I can often be overly critical of lame gimmick’s that offer the old “bait and switch” when it comes to modern evangelism.
I’ve seen a little bit of everything to encourage folks to “get back to church”. Giveaways that include everything from iPad’s to smart TV’s to new cars. We lure people in with the opportunity to “win big”, but send the majority home empty-handed. Well, not unless they have a life-transforming encounter with Jesus…Then we send them home with “Jesus in their heart” and their “names written in the Book of Life.”
Then, there are the church Facebook ads, postcards and billboards that make any particular congregation look hip…and then you get there and the piano is out of tune, they are using an overhead transparency projector, and they serve Folger’s during the coffee hour.
Or there are the ads that use stock photos, making the church look incredibly diverse and inclusive…then, upon arrival, you quickly recognize that the stock photo was a gross misrepresentation.
Here’s the deal, I know it is all well-intentioned. We greatly desire to get people connected with Jesus and the Church. We are often willing to follow Paul’s sense of mission and “become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”
I wonder if, in our attempts to “win people to Christ”, we inadvertently misrepresent ourselves. There’s always been a push to be honest, authentic, open and real. So, maybe we should run our ads and evangelism through the old “b.s.” meter? If it stinks, we should go in a different direction.
Of course, the very premise of that “get back to church” platform assumes that people were previously “in” church. With the growing number of “nones”, we can no longer assume that people have experienced “church”.
Now, I started this with saying that I appreciate a good gimmick. I really do. I have an appreciation for clever attempts to attract people to the Church.
Every year around Ash Wednesday, I want to participate in the “Get your ash in church” campaign. Get it…”get your ash in church”??? But, taking my context into consideration, I stop myself before it gets too far.
I’ve also appreciated the “Get your tail in church this Easter” campaign. It’s not offering a prize. It’s not offering some kind of cutting-edge church experience (let’s be honest for a minute, even the most hip and trendy churches still seem like lame attempts to copy the “non-church” trends of music/design/fashion. For example, can we convince worship leaders and pastors that they don’t need skinnier jeans, bigger hats, bigger glasses, and more hair product?)
Here’s the good news…In this “new normal”, it is easier than ever to “get your tail in church this Easter”. You don’t have to leave home. You can just log into Facebook. And, if the power goes out, you can sacrifice and use some of your cellular data to join the fun!
Anyway, here’s where I’ve found myself…just be true to yourself. Don’t try to keep up with the church down the road. Be who you are called to be in this time and place. And, if that means you are going to use catchy gimmicks and give away a new car, go for it!