new life fellowship

serving jesus christ the king


Cashless Banks

I was in a bank the other day with a friend. I settled into one of the comfy sofas while he carried out his transaction, only for him to come over with a bewildered look on his face saying, “They don’t do money”. Somewhat surprised at this turn of events in a bank I approached the ‘cashier’ who explained that they were a cashless bank—I knew things were bad, but surely not this bad. But the best was yet to come—“If you want to lodge money, you need to go to the Post Office”

“And where do I go to get money out?” I asked.

“Oh you need to go to Dunnes, they’ve an ATM at the back.”

Ok, so I think I have it, Post Office to lodge money, Dunnes to get money out, and the bank for… nice sofas and a nice lady to talk to—I wonder if they do coffee?

I understand the thinking behind it—outsourcing the more costly, less productive aspects, to maximise efficiency and profits.

But the banks aren’t the only ones at it; rather staggeringly churches have been at this game for years. Where we now have cashless banks, we have had Christ-less churches for much longer. What do I mean? Simply put, there are churches right across the religious spectrum where Christ is rarely preached. He may be given a passing nod, in the manner of a long gone founder figure, but he is not preached about, his great work of salvation is not explained and his great offer of forgiveness is not held out week by week.

Churches have been turned into some sort of a social club, whose main purpose is to maintain a cultural identity. Christ has been lost; his message is ignored and even disliked.

And what mystifies me is that there are people who genuinely love Jesus who persist in attending such Christless churches. At least my bank, for all its faults, hasn’t lost sight of its main purpose, it still looks after my money, if not the cash aspect. But these churches have eviscerated themselves of their very heart and soul. Why stay there? The church is not primarily a mission field; it is where Christians go to get fed so that they can go out to tell people about Jesus. If where you go on a Sunday is a treasureless chest with little more than cultural cobwebs keeping people together, then I implore you to find a place where the preacher reaches weekly into the great treasure chest of scripture and brings out the riches of Christ for you to enjoy.

“Therefore every teacher who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” – Matthew 13:52

A cashless bank can still handle our finances, but a Christless church cannot handle our souls.

Given the all clear

This week has raised a spectre that will haunt some 20 women, and concern many others. Up to 20 women in Portlaoise may have been misdiagnosed and given the all clear with regards to breast cancer.

Then follows the usual saga of buck passing and blame avoiding, and talk of great plans to do it better. And at the heart of it all there are 20 women facing an uncertain future. If it turns out that they have cancer, what damage has it caused in the intervening period? And then there is the fear, of “What if it is now too late to stop it?”

For the next few weeks they will live in a form of suspended animation – wondering what the outcome will be. The trail of worry and anxiety, so easily banished by the first diagnosis, will resurface, leaving frayed nerves, short tempers, sleepless nights, and tearful quiet moments until a clear diagnosis is given. And even then will the worries really go? “Is this diagnosis trustworthy?” will be the doubt.

As a pastor my heart goes out to these women and their families, and I pray that they will receive the ‘all clear’. But as a pastor I see this also as a parable of what is happening on a far larger scale here in Ireland.

Myriads of people are under the impression that if they keep on living the way they are living – they will receive the ‘all clear’ from God. What they are getting, however, is a misdiagnosis from their spiritual teachers.

Like the woman who was told by her hospital to put some evening primrose oil on the lump on her breast, spiritual teachers are advocating similar remedies for the cancer of the soul. We are told that if we have our psychic forces balanced we will find oneness with the divine. Others tell us that if we balance out our bad with enough good that will cure the cancer of the soul. Still others feel that rituals will remedy the rot; and so they faithfully attend places of worship of whatever creed.

Faithful adherents accept the diagnoses, follow the advice and are satisfied that all is well, when it is far from well.

For me, as a pastor, I find this even more heart-breaking than the cases in Portlaoise. It is not just this life that is in the balance; the whole of eternity is at risk.

Whatever others say, or whatever the short-term benefits of the current advice, we need to be like the woman in Portlaoise who didn’t stop until she discovered the truth. We need to be sure that what we are banking on is based on the right diagnosis and is the right solution to the problem.

There is one God and he is the expert diagnostician of the soul. He tells us that the problem is that we are guilty of breaking his commands, and there is only one remedy. We need him to forgive us and transform us from the inside out. Only that way can we get the genuine and lasting ‘all clear’.

Mark Loughridge -