It Was All Worth It

August 18, 2010

 I just got invited to church.

On August 2, I counted down some of the biggest gimmicks in church history, designed to get visitors in the seats.  You can check it out here, if you missed it.  Included in the list were fire engine baptisms, church fight clubs, and Nashville’s Cornerstone Church (self described as “Nashville’s most ‘dynamic’ church,”) putting on a three day rodeo, fireworks, and patriotic music festival.

From the fifty or so comments and Twitter shares, it seemed a lot of people found the list to be entertaining.  Then, something happened, a first here at The Church of No People.  A couple of days ago, I recieved one last straggling comment on the list, from someone who actually attends Cornerstone, Nashville’s most dynamic church.  Here’s what he had to say:

“[…] Isn’t the bottom line about salvations? In the end, if a church has a budget to spend to reach people who may not be reached otherwise, and just one of those people commits to Christ, isn’t that really the most important thing?
I understand frustration, but when a church has 200 or so people sign commitment cards of salvation or rededication then an event is worth all it costs.  FYI, Billy Graham, when asked about all he had led to Christ, said they had signed cards.  We never really know how many have a life changing moment if they live in other communities and attend other churches.
I cannot speak for other churches, but I personally attend Nashville’s most dynamic church and see lives changed on a daily basis […] Why don’t you try us out, Sat. 14th at 5:00 pm then come to the Christian Education class after church called God Seekers?”

At first, I first thought I might respond in a somewhat sarcastic way to the comment.  For example, I might point out that I’m in Kansas City, not Nashville, so that’s kind of a drive.  Or I might point out that I’m a pastor, not a “God seeker,” but that didn’t sound right.

The comment was made by what you can see is a nice guy who loves his church, and I’m not here to rip on him.  In fact, looking at the church’s website, I can tell they do a lot of good things, so I’m not even here to rip on the church.  But I am here to call it like I see it, and this comment brings up a couple of points I’ve got to talk about.

Three Reasons Matt Politely Declines Your Invitation to Church

If just one of those people gets saved, wasn’t it worth it?

Short answer: I don’t think so.  That feels wrong even writing that, but I get the feeling it’s true.  We’ve become so obsessed with growth, and we’re willing to grow our churches at all costs, we’re willing to stay “relevant” at all costs.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to grow.  But we’re so afraid that people won’t like Jesus, that we’re willing to make him into a sideshow.  Growth by any means necessary just isn’t growth.  Is it just me, or is American Christianity looking less and less like a religion?

If you have something you really really want, and you feel you have good intentions, you can make the same argument that “it was worth it.”  Hey, my church is going to break a world record by dropping a hundred thousand baloney sandwiches into Lake Michigan from a military aircraft bomber.  What?  That doesn’t make any sense?  You think that’s a waste of baloney?  Doesn’t matter because just one person got saved.

The irony of this whole thing is we can make ourselves out to be really cool martyrs for the cause.  We pour all kinds of money into huge events, and why?  Just so one person will get saved.  Wow, that makes us look amazingly unselfish. 

What does “Dynamic” mean?

Churches like to invent lots of words to describe themselves in appealing, delicious ways.  Cornerstone’s rodeo promo called it “Nashville’s most dynamic church.” 

What does “dynamic” mean?  I think I know.

When you go to the store, you have lots of choices.  Here’s the cheap ice cream.  Hmm…but I feel like spoiling myself.  There’s some “premium” ice cream for three bucks more.  That’s good.  Oooh, this one is “new and improved.”  I’m getting that one.

The problem is, “premium” and “new and improved” don’t mean anything.  They’re just made up marketing dreck.  Words like “low fat” or “light” have to mean something by government standards.  But not “premium.”  “Premium” is a word with no technical meaning.  And it’s the same with “dynamic,” and every other word churches slap on their labels to get visitors excited. 

Besides that, for many churches it’s not enough to be a “dynamic” church.  They have to be the most dynamic church.  Which of course implies that, sure, any other church will do…if you’re cool with a totally un-dynamic, un-radical, cheap-o crap church.  It’s kind of a passive aggressive criticism of every other church.  So go ahead and flash your made up words, but don’t imply that my church is any less splendiferous just because yours is totally scrumptrulescent.

