Have you seen the billboard on the North Tollway, where Pastor Dr. Jeffress grins merrily beside the Red, Bold-lettered Phrase "A Church You Can Believe In" ? On the church's website, the campaign is explained this way:
"You've seen the billboards. You've heard the radio commercials. Real people telling real stories of how they've finally found a church they can believe in.A church that welcomes everyone. A church that has no underlying motives. A church that cares about people. All people - all ethnicities, all ages, all socioeconomic classes. Single or married. Jeans or sweatpants. That's a church you can believe in. A church that wants you to come, because they know the answer to an abundant life - Christ. A church that doesn't want to keep their faith a secret is a church you can believe in." (firstdallas.org)
Maybe on the surface none of this sounds very suspect, but here's my problem: In their thesis statement about the campaign they use the word "church" 8 times and only refer to God, Christ, or the Holy Spirt once. That troubles me. To make matters worse, they are advertising themselves as if they were a product rather than body of believers. I don't understand the logic behind advertising a church, and although it may not be "sinful" per se, it is most definitely usurping the job of believers. As a christian, it is my goal, desire, and the ultimate joy to share the gospel. Every day should be an advertisement for Christ. Does he need magazine ads, billboards, and radio shows to attract followers? Granted, that's a loaded question since he doesn't actually need anything, especially not the duck-taped "gifts" from sinful and rebellious humans.
"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”" - Revelation 4:11
"What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" - Psalm 8:4
"Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases." - Psalm 115:3
Also this advertising scheme seems to suggest that if you could just find the right church, a church that you "could believe in," then your struggles in your walk would lessen. The only problem with that is you. And of course me and everyone else we know. We are absolutely unable to make ourselves clean or righteous. In every church, and I really mean that word "every," you will be hurt by someone at sometime if you are living in active community. Every church will absolutely fail you. It was never designed to save you. Part of the church's role is sanctification in your life, which means you will be dirty and uncomfortable many, many times while walking in gospel-centered community with fellow believers. But that's the point after all. Christ saves us through his gift of faith, sanctification, and spiritual growth as we learn to love and desire him above all else. As Paul so beautifully puts it:
"I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" - Galatians 2:22
This is not a truth that is easy for me. I need it read to me every morning, every evening, maybe even every hour. Because I continually try to clean myself up for God. He does not love me because I obey. I obey because he loves me.
and of course a verse every believer should memorize:
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God," - Ephesians 2:8
So then the Church is not the salvation-source but rather a tool God uses to grow me toward greater affection for and obedience to Christ.
That's why every day, as I drive to work and see that all-too-cheery billboard, I fantasize about donning black clothes late one night and ex-out the words "A Church" and replace them with the "The God."