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House of Merchandise

This article was published in the Presbyterian Standard, Issue No. 18, April-June 2000.

E VERY generation brings its changes, for the better or for the worse, and the church of Jesus Christ is not immune from trends in society. Certain developments in church life may be welcome and others perhaps tolerated, but there are some things observable today which are frankly so appalling that one wonders how any born-again soul can countenance them.

An example is the way in which the mentality of the marketplace has entered the sacred domain of the church's worship, turning it into just another sphere of commerce. For years we have been familiar with the gimmicks of those evangelical hucksters who peddle the gospel in their preaching and make merchandise of men's souls. But now this carnal attitude has affected worship generally. Here, it is reckoned, is a 'market'. There is money to be made and mammon is keen to get in on the act.

A quick glance at many 'christian' bookshops or catalogues today is very revealing. The worshipper is viewed as a 'customer' who must be sold a 'product' to suit his devotional 'needs'. Because people's preferences for styles of worship vary, bibles, hymnbooks and other 'resources' are designed and packaged to suit the vast range of personal 'tastes'. Everything must now be either 'easy-to-read', 'relevant', 'youth-oriented', 'exciting' or 'humorous'. Sadly the house of God is being made into "an house of merchandise" (John 2:16).

When one learns of a 'Top 20' chart of the best-selling 'worship songs' and sees their performers ape the world in their sheer carnality it is to be feared that those involved are really celebrating themselves rather than glorifying God. And so fast is the pace of change that no sooner is the 'latest' bible version or song collection available than it is being superseded by another, even more contemporary and crass, edition.

A successful businessman of the past had a now-famous dictum regarding his own product: "Any colour you like, so long as it is black". It would be well if men understood that God gave us only one Bible and appointed only one book of praise. These, and no others, will He bless to saints and sinners alike. To those who insist on bringing their own shoddy wares into His house the King and Head of the church surely says the same as He did when He cleansed the temple of the merchantmen; "Take these things hence".