We never really know the effects of what we do…

I think this was the guy’s point in the second paragraph.  We can never know how much impact we have.

That of course, is the rub.  How can anyone say something is worth the cost when we really don’t know the benefits?  Why don’t we spend our efforts on something we do know the benefits of?  Besides that, I don’t think most churches really count the total cost of what they do.

It’s not just money that’s spent on advertising and gimmicks, but opportunities.  When a church spends thousands of dollars to get a few Americans to sign cards, they also spend the opportunity to send that money to people in Africa who live in fear of evil spirits and don’t have clean water.  I’m not saying we should send all of our money to Africa while we live in grass huts, but we need to count the real cost before we say “it’s all worth it.”  I wonder if those Africans would say they don’t need water, because it’s worth it to see one more American feel good about himself in church.

What do you say?  Am I way off, or has our obsession with growth made us lose our way?

39 responses to It Was All Worth It

  1. Obsession with growth is part of it, but I don’t think it’s the whole issue. If we are honest, following Jesus Christ is hard work and goes against everything our society has taught us. Think about the Christian proposition – believe and be saved, and then show your love for God by serving others, giving away your money and your stuff, visiting the sick and those in jail, telling others about Jesus, etc.

    The question Christians should be asking is this – how does this event fulfill the great commission? How does this event spread the gospel message? Are we reaching into the dark areas around us? Not to say we can’t have fun, run an exciting event or be a little silly from time to time. But we have to remember that it’s not about us or our building – it’s about Him!

    BTW – I totally agree with made-up descriptive terms, especially for churches. We aren’t in competition with each other – not a contest to see which church reaches 1,000,000 members first.

    • I think you’ve hit at part of the heart of the issue(at least as I see it) Andy. Real faith is difficult to make appealing in the sense of commercialism. We are most certainly saved totally on the basis of our faith in Christ’s work through His death on the cross on our behalf. But once we’re ALREADY saved, there’s the sanctification part. Yes it’s the Holy Spirit’s work that sanctifies us, but we’ve to to cooperate with Him and yield to the Holy Spirit instead of our flesh. This not doing what we want is not a popular concept in American culture.

  2. “What do you say? Am I way off, or has our obsession with growth made us lose our way?”

    Sounds like you are implying that all these churches are only concerned with the growth of their membership rather than people’s lives being changed through a new relationship with Christ.
    Not sure that’s always the case.

  3. Ha, I like your statements about the ice cream of premium versus regular. Because those are opinions. And it’s the same with calling a church dynamic. It’s purely someone’s opinion. And if it’s about “salvations” then who cares if it’s dynamic or not so dynamic.

    And we really don’t know the effects of what we do until maybe years later. Like I don’t understand why a church would take out 50 million in loans and go in debt to build a bigger church. I know the arguments can, “Well we can fit more people and have more programs, etc.” But that’s speculation, why cripple yourself in the moment just because you have a good idea you think will work out? Sounds anti self control if you ask me.

    Then it comes down to this. If I can convert a person to Christ by roller coasters and rodeos and pizza. Doesn’t that mean someone from another religion can tempt them with bigger roller coasters, bungie jumping and lobster? Aren’t we drawing in a particular type of crowd and people when all we do is those extreme activities at church. What do those people think when we have the Lord’s supper and it’s not all extravagant? I don’t know.

    • Absolutely. You touch on two things that both lead to being trapped in circular reasoning. Speculating on what will have an impact sounds like shooting into the dark. But if we never know the impact, that’s all the reason you need. Then the roller coasters vs bigger roller coasters. It just makes you wonder what kind of Jesus are people being attracted to.

    • Sometimes I feel simplistic but it always seems to me that Jesus gave us the key to “church growth” with those words of His recorded in John 12:32: “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”. I realize that He was talking about His death on the cross here but I think we can also say that when our focus is on Jesus, His great love and what He did for us, then people will be drawn to Jesus. It’s not about the gimmicks it is about Jesus.

