14
May
08

Gas to save your soul – part 2

Before I object to First Baptist Church, Snellville’s giving away of free gas, I must remove the log from my own eye by admitting there was a day I participated in schemes similar to this one.

Years ago First Baptist Center Point drew names to give away bikes to kids who participated in Vacation Bible School.  Before Jason Motte came to CrossPoint, our student ministry tried to give away a used car to a student who participated in a weeks worth of student events.  A funny thing happened along the way, the car did not run.  These are just a few examples.  I could mention more than a few other gimmicks I have used to lure people to a church activity.

Thank goodness, the days of gimmicks are over.

I know some of you think I am going “old school” in my leadership as the pastor of CrossPoint.  Perhaps I am.  However, a scheme like this just gives me the creeps.

If I were on staff at Snellville, I would have asked the following questions before we went public with the plan:

  • What does this plan say about our church?

These people can’t be serious, can they?  Do they really think this is a way to advance the kingdom?

What separates First Snellville from any other organization or corporation in the community?  What happens when the church across town offers a free trip to Hawaii for those who attend their services?

Here’s the problem with this kind of thinking: churches cannot compete with the business world.  This plan competes with the busines world.

And why can’t churches compete with the business world?  Because the business world wins every time.  On the other hand, the flipside is also true: the buisness world cannot compete with the church, as long as the church remains faithful to the Gospel.  I am not so sure this concept has much to do with remaining faithful to the gospel.

  • What does this say about God’s Word?

Let me get this right—if I attend the revival my name will be placed in a drawing for a $500 gas card.  And, if my teenager attends she could possibly win a used SUV?

Why do these people see the need to pimp God’s Word?  Shouldn’t the proclamation of God’s Word be what draws people to Christ?  Whatever happened to announcing a revival service where the Word of God was going to be proclaimed and let that stand on its own?

What about promoting how the Word of God has power to deliver souls from hell, to transform sinners into saints, to resurrect those who are dead in their tresspasses and sins?  How novel would it be to tell my teenager if they attend the revival services God could save them, give them a purpose for living and call them to do something for His glory?

I do not want my teenage participating to a revival service to win a car.  Instead, I want my teenager participating in a revival service to hear God’s voice.

  • Which works best: God or gimmicks?

Another objection falls under the question of what works best: God or gimmicks?

Please do not throw the “pragmatic card” at me with this objection.  Some might protest, “We’ve got to do whatever it takes to get people to church.”  I can hear others say, “What’s wrong with offering people a gas card to come to church.  At least they will be hearing the gospel.”

Here is a novel question: what’s wrong with inviting them to a revival to hear the gospel?

A former seminary professor would often tell me, “Ryan, you keep people the way you reach people.  If you reach them with grace, you keep them with grace.  If you reach them with fear, you keep them with fear.”  To this story he might add, “If you reach them with gimmicks, you keep them with gimmicks.”

I trust FBC Snellville has some deep pockets, because this kind of strategy is going to become expensive.

  • Finally, I wonder what the apostle Paul would say about this marketing ploy?

Perhaps Paul would say something like this:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Do you think Paul suffered this kind of treatment over gimmicks:

24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27  in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

2 Corinthians 11:24-28

What is the bottom line?

For me, the bottom line is to return to the saving power of God’s Word.  Sure, as I admitted earlier, I have used gimmicks before in my ministry.  Thank the Lord I am no longer interested in tricking or contriving someone to worship.  Instead, I am interested in seeing what the week in and week out of preaching God’s Word will do for a church and a community.

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5 Responses to “Gas to save your soul – part 2”


  1. 1 Bill Walker
    May 14, 2008 at 6:28 am

    I agree that “gimmicks” should not be needed to attract people to the gospel. I think that the best attraction to the gospel is through changed lives and how we as Christians present ourselves to the world. Unfortunately, we don’t always present the best reflection of Christ to the world.

    Almost everyone who attends church either attended since childhood or was invited by a close trusted friend. Once we arrive at church, because of our exposure to the world at large, we have an expectation of excellence. We should be excellent in all we do for the Lord. Our music ministry must be outstanding, our hospitality must be top notch, our preaching must be interesting (it goes without saying that it should be biblically based, but too many churches have biblically based preaching that is boring), even our signs and cut sheets for Bible Study classes should be up to date, accurate, and make it easy to get around a strange building.

