Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Read this, and you might win $1000... (or not)

While reading the paper today, I noticed an interesting article entitled:  US church to give away $1300 at Easter. See here:

 In case you didn’t get it from the title, the article was about how a church in America is offering a sort of lottery to those who come to church on Easter Sunday this year. If you just walk in the door of the Easter Service, you are in the draw to win US$1000 (NZ$1300). This sparked a bit of a debate in our house, and phone calls to friends to discuss the issues surrounding the use of a monetary drawcard to bring people into the church. 


At face value, the idea isn’t a bad one. Get as many people into the church as you can, and then preach the gospel to them. The old ‘bait and switch’ trick. And as far as getting people into the church, this method certainly does work- the pastor of the church in this article did the same thing last year and boasted double his normal numbers in church on Easter Sunday.  And it is possible that on that day, double the number of people heard the gospel (if that is indeed what this pastor preached!), and maybe one or two of them even responded to the good news that whilst we have broken God’s commands (sinned) and deserve punishment, Jesus took that punishment in our place by dying on the cross, so that we may spend eternity in heaven instead of hell. (For more info see post ‘What is the gospel’) So why do I have a nagging feeling that something isn’t right here? Oh, I know- its because something ISNT right here! And there are 3 main reasons I think the church shouldn’t offer money, or items of significant monetary value, as drawcards to get people into church:
1.       What does this method of drawing people to church communicate about the church?
I think this type of drawcard confirms what the general public already tend to think about the church- that they are only interested in “bums in seats”- that is, the number of people attending the church is more important than the individuals status before God. It also communicates the attitude “we know what you want, and we are willing to exploit it to get you in our church”. The manipulation is obvious- not to mention a poor reflection of Christianity. We get you to come to our church, because we have something we know you want, but heres the catch- you have to listen to an hour long sermon.
2.       Is this really a model for evangelism?  The bible gives us a clear model of evangelism- to live the Christian life and preach the good news to those around us. Does the bible tell us to offer money in order to get people to listen? Um.. I think not!
3.       God does the work, not us. The bible is very clear that God is the one who saves, and although he uses people on earth to achieve this using various methods (including evangelism)- it is ultimately Gods call as to who, when and how people receive the gospel. Trying to draw people into the church,(even if you intend to preach the gospel wholeheartedly) by your own methods and manipulative tactics reflects a distrust in Gods ability to save- does he really need your pragmatic methods?
So, for the above reasons, I can safely say I am in opposition to those who use the lure of money to swindle people into church attendance. Case closed.
But wait! What if in this situation... someone came to church hoping for a $1000 win, but heard the gospel and was saved?!? Isn’t it worth it for one person?  Its true that God can and does use all kinds of situations to save people- even ones like this. But does that make it right? Not so much.. maybe it is better to stick to the biblical model of evangelism and just go preach the good news left, right and centre.
Special thanks to Peter and Simon (that is Simon of fame) for helping with todays post. :)

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