  4. You are not way off. You are spot on. One thing I am leery of is serious emotionalism that leads you to “make a commitment to Christ,” when what you are is all worked up in the moment. Two months later it wears off and unless you are in relationship with the Living Christ, then you right where you started.

    No, dear Matt, you are correct, and I support you 100%

    • “One thing I am leery of is serious emotionalism that leads you to “make a commitment to Christ,” when what you are is all worked up in the moment.”

      exactly!! This is why I can’t stand to sit in a church where there is an impassioned altar call, and the pastor just isn’t going to give up until ONE person comes forward. It makes me squirm, because it feels so contrived.

      Loved this post, Matt!

  5. I say that whatever we do, if we are not led by the Holy Spirit it is mostly a waste of time! But I suppose God can use it. I had a friend that got saved when he found a “turn or burn” tract on a telephone pole in Yosemite. Church growth is a myth. Islam is growing to, is that God?

    Doing “good” and being “dynamic”, “relevant” or “emerging” is retarded if it is not God. When Jesus said that we should count the cost, he was not talking specifically about dollars and drachma. He was talking about putting down our own will, our own ideas, our own desires and our own thoughts. Good ideas are not God ideas. Often, what God does in one church becomes empty religion when replicated in another church.

    So let’s go walk around the city 7 times or blow some trumpets, or let out a shout during worship, spit on mud and heal a blind eye – that’s “not God” in today’s culture, but it could be. We’ve been commanded to cast out demons, raise the dead, speak in tongues, pray without ceasing, and love the unlovable – when was the last time you saw any of that? Hopefully recently.

    I am with you on the effect we could have in Africa with the money that it takes to get one person to come to church in the US. It just makes sense. I was a missionary. I spent nearly $4000 of my own funds to go to Norway for 10 days – not a lot of folks got saved. I spent $1000 to go to Brazil with a small team, we ministered to 18,000 folks in 21 days. They were hungry for the Gospel. My friend spent $5000 to go to Israel for 3 months and no one got saved. The question is was it God?

    We are meant to create disciples, not make converts. We are supposed to be planting seeds, or watering or closing the salvation deal, something for the Kingdom. The entire idea of nickels and noses is typical shallow American consumerism. From small-groups to mega-churches, it’s become the platform pulpit show. Some worship music, the word, and from time to time, communion of prayer. I read 1 Corinthians; there is more to it than that.

    In the end, what matters is did we do the will of God, or just act religious?

    I normally don’t promote my blog, but here are my thoughts on what makes a church relevant. But don’t read it if you are feeling significant and well fed at your church. Readership is not my goal.

  6. I don’t know about the rodeo. I have never been to a Church sponsored rodeo (or any rodeo for that matter), and don’t have the imagination to figure out how someone can be blessed by a rodeo.

    I did have a friend who, before she moved South, belonged to a Church in the nearby suburbs that did a play around Christmas every year. It was a musical, and it was always fabulous. And it always pointed to our need for Christ. I was already a Christian, and I felt blessed to be reminded and regrounded.

    Long story short, they don’t due the musical any more. Expensive. I didn’t go to that Church, so I can’t say whether it was worth it or not. They did take up a collection (instead of sell tickets). I would have thought that most outsiders would have enjoyed the performance and given generously (at least the amount a theatre ticket would cost), but then I guess that wasn’t the case.

    Though I can see more possibility for glorifying Him in a musical than in a rodeo, that just could be because I am familiar with and enjoy musicals, while the only rodeo I ever saw was a back story to an old movie.

    • Yeah, you’d hope that people would give, but people are interested in free stuff. People in other arenas have done these experiments where you can get a music album or a video game, and you decide what you pay. Average money made is usually about 5-10% of typical retail value. People can be stingy.

  7. I’m always a little wary of the “starving people in Africa” argument, but I fully agree with your second point. I loathe the word “relevant” when tied to a style of worship, because it implies that if you don’t worship in that style, your church service is irrelevant. Which is kind of a crappy move, IMO.

