What’s In It For Me, Jesus?

April 13, 2012

As an extension of Wednesday’s giveaway of Scott MacIntyre’s book, “By Faith, Not By Sight,” every comment and tweet on this post will also enter you to win!

The Sunday after Easter, always kind of a downer.

Guests at Easter Egg Hunt: 6000. Guests at Easter worship: 40. Click for the full story.

Last week, churches everywhere gave away tons of candy, toys, iPads, cars, and other stuff to try to lure people to church. And hopefully, the gospel was preached. Maybe you attend one of these churches. Maybe not. Maybe you stayed home on Easter to avoid the crowds.

Easter is kind of a sacred cow. Churches insist it’s the most important day of the year to attract visitors. It’s like the Christian version of Black Friday. So churches are willing to put on incredible door-buster deals.

…And then we wonder why everyone is so materialistic.

We shouldn’t be surprised. The most sacred of holidays has come to reflect that fact that almost all of us don’t really care that much about Jesus. Even Christians would rather have candy.

What’s In It For Me?

We live in a “what’s in it for me” world.

People are always looking out for number one, trying to get what they’ve got coming to them, what they deserve. We don’t like to admit it. But I will admit it. I spend a good deal of time thinking about how my job doesn’t pay me enough. I’m worth more. I deserve more. What’s in it for me to do a great job?

And we live in a world of entitlement. Maybe you’ve noticed that. Everyone’s got their hand out, waiting for someone else to recognize how awesome and deserving they are.

Little wonder we have to bribe people to come to church. We have to put up some pretty big incentives to get people off their butts. And this Sunday, with no free candy or door prizes, or any other immediate incentives, most of those people will consider going to church, and then think, “But what’s in it for me?”

I’d Rather Have Candy

We shouldn’t be surprised by this. It’s not like the people sitting at home are more carnal or less holy than those of us who go to church on Sundays. You and I are the same as they are. We bring that same “What’s in it for me?” attitude to Jesus every day.

Jesus says, “Follow,” and we hold our hands up and ask, “What’s in it for me?”

Jesus says, “Be my disciple,” and we say, “Sure thing, Lord. What kind of benefits package comes with that job?”

Jesus says, “I died on the cross for your sins. I’m giving you the free gift of grace,” and we respond, “But Jesus, I’m not planning on dying for a while. What can you give me now?” If we’re going to do Jesus the favor of being his disciples, we expect a big payout of blessings.

Most of us just don’t give much a crap about eternal salvation.

We’d rather have candy.

Jesus or Free Crap

So, we take the most important holiday of the Christian year, and we take the most important thing we can talk about, and we say to the world, “Yeah, there’s this guy Jesus who rose from the dead, but not in a zombie kind of way. But we know that’s not really interesting, so here’s some free crap!”

I wonder if Jesus was sitting in the garden, and God’s telling him what he has to do, and Jesus said back, “But God, what are these sinners I’m supposed to die for going to do for me?” And God said, “They’ll put you on bumper stickers and T-shirts, commemorate your resurrection with a giant rodent, and act like they’re doing you a favor by calling themselves ‘Christians.’”

If we want to say that the gospel should be enough to attract people, it has to start with us acting like it’s enough for us. Even if Jesus never gives us blessings or free T-shirts or makes our lives easy.

What do you think? Did your church do an Easter giveaway blowout? Is it all worth it? Or does it just reinforce materialism and show our own materialism?

23 responses to What’s In It For Me, Jesus?

  1. We were all given a small easter egg as we entered, but that was the extent of it.

    Our services started on Thursday evening with the Stations of the Cross, then a service Good Friday morning, with one of the congregation painting during worship, and looking at why Christ died. Then on Sunday morning our pastor dressed as the apostle (or, as he preferred to be called, the disciple) John telling about the risen Christ and the discovery on that first precious Easter morn, all from the perspective of Patmos. He also touched on the Revelation.

    Very different to what we have been used to. But also very moving.

  2. Love this, “If we want to say that the gospel should be enough to attract people, it has to start with us acting like it’s enough for us”. And it has to be more than “acting” for it to be attractive to people.

    We did nothing special at our church to attract people other than our pastor put on a tie. That is the only day of the year he does.

