New Vintage, a secular-religious organization, has purchased the old Bijou/Ritz Theater in downtown Escondido, California. They held a formal ground-breaking Saturday, March 30, 2019. “Secular-religious” because, according to The Times Advocate, March 28, 2019, the Pastor of New Vintage wasn’t concerned if the church “does well”, but only if the city improves by the project. Indeed, if correctly quoted, he said, “What goes on there doesn’t have to be distinctly Christian”.
Ignore the self-serving explanation that Hidden Valley Christian Church “dissolved and tossed us the keys”. But consider the failure built into their downtown plan: they don’t want it to be “distinctly Christian”. That depends on whether they want to be New Testament Christians or merely a secular-religious body. New Testament Christianity isn’t an educational movement, though it always educates people to literacy so they can read God’s word. It isn’t an entertainment venue, though it always produces positive, uplifting entertainment. It has no environmental message except to declare creation’s desire to be incinerated so it can be renewed as the eternal home of God’s people. And it makes no mention of physical properties, though it never fails to upgrade any rural, urban, suburban or downtown milieu.
New Testament Christianity is first, foremost and only evangelistic. It is always “distinctly Christian”, as in Christ-like, with his teachings applied to individual lives. The most basic teaching being God’s insistence that all mortals are sinful and need forgiveness. Then, in conversion are re-created in Christ’s image. And, being changed people, change human life for the better.
Every apostolic effort in Acts began with, continued as and never stopped being “distinctly Christian”. Whatever political environment they entered. However depraved the morals of people. In whatever economic condition they found people living. Every Christian preacher entered every city and town of the Empire preaching Jesus Christ as Savior by dying and Lord by rising from the grave. In turn, he demanded every human to repent of his self-will and be immersed for the forgiveness of his sins.
Why would Christians satisfy themselves with renewing a city’s buildings when we can renew its soul? We can do the former by not being “distinctly Christian”. We can do the latter only by being “distinctly Christian”.