    Mostly, I just don’t like the one-upping that seems to go on in many churches. This competition with other churches is just really disheartening. I have bounced around a lot of churches in my 36 years (feel free to judge my church hopping ways, I’m okay with that), and what I’ve found is that each offers a beautiful perspective on God or highlight an aspect of His nature. When we start using words like “most dynamic” or “relevant” or whatever, we end up cutting off parts of the body that aren’t just like us. Which is really unfortunate because I think that in so doing, we lose a perspective of God.

  8. So let me ask you this question:

    If a church has an event that costs a lot of money but has no real connection to Jesus, is that a waste? Example: Our church is located in a university city where about 25,000 students attend. Our church’s average attendance is around 1500, probably about 60% of that college students. One year, we held an event where our Worship team got together and basically played a cover-band concert in a field right outside the dorms. We served free food and hung out. It was quite expensive to get the stage, lights, sound equipment, etc. And never once did we talk about Jesus or the Bible from the stage. It was just a fun event. Do you think that’s a waste?

    • I think I can tell by your wording that you expect me to say it was a waste, except I never used the word waste (except in reference to baloney.) I only think churches should count the real cost of what they do. I think I would ask you what the church’s point or goal of putting on the concert every year is. If your goal was to put on a fun event with no strings attached, then you succeeded, and if your conscience is clear about it, great. In a way, I have less criticism for that because your expectations for the event didn’t involve getting someone to sign a Jesus card. The stakes are higher when you’re trying to turn someone into an involved, giving member of your church.

      • Sorry man…I definitely wasn’t trying to come across like I was trying to “trap” you. Because the truth is, I basically agree with you. I think far too often churches become too seeker-oriented and forget the message. That’s why I hate youth groups whose main pull for people is pizza. Kids come for pizza and then get trapped listening to a story of Jesus. My pastor always tells us when we are planning events that the event can get people there, but the Gospel will keep them there.

        The goal of our concert, which we decided not to do again, was to get people to come out and check out what was going on and where we could meet them. Having more than 5,000 new people come to town every year is an amazing opportunity to try to reach as many of them as we can, and getting them to come out and check out the concert and enjoy some free food and give us an opportunity to meet them and start to build relationships is a great way to hopefully get them to come to church. Another thing we do is every year, the school organizes the move in days for new students so that they have people help them move in. No student just shows up to campus and moves into their room. They are all met by someone who helps them get their stuff into their room and answers questions. Members of our church will go and help them out, and then for two nights we host a movie in the parking lot of our church. So this year, people go help you move in and then invite them to a movie. The point is to get relationships started. We’ve seen amazing success from this kind of stuff. Sure, tons of people come around for the free food and entertainment, but plenty of them come back on Sunday to check out the church, and then some of them eventually become committed members.

        I think my point is that sometimes churches will spend money and host events that have nothing to do with Jesus for the purpose of making connections and building relationships. The hope being that eventually, those relationships will turn into something that gets people to become followers of Jesus. Sometimes it doesn’t work, sometimes it does. But your concern about the type of events that hype up some emotional stuff just to get people to sign Jesus cards when no real change is made is entirely legitimate. I was just trying to see if your main opposition is to the money being spent or what.

        • Sounds like your church was doing its best to deal with a good opportunity. Reminds me of a professor I had who was a pastor in Talledega, AL (the Talledega.) Twice a year, the town of 30,000 would swell to a quarter million. Amazing. Of course, anything the church does isn’t going to result in new members, or a dime of new tithes. It really purifies your motives when you reach out to those people who are only in town for a couple of days.

  9. I think your point about how we invest the resources that God has entrusted to us is spot on. The question that we must ask ourselves is, “Are these resources better invested here in an effort to reach someone for Christ or is it better invested elsewhere (Africa, Haiti, slums in the U.S.)? I think we’ve gotten ourselves into a “bigger, more extravagant” evangelism mindset that results in poor stewardship of God’s resources.

  10. Okay, here’s my 2 cents for whatever it’s worth. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having community events, but if you think they’re going to bring people to Jesus, that’s a stretch. I think those should be more about just “living in community” with one another and inviting others to experience that, too. Discipliship takes time and is often messy and disappointing. How committed are you to leading people to Jesus? Will you sacrifice a bit of yourself in order to help move people into a deeper and more committed relationship with God? I don’t think you can measure the health of a church by numbers. There has to be spiritual maturity visible in their membership. Disciple training needs to be happening.

