The Tourist Church
Updated: Oct 17, 2019
Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised”
The Sanctuary of Monserrate towers above the city of Bogota, Colombia. It is built atop a namesake mountain 3,125 meters above sea level (by comparison Olumo rock is only 137m above sea level). When you ascend the mountain to visit the church, the church is magnificent, and you only need to visit this place to understand the beauty of the view. You get a panoramic view of Bogota, it’s skyscrapers all beneath you. The Hymn “how great thou art” was the first thing on my mind when I experienced this beauty.
Down below, the church towers over the city in its magnificence, from the view of the church – there is a beautiful city down below.
As I paused to reflect, my mind began to draw contrasts between the beautiful and visible church (existing since the 17th century) and the history of Colombia I know. It struck me, that like me, most people at Monserrate are tourists and just like me came for the view rather than a spiritual retreat.
This probably is the story of the modern church. Constructed to be adored by everyone who sees it. Our members are awed and entertained – their breathes are taken by the beauty, the music, the sermons – everything but the actual touch of God (for most, there are still true worshipers). Yes, the society knows we are here because we beautify the landscapes and many people visit us, but as tourists.
The view from inside the church to the outside is not much better. We are concerned about grandeur; the diversity of spirituality is discouraged, and we have become so focused on what brings the crowd and sometimes how to meet our revenue targets. We often help (if the cameras are on us) - but does giving food to the poor and prisoners compare to the forceful assertion against the corrupt politicians and preachers that are key members of our congregations. In many ways, the church has even contributed to societal decadence by glorifying the corrupt, simply because we need money to organize the next mega convention – a tourist attraction.
As I walked down Monserrate, I felt humbled – I was exhilarated on my way up.
The church needs to change, we cannot just be up there seating on glorious thrones. Christ’s mission was clear: Preach the Gospel to the poor, Heal the broken hearted, preach deliverance to the captives, recover the sight of the blind and set captives free. Christ’s church needs to re-align to the mission.
If we focus on creating spectacles, we will be tourist centers – places where people come to feel good. And therefore, it feels like the world no longer needs us, because there are many places where people can feel good.
The world still needs a church aligned with Christ’s mission, the world needs a church and not another tourist center.