    As a pretty new parent I am honestly annoyed by all of the junk churches do with bunnies and eggs that have nothing to do with the resurrection of Jesus.

  3. Good blog, Matt!

    What do you think? Did your church do an Easter giveaway blowout? No. We had a regular service with a couple of tunes that were about the resurrection. We do the same at Christmas – change the music up a tad.

    Is it all worth it? Or does it just reinforce materialism and show our own materialism? I have been a part of churches that did a push with candy. It wasn’t for the Christians, it was for people that think Easter has some appeal (like Halloween, Valentines Day etc.) and it is part of the celebration. Getting people to a place where they hear the Gospel is important. In the US it’s a tough sell.

    All that said, what I truly think is wrong is that people don’t have a real relationship with Jesus; it’s just some religious practice with a cute philosophy, complete with the make me feel good loving Jesus.

    There are lots of reasons to go to church, but when you are talking about “attracting” others, here is where I am at. I don’t need anything from God, and He doesn’t need anything from me. Religion makes people feel obligated to follow the rules whether they are traditions, morals, or Bible law.

    When Jesus is allowed to move, and the Holy Spirit is at work, an amazing thing happens; people actually are gently convicted of their sin, physical healing occurs, certain music has an indescribable meaning regardless of the musicianship, people begin to hear from God and it bears fruit. Programs are replaced by spirit led ministry, and individuals are raised up to do amazing things in the midst of those they love. Read Acts, that is a lot of what the attraction was, and why so many revivals took place; God was doing amazing things through His people.

    The real question is why does someone go to church? To get a candy bar, to hear a good sermon, sing a few tunes about God instead of about lost lovers, broken hearts, hot mates, and rock and roll? To receive physical healing for the disease that has no cure, to get God’s perspective on their life, not just a few trite Bible versus slung your way? To serve others, feed the poor? To feel significant or important?

    I honestly don’t know why most people want to be Christians in the first place. Unless you are passionate about God, what’s in it?

    No one goes to church for free. We should be there to love ALL others with our gifts, but unless you have a relationship with God in which you move and breath in His presence, it’s unlikely. Then the chocolate eggs are awesome – or a Tebow sermon.

  4. You might be interested in this article–came across it a couple of years back

    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/faithbased/2008/03/happy_crossmas.html

    Interesting that (at least according to this article) Easter has managed to resist a lot of the commercialization that took over Christmas (at least in terms of retail spending). However it seems that it’s the churches that are pushing to commercialize the dickens out of it. Kinda weird.

  5. Today’s post really hit like a ton of…well, me.

    At my church everyone gets really excited for Easter. All the new faces to see, people to talk to. That’s great, but the thing that always strikes me is the old faces that come back. My church is usually less than 25% full. We have *maybe* 100 in attendance, even though our “membership” is over 600.

    That always makes me profoundly sad. On Easter, Christmas, and Mother’s Day we’re packed to the rafters. Front to back, nearly every seat is full…all those old faces that we see in the directory are there in the pews. Everyone has discussions at our church board meetings on what we can do to get them to come back on other days that aren’t the Big 3. They toss around more interesting programming and door prizes. They all agree that being reached out to as individuals is the best approach. Everyone calls someone to invite them to service again or out to lunch. We tell them that it was great seeing them on Easter, we’d love to see them again next Sunday…but it doesn’t work. Then we see them again at the next Big Service and start the cycle over again. It’s a pretty sad tradition.

  6. Our church didn’t do a giveaway blowout. We didn’t even really share the typical “Easter” message. Our pastor went through the OT laying out prophecies that have been proven true years, decades or centuries later. After he established a basis of truth in the Scriptures, then he talked about the resurrection and provided the link that if all the other parts of the Bible he shared was true then the resurrection and why Jesus came here was true as well. Personally, I loved the approach.

    I believe Easter to be the most important day of the Christian year. Even bigger than Christmas because our sin wasn’t paid for when Jesus was born. You’re dead on about a world that’s materialistic and it’s sad that sometimes churches go to extremes to try and draw people in with over the top promotions for Easter.

    I do candy with the kids on Easter Sunday mainly because they like candy. And I get 10% as the “Daddy Percentage.”

