"All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are, therefore, Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us…" (2 Co 5:18-20)
Pope John Paul II often stated that the ministry of reconciliation was a chief, fundamental part of the church's life and mission here on earth. This being the case, everything that takes place in a church should be centered on that fundamental mission.
There seems to be an unspoken misunderstanding today among a certain element within the Catholic Church regarding the Church's mission on earth. The Church of Jesus Christ has been established by God on earth to bring the message of salvation to the world so that men might be reconciled to God. Period. The Church was not established in order to bring entertainment, amusement, and recreational activities to the masses, as some would like to believe.
Every now and then I'll hear about certain individuals who have left the Catholic Church in order to join a Protestant church because "the Protestant churches have more to offer in the way of fun things to do." Is this why Christ has established His Church on earth – to provide entertainment and amusement to the masses? To offer lost souls "fun things to do?"
It seems to me that we desperately need to be re-educated on the primary purpose of the Church's life and mission here on planet earth. Pope John Paul II hit the nail right on the head. We are here to bring people back to God and to help them maintain their relationship with Him after that relationship has been re-established. Entertainment, amusement, and "fun things to do" have nothing to do with it.
As far as the typical entertainment-providing Protestant church goes, in an effort to get the "work of the Lord done," many of these churches have lost contact with the Lord of the work and have literally worn themselves out as well. Protestant church leaders like to point to a printed calendar that lists something going on every single night at the church as proof of the church"s aliveness. This proves nothing except that the pastor and the church are being guided by a bad spiritual philosophy. A great many of these time-consuming activities are useless and have absolutely nothing to do with the Church's true mission here on earth. Many of these Protestant pastors argue that these useless activities are necessary in order to "provide fellowship and hold the people together," but the bottom line is that most of the activities that these churches engage in do not contribute in any way to accomplishing the true work of Christ on earth.
Unfortunately, the misguided Protestants are not the only ones who are stumbling before the Lord when it comes to the Church's mission on earth. Sometime ago, I visited a Catholic website where people could send in questions that they had to a priest. A young Catholic girl posted that she was getting somewhat frustrated with the youth group at her particular church. "We get together every single week," she wrote, "but we never engage in any type of activity that will help me grow in my Faith. Every week we eat popcorn , play games, and watch silly movies. It's always the same. When I approached the people who were heading up the youth group and asked if we could start doing things that would edify us in our Catholic Faith and help us to carry out the Church's purpose, I was told that it simply wouldn't work. The leaders told me that if they brought religion and seriousness into the group, most of the kids would leave and no one would show up." In other words, keep it lame, keep it fun, and keep it shallow if you want to keep people coming.
While there certainly isn't anything wrong with a few fun activities planned at a local parish church throughout the year, we need to make sure that we don't go to the extreme in this regard. The overwhelming majority of activities that take place in any church must be centered on the Church's true mission on earth, which is to lead mankind to salvation. Bingo night, jazzercise dance classes, pottery classes, arts and crafts, cookie-baking, Karaoke night, and "Let's Learn Chinese!" have absolutely nothing to do with accomplishing the ministry of reconciliation to which the Church has been called.
For the most part, if it isn't leading men to Christ, and if it isn't being used by the Holy Spirit to build up church members in their most holy Faith, it needs to go. It's a waste of time, talent, energy, and other precious resources. If it isn't bringing people to repentance so that their broken relationship with God can be restored, then its goal is earthly and worldly, not spiritual; its goal is the flesh, not the spirit.
The Church has been established on earth to pray, preach the Word of God, help the poor, and to do other good works of service so that the Lord Jesus Christ might be glorified among men.
I want to encourage you to take a good look at your church bulletin and/or church calendar. Of the activities and announcements that are listed, how many of them are reflecting the Church's true mission here on earth? How many of them are solely focused on entertainment and keeping people busy and occupied in a worldly, earthly way? What about your children's programs and your church's youth group? What kind of activities are these young people engaging in each time they meet? Do they get together to pray for their parish and surrounding community, or to eat popcorn and play games? Do they get together to visit the sick, poor, and imprisoned, or to watch movies? When a church's activities are completely centered on entertainment and recreation, what kind of message are we sending to our children, who are the future of the Church, regarding the Church’s true mission here on earth?
If it isn't persuading men for Christ, it has nothing to do with Christ. It's as simple as that. And if it has nothing to do with Christ, then it has everything to do with the world, which is not what the Church on earth is about. Although we are in the world, we are not supposed to be of the world. This truth must be reflected in everything that takes place in our churches, as well as in our individual lives.
Churches that want to become like the world in order to win the world have been led astray and have completely missed the mark when it comes to carrying out the Church's true work on earth.
Christ has given to His Church the ministry of reconciliation. When churches choose to go the way of the world in order to reach out to the world…
…they only serve to keep men and women mired in the world.
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