  11. Your post struck a nerve with me. What you’re talking about is why I think most of the American “church” is way off base. Our church had to leave a denomination because all they cared about were our quarterly “commitments”, baptisms, and giving to THEIR mission fund. They had no concern for the things that concerned Paul when he dealt with his churches.

    I remember growing up in the spectacle centered church. We recorded so many commitment cards after our puppet/clown shows, sno cone stands, pizza parties. I remember the people who signed many of those cards…I’m not sure if I can see any fruit of faith in them today, but they sure did look convinced of their belief after the evangelist/teacher/clown emotionally manipulated them at the end of the service (like in steve’s comment). Numbers are great if you’re a CEO; I guess that’s why many “Senior” Pastors act and are treated that way.

    I don’t mean to demean his ministry, In fact I am very thankful that he used his platform to preach Christ, and I know that God used him in a great way to expand his kingdom. But, I have to chuckle when the saying goes around that at least a million people had come to faith during Billy Graham’s crusades (and that’s just the people who signed cards). I chuckle b/c I know that at least 4 of those “saved” people are me. And I am pretty sure that I had not received true faith at all during those times of my life.

    Sometimes we don’t think about the truth of the parable of the sower. Maybe it’s because its something that most of us learned as a child, so it’s too “basic” of a bible story for us to consider as adults. But there’s alot of truth that today’s American church needs to realize. We are all too happy to see a seed sprout amongst the thorns and the rocky soil when we sow, so we move on to the next field (mega-spectacle event). When the shoot dies b/c of lack of faith or succumbing to the cares of the world (or that emotional high/manipulation wears off), we’ll just come back and sow there again…over and over again.

  12. Saying that “Spending oodles of money to ‘save’ one person is worth it” implies that there wasn’t a way to accomplish the exact same thing without spending so much money.

    That’s the issue I have. Sure, it’s great that a life is changed, but why assume that there are not massively more inexpensive ways to see lives changed. Then you can kill two birds with 1 stone. Spend the money that you saved on something else, AND see change in people’s lives.

  13. I think you made a good point, Matt. I go to a church that avoids gimmicks at all costs – sometimes to an extreme. There has to be a balance of making an inviting service, allowing the Holy Spirit to move, and still holding on to truth and perspective.

    What really makes me squirm is the concept of “commitment cards”. How freaking impersonal can a church be?! I’d rather they have a “Sign me up for a small group” card instead, so real people can make real disciples out of people who made real decisions. How many people get truly invested in when they fill out a card that basically says “I felt something funny in my tummy today at church and I’m assuming I’m supposed to fill this out.” Forgive me, I just don’t like cookie-cutter approaches to salvation.

    I feel like if you have a large church, the service is to welcome people and proclaim truth so they know the fundamental principles of your church are solid. The small groups are where real change occurs.

    • I signed a commitment to Christ card and the folks that followed up solidified my floundering faith in Christ. I do remember thinking, it doesn’t matter if I sign this card – but I want to believe this thing – I do, I really do. I still have the card in my archives, and every time I look at it I remember how hard Jesus worked to pursue this sinner 30+ years ago.

  14. I was deeply saturated in a, how you would describe, “dynamic” church.
    Being raised in a “not so dynamic but definitely loves JESUS” church, the whole dynamic thing was thrilling and emotional, no doubt. There was a laser light show every Wednesday night that was directly pointed towards our superstar worship team, you know, the ones who are recording that Righteous worship Cd?
    YUP. That was my fellowship. LET ME TELL YA, you aren’t saved unless you’re saved there! Or at least, that was kinda the mindset. If the church is THAT BIG we must be doing something right… right?
    Then some things started hitting me. I was introduced to the homeless community and my mindset started changing. Maybe the laser light show isn’t whats necessary when our money isn’t going to these people? I felt, well, what I like to call a righteous anger. I was mad at how the “oh so dynamic” church I was a part of was ignoring what we were called to do and be, in order to be more “dynamic”. I would complain to the Lord that I felt guilty tithing and knowing it was going to a laser light show or a Broadway status musical.
    Then that convicting Still Small Voice came into play and simply asked me,
    “Priscilla, am I Broke?”
    “No Lord, you’re not broke”
    “Priscilla, when did you start walking with me?”
    “When I heard of your Grace at that stupid laser light show church, (yeah that was my attitude.. sad)”
    “Priscilla, were you worth it to ME?”

