baptist Church in Houston declared boldly that churches of today need to catch up to the change taking place in modem society. “The church needs to become relevant to the age in which it exists, “ he pronounced. He argued that no church is going to attract people without becoming adjusted to the needs of today. That includes everything from sandwiches to sermons. Jazzercize classes, lonely hearts clubs, senior citizen’s clubs, volley ball, bowling, softball, basketball, golf, and tennis teams should be part of the denominational package in order to get people interested.
A church that does not sponsor hayrides, picnics, barbecues, summer camps, costume parties, and related activities, is not going to make progress with the middle classes. So say the modem day preachers and church leaders. Maybe they are right. And maybe they have hit something that needs a second look. It just could be that the “middle class” in our nation has evolved into the genre of folk who can only be interested in their souls through the things that entertain and physically satisfy them.
Is all this pleasing to the Head of the church? Is this a legitimate way to view the purpose of the gospel? The gospel is designed to appeal to all classes of people, but possibly there is an overlooked truth in Mark’s statement, “the common people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37). Common people have always heard Christ’s gospel gladly. Where there is not luxurious living, affluence, and wealth, more people are concerned over how to be saved eternally than they are in how well they can bowl· in the church basement. That is fact. The reason is that most common people are caught and see little, if any, possibility of ever climbing up the well structured “corporate ladder” to a life of great fortune and wealth. There are exceptions, of course.
Why should not this “middle class” American settle for only a simple message of divine truth that will bring him through the saving grace of Christ into divine fellowship? What is your answer? My answer is that he is unaware of his lost condition, and if he realizes he is lost, it is not really an important factor to him. He goes blithely along, wandering in and out of pleasurable experiences until he finds the best of the best. And, he will stay with that until something even better comes along.
In the early 40’s churches of Christ began orienting their appeal to the sinners of the world in the direction of church dinners, social gatherings, and entertainment. An aged Methodist preacher told my father, “Ross, you people in the church of Christ will leam what I have learned - when you convert folks on hamburgers and soft drinks, you have to keep them converted with hamburgers and soft drinks.” If you agree with this aged denominationalist, what reaction do you have to modern religious organizations becoming “relevant to modem society?”
Is it an insult or a compliment to a person to realize that the only thing that· generates interest in religion is a bowling league, or a sudden softening of a biblical view of divorce?
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