By K.P. Yohannan
Religion, I discovered, is a multi-billion dollar business in the United States. Entering churches, I was astonished at the carpeting, furnishings, air-conditioning and ornamentation. Many churches have gymnasiums and fellowships that cater to a busy schedule of activities having little or nothing to do with Christ. The orchestras, choirs, “special” music—and sometimes even the preaching—seemed to me more like entertainment than worship.
Many North American Christians live isolated from reality—not only from the needs of the poor overseas, but even from the poor in their own cities. Amidst all the affluence live millions of terribly poor people left behind as Christians have moved into the suburbs. I found that believers are ready to get involved in almost any activity that looks spiritual but allows them to escape their responsibility to the Gospel.
One morning, for example, I picked up a popular Christian magazine containing many interesting articles, stories and reports from all over the world—most written by famous Christian leaders in the West. I noticed that this magazine offered ads for 21 Christian colleges, seminaries and correspondence courses; 5 different English translations of the Bible; 7 conferences and retreats; 5 new Christian films; 19 commentaries and devotional books; 7 Christian health or diet programs; and 5 fund-raising services.
But that was not all. There were ads for all kinds of products and services: counseling, chaplaincy services, writing courses, church steeples, choir robes, wall crosses, baptisteries and water heaters, T-shirts, records, tapes, adoption agencies, tracts, poems, gifts, book clubs and pen pals. It was all rather impressive. Probably none of these things were wrong in themselves, but it bothered me that one nation should have such spiritual luxury while 40,000 people were dying in my homeland every day without hearing the Gospel even once.
If the affluence of America impressed me, the affluence of Christians impressed me even more. The United States has about 5,000 Christian book and gift stores,1 carrying varieties of products beyond my ability to imagine—and many secular stores also carry religious books. All this while 4,845 of the world’s 6,912 languages are still without a single portion of the Bible published in their own language! In his book My Billion Bible Dream, Rochunga Pudaite says, “Eighty-five percent of all Bibles printed today are in English for the nine percent of the world who read English. Eighty percent of the world’s people have never owned a Bible while Americans have an average of four in every household.”
Besides books, 8,000 Christian magazines and newspapers flourish. More than 1,600 Christian radio stations broadcast the Gospel full-time, while many countries don’t even have their first Christian radio station. A tiny 0.1 percent of all Christian radio and television programming is directed toward the unevangelized world.
The saddest observation I can make about most of the religious communication activity of the Western world is this: Little, if any, of this media is designed to reach unbelievers. Almost all is entertainment for the saints.”