“And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:3)
I like amusement parks. Actually, I love amusement parks in general. I love the atmosphere of a place where I can let my guard down in an environment where the moment I walk into a particular park, knowing that whatever problems I might have been facing in the “real” world, is lost temporarily in a make believe world, even if for just a few short hours.
In the United States alone, there are approximately more than 400 amusement parks situated across the country. From parks in Ohio, Tennessee, Florida and California (and many more in other States), amusement parks can be found in almost every part of America. Yet they are also money machines. In 2011, theme parks, amusement parks, and water parks generated a total direct economic impact of approximately $55.4 billion. Nearly 30,000 attractions (theme and amusement parks, attractions, water parks, family entertainment centers, zoos, aquariums, science centers, museums, and resorts) produced a total nationwide economic impact of $219 billion in 2011.(source)
All in all, amusement parks are an economic cash cow. This is why Europe and even China is getting in on the amusement park ride, because they generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually. In 2017, China will have 20 theme parks (not including the new Disneyland in Shanghai) across the nation, all funneling hard earned money back to the Communist party. In essence, Capitalism via entertainment sells, and it sells well.
So with all of the money being made from amusement parks, and other family entertainment, is it any wonder why that now the church is getting involved in the business of thrill rides and fantasy? From the Holy Land experience in Florida, owned and operated by Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), to the latest Christian enterprise called Ark Encounters, where Ken Ham has built a life size replica of Noah’s ark at the cost of over 100 million dollars. This does not include 91 million in the first phase of work that was done several years ago, nor does it include several million in junk bonds that were sold to investors, nor does it include the millions in State revenue tax incentives the non-profit foundation (which is the same group who owns the Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky) will receive from the State of Kentucky, nor does it include the estimated billion dollars in annual profits from the estimated 2.2 million visitors in the first year through ticket sales. In total, this venture, like The Holy Land experience in Florida, will generate billions from Christians looking for another attraction, another flesh fix, another amusement for their already candy flavored gospel they so like to enjoy. But what of the spiritual cost?
There is no question that could be conceived today by someone desiring to understand exactly where we as a church are heading, which would garner an answer to satisfy their curiosity other than what is going on with the Western church? Specifically, the American Christian society. Yet here we are, in the 21st century, and still the Western church is struggling once again to find its path that it has sadly departed from – the Great Commission. Startling facts though reveal something more that is trending which should make us all take account of what’s happening in the modern church; Donations to world missions are down to less than 2% in overall giving, the number of missionaries per country is equally lower today than what it was in the 1950’s, which saw one of the largest growths in missionaries being sent, and now the Southern Baptists have announced a 15% cut in foreign missionaries, as well as support beginning 2016 – 2017. This means that less than 4,000 missionaries will be supported world-wide. This means that over 300-500 missionaries will have to either return home, or find another source of financial support. This means that once again, we are seeing what happens when the church trades biblical evangelism for modernism in the form of entertainment, hence “amusement parks”. (source)
The modern church today has an identity problem, it cannot understand who it is anymore. Is it the church which preaches the cross? Or is it the relative church which relies on entertainment and modernism to relay its overall message? Is it the salt and light of the remnant church? Or has it become one which has lost its savor? Either way, what we are seeing right now in these monstrosities known as Christian “theme” parks, are in essence more about who the church is today, and less of who it use to be. The simple truth is, the church has traded substance and truth for wealth and popularity.
There is a crisis in the church today. A crisis of faith, a crisis of identity, a crisis of truth, and unless we begin to once again reject these attempts to merchandise, and ultimately betray who we are in Christ, I fear that the only thing relative for the American church will be a church not of power, or salt and light, but of weakness, lukewarm and powerless because of our gluttony over the sensuality of our world rather than the humility the cross would bring to the church. In other words, the American church has sold itself for money, fun and the desire to be entertained.
How many missionaries could have been sent worldwide from the revenue these parks will and have generated over time? How many bibles could have (but won’t) been placed across the globe, into areas where there is little bibles to show who God is? How many mouths could have been fed (but wasn’t), or backs covered (but wasn’t) all because of the church desiring yet another gluttonous meal of fleshly entertainment? There will be a lot to answer for at the judgment, and many will question why they wasted so precious time building things which in the end had no true bearing on the gospel itself, but wasted every dollar that could have been used (but wasn’t) on world evangelism. Such is the state of the American church.
From my desk in China,
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