Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Medium or the Message? Has The Electronic Church Usurped and Crippled the American Church?

Today is Sunday, May 22, 2011, and the Church of Jesus Christ is still on earth, it wasn’t taken to Heaven, the world didn’t end, as evangelist Harold Camping predicted. Millions cried a big sigh of relief; others who were hoping for the Rapture to Heaven would have occurred are deeply disappointed. No harm, no foul?

Yes! A major foul has occurred and irreparable harm has been done to the American Christian church.
Not that the American Christian church community has been thriving of late. Surveys conducted in the last couple of years prove that attendance and donations to church has dropped dramatically. Many church leaders are baffled as to the reasons why. Is the church no longer relevant to the masses who seek divine knowledge to the perplexing issues facing a society who, for the most part, is experiencing a technological superiority never imagined twenty nor even ten years ago. Our methods for receiving and sending info to each other are mind boggling!

Handheld electronic devices such as IPODS, cell phones with mini-TV capabilities, GPS, MP3s, BluRay, High Definition, these are all words that are common to this generation, whereas, just a few years ago we were marveling at this great tool called the remote control.

With all of the devices, one would think that church leaders would be ecstatic to have these tools available to become even closer to their parishioners. This has not happened. If anything technology (including the Electronic Church) has co-opted the American church. Can this trend be reversed? I would hope so!

My personal feeling (as it has been for many years) is the real culprit is technology, a lazy man's mode of transmission that has replaced an inter-personal form of communicating and addressing the needs of a spiritually hungry society, which has been usurped by the medium itself.

The ecclesia that was evident right after Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven, one that depended on inter-facing directly with its neighbors has been replaced by the technological conveniences we have created for ourselves. The local assemblies can no longer compete for the hearts and minds of today’s society. By virtue of the modern communication tools we have at our disposal, churches run by individuals are springing up daily by the thousands. 

Nowadays, anyone can create their own church by merely starting their own radio and television shows on the Internet at bargain basement prices; and with no accountability whatsoever as we were instructed by the writers of the New Testament. Some folks can even start their own churches without even filing for church non-profit status. If anyone questions their tactics, they just fill their satchels with the funds they have collected, close down their shop and move on to other territories under a different name. All they have to do is put a title in front of their name (such as Minister, Brother, Pastor, Reverend, Bishop or some other religious appellation) and they are in business. And we do mean BUSINESS! The money-changers in the temple are bursting at the seams, devoting about 80% of their time in their financial appeals than in teaching the word of God.

This mode of “church” actually began over 100 years ago, but got a big boost with the advent of radio and television evangelism right after the 2 World War. It sky-rocketed in the 70’s and now represents the largest church activity in the world. Not saving souls, but enriching their respective coffers rather than using available funds to feed and nurture the poor folks who live right down the street. Thank God for the emerging “home church” movement, which was the prevalent form of teaching and worshipping God in its embryonic stage. 
But, it has been this medium (the Electronic Church) which has siphoned off sheep (and their funds) from their local congregations. This is what happened to Harold Camping and his Family Radio Network, which seduced his followers to the tune of over 100 million dollars, of which 25 million alone was used to promote his “end of the world” campain that transpired just yesterday.

Several years ago (actually 25 years), Michael O’Brien, and I started a radio show in Pasadena, California to counter what we felt was a cultural dichotomy that hindered local church groups from reaching a segment in our respective communities. We actually wanted to reach gang members with the word of God. One of the first programs we conducted was examining the Electronic Church and its role in the community. Our premier of the "Heart & Soul" radio show hosted by Michael (then pastor of My Friend's House church in Highland Park, California), and moderated by me, was broadcast in 1986 on KPPC-AM Radio in Pasadena, California. It featured Tim Berends, as our in-studio guest, the nationally renowned Christian radio personality. The show also featured an interview with Dennis Prager, now a nationally syndicated columnist, and field reports by Bob Luttrell. When you consider the state of the Electronic church today, that program was way ahead of its time: 

"Heart & Soul" premier show 1986  

About two and a half years later, on my "Prime Time with Joe Ortiz" show on KPZE-AM radio station in Anaheim, California, we revisited that subject matter. We invited Tim Berends back to discuss the subject but this time by phone. We also had as in studio guests Michael O'Brien and Al Gross, former broadcasting buddy of Tim on the famous "Mornings with Tim and Al Show" on KBRT-AM in Los Angeles. In between this show in late 1988 and the "Heart & Soul" program hosted by Michael and moderated by me, Christian broadcasters Tim Berends and Al Gross won a contest held by the now defunct Herald Examiner newspaper for the #1 personalities on radio in Los Angeles in late 1986.

The uncanny part of this examination of the Electronic Church in late 1988 is that it followed in the heels of the major controversy caused by famous radio/televangelists Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart, who fell from grace by virtue of sex scandals in their respective lives. 

We also interviewed Mr. Al Juarez, a representative from former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley (now deceased) to get a secular view of the Electronic Church and the recent scandals. We also invited Christian psychologist, Dr. Wlliam H. Diehm to discuss the unspoken psychology related to many of the charismatic evangelists of that time period. Not much has changed with that aspect as you will see once you listen to this show The Electronic Church part one and part two.

Many will argue that the Electronic Church serves a great purpose, especially for shut ins and senior citizens. Our response to that is, if local churches are doing their jobs, they would pay personal visits to these people and minister to them directly.
I’m certain another “date setter” will come along and pick out another day for the world to end as did Harold Camping. And, I’m certain that many so-called men of God will continue promoting the Left Behind and Rapture to Heaven mythology and make tons of money through this “soothing gospel.” Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have sold over 65 million Left Behind books, and it still sells big time!

But really, folks, the Rapture to Heaven doctrine is not biblical. What is biblical is what we read in these three groups of scripture below:

Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, and defend the
rights of the poor and needy, (Proverbs 31:8-9)

God’s idea of knowing Him: "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" declares the LORD, (Jeremiah 22:16)."
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. 27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the
Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world
, (James 1:26-27).

For information about the author’s two books, please click on The End Times Passover and Why Christians Will Suffer Great Tribulation. To access his web and blog sites, please click on Joe Ortiz.

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