    Then it hit me. It really hit hard. God’s not broke, and He doesn’t need me to be HIS accountant. In all reality, praise God for His grace! He is Faithful even when we are not the best of stewards with His blessings. Can I think of thousands of ways that money should be spent? Easily. But hey, when did God ever ask MY opinion? The Lord is often reminding me that His word does NOT return void, neither does our love.

    I totally get what you’re saying, Matt. And I get in such a rut and sometimes I still struggle with anger and frustration. But at times I remember the Lord just telling me, “Priscilla why don’t you suggest a CHANGE then?” A Change? No, I’d rather you just burn that laser light show church down (just the building). That will show them not to be so materialistic! Haha but in the end, if one person was saved there during a light show while I was too busy complaining about it to share my faith, I feel more convicted that I’m being more of a scoffer.

    I would love for the church body as a whole to start using the blessings that the Lord is giving us for other things. Maybe more church plants, more curriculum for discipleship to be translated in other languages, but one thing the Lord has been doing in my heart is teaching me that If I’m not willing to wash feet, then close my mouth when I see dirt.

    In other words, If I’m not willing to serve Him in that laser light show church, and even suggest change to the elders there, then I need to keep my mouth shut when I see dirt. And simply, He’ll use someone else more humble than myself. Which is virtually anyone.

  15. There was a poll taken at a mall near a well-known church and it revealed that most of the shoppers had never heard about Jesus. They didn’t know and they didn’t care. The pastor and author said in his book (right at the intro) that when he heard about this, he knew immediately that his church building needed to expand.

    I stopped reading the book. Is that really the solution? To build a bigger building? The unsaved peopl will remain unsaved at that mall.

    Instead, why didn’t he think, “hey, let’s go evangelize at the mall!”

    That’s my problem with the shows, the buildings, the music and the smoke machine. It won’t save you.

  16. I find myself wanting to agree with you, but as I’m writing this I find myself arguing against you. I agree that it seems like there are too many gimmicks out there trying to lure people. Gimmicks don’t lure people to Christ. But they do lure people to church and put them in a position to hear the Gospel. Haven’t churches been getting new kids into church every summer by having Vacation Bible School? For decades? And kids get saved.

  17. I’m not sure whether to say ‘amen!’ or ‘hurray!’, but either way I liked how you worked this post, and the points you made. As someone who has been in Africa and seen the issues of evil spirits and unclean drinking water, that especially spoke to me. What strikes me is that there, often they have never heard the Gospel, and they are SO hungry for it–no wrapping needed. Here it seems that we have to dress it up so fancily to get past what a friend of mine calls ‘gospel inoculation’–the prevalence of Christianity in the West means that it’s less dramatic and less ‘good news’ to many non-Christians. How to get past that, I’m not sure–but I shrink away from the big bucks and big glitter method.

    I’ve been appreciating your blog!

  18. Great post. It seems to me that we can use the idea of “if just one person comes to Jesus” argument to justify a lot of activities that, in the bigger picture, degrade the gospel. Of course we cannot, and do not, know if anyone has truly come to Jesus in a truthful and meaningful way by such activities (including the person coming to Jesus!) except through time and wisdom, etc., etc. But we can know if the actions we devise might actually cheapen the name of Jesus, the beauty of genuine fellowship, and the meaning of coming to faith. On the other hand, we know that Jesus loved a good rodeo (but he didn’t do line-dancing).

  19. “How can anyone say something is worth the cost when we really don’t know the benefits?”

    I wonder if this is similar to God telling Israel NOT to have a census? Or to not count numbers of an army?

