Is the Church Too Commercial? [Sermon]

Starting next month, after Easter, each of us will purchase communion elements in the Narthex before church.

We have a contract with Oblation Services who will offer communion elements on a per-item or subscription basis. More information will be available soon.

Let’s go to God in prayer.

God of wisdom, may the words that I speak, and the ways they are received by each of our hearts and minds, help us to continue to grow into the people, and the church, that you have dreamed us to be.


I’m sure you’ve seen churches on television. That’s been going on for decades.

They usually have a way to send your offering to them, and I don’t begrudge their asking people to help support their ministries.

There are also stories about pastors selling their books in the narthex of the church.

Is that going too far?

One of the major issues that turned Martin Luther against the Roman church was the issuing of plenary indulgences.

The idea was that saints had an excess of good works.

If you think about it, since saints were able to answer prayers, they kept doing good works.

Therefore they could share some of their holy good works with others.

If a loved one had passed, a person could ask the saint to give some of that goodness to the deceased, so that the deceased would be promised a place in heaven.

That came at a price: an offering to the church.

Imagine grieving the loss of someone you loved, and being told they might go to hell, or at least purgatory,

if you don’t give some money in exchange for grace.

What should be the entry fee for church?What should be the cost of grace?

I think this is where the modern church gets in trouble: financial hurdles to grace, financial hurdles to participation.

There are television churches that say they will pray for you… for a donation.

There are ministries that promise riches… if you send them money.

And there are churches that require a minimum regular giving to receive communion.

Some even hand out tokens.

And no, we’re not switching to communion elements you purchase in the narthex.

That’s pretty close to what’s happening I this story from John:

what is offered in the temple is either livestock or money in the Jewish system, and people are coming in with money from the Roman system.

You can’t bring pagan money, with a picture of a Roman leader seen as a god, into the temple.

So what are you going to do?

Conveniently, there are people on the temple grounds who will accept your pagan money and exchange it for Jewish money or for livestock for sacrifice.

At a profit, of course.

And then they can spend this pagan money, as it was acceptable in most places outside the temple.

With all of this commerce, the temple started to look more like a pace of transactions, a way to buy one’s way to God, than a spiritual place.

Our church does offer space to organizations in exchange for donations.

These are generally organizations that harmonize with our mission as a church.

We also have fundraisers to help with the expenses of this community of faith.

But the primary aim of this church is spiritual, not financial.

It’s not a place for monetary gain.

As to the wider church, there are some who say that God told them they needed a bigger jet, or that the pastor’s house – owned by the church – needed to be larger.

But there are many more houses of faith where the aim is primarily spiritual.

My challenge for us this week is to be on guard against ministry for money, faith for fortune, communion for cash.

But at the same time, recognize that we use gas and electricity, supplies like papertowels and toilet paper, and sometimes the buildings need repair, not to mention the compensation for our custodian, office manager, music director, and yes, even me.

We need to see the line between supporting the ministry and making the church a marketplace.







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