    I think we can utilize modern technology to communicate the gospel. This has been going on for centuries. In 1439, Gutenberg invented the printing press and one of the first things he printed was the Bible. This was heresy to some who thought only priests should be able to read the Bible directly. Today, we use PowerPoint, Pod casts, BLOGS, and other means. In the middle ages, religious songs were set to the tunes of pub songs and the great Hymns were born. Today, we have praise and worship music.

    The point I am trying to make is that we should be careful not to dismiss modern technology as a means to communicate the gospel. But, we need to make sure that the modern technology doesn’t become the message. We should not have to use gimmicks to attract people to hear the gospel, but we need to make sure that when they show up, we present the gospel in a way that will keep them. Everyone from the parking lot attendant, to the golf cart driver, to the greeter, to the music ministry, to Ryan, and to the person who sits next to them in the congregation has a part to play in bringing that person to Christ. We need to make sure we are all up to the task each and every day (notice, I didn’t say Sunday). Every encounter we have with other people is an opportunity to let them see Christ reflected in us. Let’s make sure the mirror is clean, so they get a pure reflection.

  2. 2 Jeff Cook
    May 14, 2008 at 9:28 am

    What would scare me about this tactic is the fact of why those people would come to the church. In this case, it is not to “hear God’s word”, but to have a chance at winning a valuable prize. Sure, you may “open the eyes” of a few people, but the number of people there to win a prize could possibly far exceed the previous. I would compare this to the “time-share” tactic that we deal with from telemarketers or while on vacation somewhere. You may get a call that you have qualified for a free trip to the beach and all you have to do is spend 1/2 a day viewing a condo/resort in hope of you purchasing one or while you are at the beach, someone approaches you outside a popular restaurant offering a cash amount or gift card somewhere if you will spend a few hours looking at their property. Alot of people will take them up on the offer with the full intent of never purchasing a time share. Suppose you were to offer $100 to everyone that wanted to be baptized, my bet is that there would almost be a waiting list. By doing this, like you said, you bring business into faith making the decision with the influence of a reward of cash. The real reward is not cash, it is the reward of God’s grace.

  3. May 14, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Bill, there you go again. Your response proves to me, once again, why I love you so much. You have a way to cut to the point with clarity and simplicity. I believe you have nailed it. The power of the gospel is seen in changed lives. It must also be felt in all we do present to the public. Thanks for the reminder.

    Jeff, you nailed it as well. The real reward is God’s grace. I wonder what would happen if a church like CrossPoint starting displaying more and more for our community what grace does to a person. Person we should strive even more to communicate the change God makes in a person’s soul. Well said.

    Thanks to both of your for your insight.

  4. 4 Tim
    May 15, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Ryan Said…

    Let me get this right—if I attend the revival my name will be placed in a drawing for a $500 gas card. And, if my teenager attends she could possibly win a used SUV?
    Why do these people see the need to pimp God’s Word?

    Response… It was not too long ago that we announced from the pulpit that they could win a chance to “Pimp Their Ride” as a prize for attendence in youth events. What gives us the right to slam them beause now we have been convicted that this approach is not right. I understand your reason and mostly agree with it. But, to stand up and judge them like this might not be the best way to handle this.

    Ryan said…

    Shouldn’t the proclamation of God’s Word be what draws people to Christ? Whatever happened to announcing a revival service where the Word of God was going to be proclaimed and let that stand on its own?
    What about promoting how the Word of God has power to deliver souls from hell, to transform sinners into saints, to resurrect those who are dead in their tresspasses and sins? How novel would it be to tell my teenager if they attend the revival services God could save them, give them a purpose for living and call them to do something for His glory?

    Response… I hope we remember this when our next ad campaign or promotional materials are developed and designed. I think that creativity and relevant ads can be very effective for the kingdom. But, we could try promoting our next event with the statement from above under the title of “Turn before you Burn”. TWAS(Typed With A Smile)

    Ryan said…

    I do not want my teenage participating to a revival service to win a car. Instead, I want my teenager participating in a revival service to hear God’s voice.

    What if that teenager turns out to be “Just One More” Preacher,Evangelist, Missionary, Christian mom or dad??

    I feel it is wrong to say of something like this event…. “I am right and you are completely wrong for using this method to reach people for Jesus”. I know and mostly agree with where you are coming from. But I am not sure the best thing to do is slam them!! Because now “We do it the right way”. The religious people in Jesus’ day thought it was absolutly horrible that he would use the tactic of eating with sinners to reach them.

    Again, I say all this in agreement with your conviction of the Gospel can stand on it’s own and does not need our gimmicks.

  5. May 20, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Fair thoughts, Tim. Thank you for your insights. I can see how you would interpret my thoughts as a slam on their idea.


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