    Frankly, from the OT stories, we see a God of minimalism. NT too, come to think of it. A God who uses the small, the weak. Think of how he used David to kill Goliath. Or how he told Joshua to take the land of Israel. Or how he winnowed the armies of Gideon. And Jesus did similarly. He fed 5000 men from a small amount of loaves & fish. Or simply, One man in order to redeem all of mankind. The power of God is clearly shown in taking a situation where you know that man can’t POSSIBLY achieve the goal, whatever it is, & then the Glory of God shines.

    To justify the huge amount of money spent in order to “save one soul” seems to fly in the face of the very God who seems to be so frugal. I wonder if the benefit would actually improve if they went minimalist style? Of course, if we are following God’s leading, we may never know. Maybe God would prefer we stop counting “notches on our belts” (as in “how many did YOU get saved?” – um, isn’t it God doing the saving?) & focus just on sharing – NOT counting numbers.

    Even though it seems inhumane, i think i really agree with you here. I don’t think that the God who has revealed himself in the Word would be pleased with ostentation & wasteful usage of our resources.

    But then, what do i know? I’m often on the brink of “UnChristian” with my beliefs.

    • What would you say about the ornate nature of the Tabernacle that was built at the end of Exodus? My guess, although I have no evidence to back it up, is that the Tabernacle was not a cheap thing to build. Other Temples in the OT were also full of gold this and gold that, and God was the one that ordered the way those were built. How do you reconcile what you just said with what we see in the Bible?

      • I guess i don’t. I was going off the top of my head. God does require the best to be given him (first born lamb, calf, etc.) I guess God requires differently in different situations. But he did direct Mary & Joseph into a situation where HIS best, his son, was born in a stable.

        But i wonder if what is being done as some sort of circus side show in churches is really giving God the best?

  20. The way churches are trying to “grow” and stay “relevant” makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit just thinking about it. I used to live in Nashville and have been by Cornerstone. As soon as I saw they had a their own bookstore built into the church I knew to keep on driving by.

  21. I pastor a small struggling church. At regular intervals either a new-comer or a veteran will come up with an idea to “save the church”. It usually involves come kind of VBS, door to door, community carnival, “harvest festival”, program, etc. I usually cut a deal with them. “If you can get other people to help you do this thing you can do it, but no guilting the flock or arm-twisting to get volunteers to pursue your church-saving dream.” I’m usually not that blunt, but that’s the main point.

    We’ve been through numerous church saving programs in my 13 years here. Over the years I can count 2 people who have actually become part of this community through those ventures. I can count more people who have come as a result of funerals I’ve conducted, but volunteers seem harder to come initiate those events.

    One wise pastor once told me “you catch them to what you catch them with” and I think there’s a lot of truth to that.

    People will usually point to something instrumental in their process of becoming a Christ follower and being enfolded into a specific community. I’m convinced what they point to is only a small portion of the process and probably most of the critical pieces were unwelcome or involuntary.

    People can spend their time doing a lot of things. Most of the time I don’t get in their way, that doesn’t mean I need to come along for the ride either, or drink the koolaid. pvk

  22. I think it’s an understood truth that if “just one” person commits their life to Christ there is as much rejoicing in heaven as there would be if 500 people committed at the same time. On that note, I do agree with you Matt.

    I think people have this in the back of their minds when they say the gimmicks are justified even if “just one” person finds Christ. Their hearts might be in the right place, but they don’t quite think things through. I think there is a fine line between a waste of precious resources that could help others who need it more and putting on a fun church picnic. America (even Christian America–sometimes especially Christian America) is known for doing things in a big, big way. Opulence: we has it.

    Not that I think I should beat myself up because the laptop I’m typing on costs more than some people make in a year. That’s a mind blowing statistic, but I’m also not advocating legalism. I’m just convinced that our materialistic culture needs a reality check on occasion.

  23. I am not a Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Luthern, 7th Day Adventist, Penticostal or any other denomination.

    I do love Jesus with my heart soul and mind. And I struggle every day to love people the same way.

    But I am so sick and tired of people in the church criticizing other people in the church. Dude, that’s satan’s job! There are plenty of topics, both lighthearted and profound, to explore without ripping on a particular church.

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