Thursday, July 12, 2007

Selling Death

In my last post (linked in the title), I admitted that I've grown tired of both the church shoppers and the church marketers of our day. When I hear someone ask, "What does your church have to offer me or my family?", it's all I can do not to jet plasma in a hair sizzling tirade that would leave him or her smoldering and even balder than certain elders I know. It's not like it's anything new, Jesus had to put up with the same kind of self-centeredness, but that doesn't make it easier to take. What consumer benefits a church might offer has nothing at all to do with whether or not it is the place God desires a believer to be in order to grow and serve (or should I say serve and grow). God has a divine appointment for each of us. Our goal should be to find the place God wants us, and then with patience and grace, serve God and our brothers and sisters until (and if) God appoints us some place else. We certainly have no right to trash our brothers and sisters and divorce ourselves from the fellowship of the saints because we've decided we can be better served someplace else. God is the one who has made us parts of the body and he alone gets to appoint us to our place in the body.

What business does any church leader have, then, of dangling a carrot, trying to coax a believer to make a decision about where they belong on a basis other than God's appointment? Churches solicit suitors like Tamar enticed Judah, and then wonder why, when it's time to pay the piper, church folk are no different than the rest of our hedonistic, consumer driven society. If we tickle the flesh to get them in, we'll get nothing but a giggle from them when they're called called upon to be counted.

The gospel is good news and needs to be heard by everyone, but embracing it means buying into your own death. The old-fashioned notion of fire and brimstone is unpopular these days because it's just not marketable. I don't care for it myself, it doesn't reflect biblical preaching in my mind, but the biblical message isn't any more comfortable. I'm left dumbfounded, wondering how such a thing as church marketing can even exist? It's not just oxymoronic, it's plain old moronic too! No, it's even worse, it's faithless, and it's ruining the heritage of God.

So, on either side of the church marketing equation, I see problems-- whether on the side of self-centered consumers or on the side of ravenous church hawkers. We will reap what we sow. What will that mean if we go on trying to corner the market, establishing our little fiefdoms, building cathedrals of wood, hay and stubble, all the while never truly perceiving that what we actually have to sell is death?


NBA Analyst: Anthony Merkel said...

Amen! People need to let God show them where he wants them to serve in the body and when he shows them, they need to RUN with it. Serve him and build off of each other. Let the other people around you in the body of Christ build off of you and you off of them. I influence you and you influence me! We cannot run this race on our own, we need our brethren for accountability in those that we’re going to fall, and so that when we start slipping we got folks that we can call. Then they can help us get back to serving Christ! We need that fellowship as Christians. You need that band of brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus that will motivate you through this life for the glory of God!

Anonymous said...

I am starting to think that the church of Christ in human form has always been under spiritual attack since the begining. I think that what we can see is not the actual church of Christ but a human and earthly representation of sorts. The spiritual church of Christ actually exists within the believers. What believers do makes a big difference in the actual church of Christ. And what you are saying about the divine appointment for each of us is so wonderful, and for a preacher to actually encourage other believers to listen to our God and to serve our God, and the brothers and sisters in is so good to know. The dead chruch is dead but the church of Jesus within believers is alive and well. Praise God! We are dead to sin and alive in Christ!

Anonymous said...

"If we tickle the flesh to get them in, we'll get nothing but a giggle from them when they're called called upon to be counted." WOW - excellent point! Bless you Bro. & greetings from Gibraltar!

SLW said...

Sometimes, we read circumstances as revealing that the church is under attack by the devil and is hunkered down under the assault, when actually it's the kingdom of darkness that's under attack by the church and is hiding behind gated walls. The battle is not like the Israelites had against Jericho however, because we have the keys to the gate and can go in and release all the Rahabs we will. Of course, that's the actual church! :-)

Frank said...

I just don't understand why church marketing doesn't include a free car.

If you darned church people would only find it in your heart to give me a cool black Mercedes ML450 Sport Utility (fully loaded) then maybe I wouldn't be churchless.

Or if that's too much money, maybe a hot looking single Christian girl willing to cater to my every whim.

Come on, you bribe everyone else into coming to church, why not me???? :-) I have needs too!!

SLW said...

Welcome to the Sound.

I understand a church in Florida did give away a car or cars. Hope they had flames painted on them!

As for the rest, why don't we just leave that untouched?

Thanks for dropping by and sharing a smile. Blessings.

Frank said...

I understand a church in Florida did give away a car or cars. Hope they had flames painted on them!

Florida. It's ALWAYS Florida. :-P

jul said...

I don't think most people have encountered the true gospel or the living God. That's why they look for other things in a church. Surely this is a call to us in churches as well, to only hold out Christ in all his glory through the power of the Spirit, and stop trying to just be nice and friendly. Nice is o.k., but doesn't draw the masses to beat down our doors in hope of salvation, freedom, healing, etc...

So I guess I agree that people are self-centered, generally they haven't experienced the God who can change them in most churches. I agree with you that the problem is on both sides. Churches have seen they lack power and instead of turning to God for help, they go out searching for gimmicks.

But surely God is dealing with this problem even as we type! His church will prevail!

Paul said...

Apologist Greg Koukl likes to compare the postmodern view of religion as ice cream vs. the classical view of it being more like insulin. The more one believes that Christianity is simply something for people to try in order to meet some felt need, the more one is likely to try to "sell" it. Or, worse, to adapt it (from bough to root) in order make it into what people think they "need." Speaking the Gospel in the cultural language is one thing (delicate as that may be), but adapting the form and foundation of the faith to the culture itself is apostasy.

SLW said...

Modern Christianity, IMHO, has been psychologized under a humanistic perspective. It's seen today more along the line of therapy for a better adaptation or experience of life, rather than the challenge of dealing with incontrovertible and unchangeable truth, particularly the truth that is Jesus, the Alpha and Omega and Lord of glory. Ice cream and insulin, I'd say is a very workable metaphor.

P.S. I've been looking forward to your next post.

Paul said...

Right, if it isn't truth — The Truth — then it can only be a social club or self-help system that we can offer to spiritual shoppers. "Try Jesus, you might like him. He worked for me."

As I've said before, if this stuff isn't real, then I'm sleeping in on Sunday. That "works" just as well for me as any metaphysical fiction. But if it is real, then Christ doesn't need to be sold to me; I need to bend the knee to Him. And I don't need a church that plays rockin' music or serves lattes; I need to seek a church that disciples me and honors Christ in the most sober and theologically accurate way that fallen human reason (guided by Scripture and the light of the Spirit) can discern.

The church should not be your mission field; it should be the Body of Christ. That philosophy may not rake them in by the thousands (Joel Osteen style), but it will indeed insure that those who do come are there for the goods and won't move on when and if they come to suspect you ain't got 'em.

(Sorry for the delay in posting. Been busy, and strangely haven't been in the mood to write in awhile. I've got a long one I'm slowly finishing up, though. One more volley against "moral" atheism before I move on to other things.)

SLW said...

You understood exactly what I attempted to communicate! Am I getting better at this or are you just that discerning? Has to be the latter ;-).

I await that post with anticipation.