  7. Wow! You just followed me on twitter and I wanted to check you blog out.. Now I can’t stop reading them!! Thank you. I am in total shhock that “churches” would do that… Where is the sacred-ness of God! I hate what people have made easter into. My friend had a good tweet about easter… “To all my jewish friends, happy passover, to all my christian friends happy easter and to all my athiest friend good luck!” Its so true! What is this world coming to and how can we remove the evil and commercialism from a holiday that is supposed to be about Jesus?!?

  8. “Jesus says, “I died on the cross for your sins. I’m giving you the free gift of grace,” and we respond, “But Jesus, I’m not planning on dying for a while. What can you give me now?” If we’re going to do Jesus the favor of being his disciples, we expect a big payout of blessings.”

    This says all that needs saying….

  9. Just a thought… but in a world where the mentality is just as you spoke – what’s in it for me? And in a world which you shared has no concept of imminent death or a need for Christ, how do we draw them in? Because it is a world, where they do see a need for an ipad, an iTouch, or whatever else these churches offer. I don’t find much wrong with it. It gets them in the door, and then allows the gospel to be preached, and then the gospel I believe is enough.

    I think the real issues isn’t what we do to try and get them in the door… it’s the fact that we are trying to get them in the door! Jesus said follow me. Which means He was where the sinner were at. He went to the temple to correct and teach the already churched. He went to the streets to reach the lost, needy, and broken.

    We are responsible for being the hands and feet on the street. To be the light in the darkness. If we were doing our part… would the churches have to bribe them to come in and see what they have to offer?

    As believers sitting in the pews, we’ve done such a pathetic job of spreading the love of Christ, and the free gift of grace. We sit back in our chairs Sunday after Sunday saying preach it pastor feed the sheep, oh and why you are at it, build the church, and fill the pews. The pastor feeds the flock and flock does the work! One man, or a whole church staff are never enough to spread the gospel outside the walls of the church… WE are the church… WE are responsible… WE are the ones making it so difficult to fill the chairs…

    Maybe, instead of pointing focus at the gimmicks used to get the lost into the building… we could work on our own salvation with enough fear and trembling that our neighbor would see the love of Christ, and they become interested enough to trust us enough to ask about our faith, and maybe even ask where we worship.

    Just my two cents…

  10. I honestly didn’t realize that any churches gave away candy on this day every year. Guess I’m hanging around the wrong churches. Mine had a regular sermon, one obviously taking into account that we’d have a lot of visitors, so the plain, basic Gospel was preached.

    By the way, I’d take issue with your characterization of Easter being the most important Christian day of the year. To me, Thanksgiving is. But that’s just me.

  11. “I wonder if Jesus was sitting in the garden, and God’s telling him what he has to do, and Jesus said back, “But God, what are these sinners I’m supposed to die for going to do for me?” And God said, “They’ll put you on bumper stickers and T-shirts, commemorate your resurrection with a giant rodent, and act like they’re doing you a favor by calling themselves ‘Christians.’””

    That had me laughing and crying at the same time.

    Our church did not do anything out of the ordinary except move its monthly BBQ at the neighborhood park a week earlier and go door to door with invites to the BBQ and the Easter service. The purpose of the BBQ is to meet the people where they are, offer them food, fun and get to know them and tell them about the gospel.

    The kids and I have been going through Matthew in preparation for Easter. We got a little behind, so we just read about the Jesus’ death today (“extending the joy of the holiday” is what I call being late). When Jesus gathered His disciples, he went to where they were and merely said “Come.” He didn’t sit on a corner or at the temple and expect them to come to him and he didn’t promise them anything when he said “come.” To me, that would say that simpler is better and bribes don’t work. Now, we aren’t Jesus, and therefore don’t have His presence, but we still can ask for His help in bringing people to Him so that when we say “Join us in following Him,” some of them, at least, will.

    “Let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come: Let the one who desires take the water of life without cost.” Revelation 22:17b

  12. Being out of town for Easter, we hunted down a sunrise service in the small town where we spent Saturday night. It was a beautiful service that pointed us straight to Jesus and the cross and resurrection. We were impressed by the unity among the BaptiCathoMethoAfriPentacostaLutherans who worked together to bring Christ to their community. No hype, just Jesus. That alone gives me hope.

  13. Great post and some wonderful comments too. Beth, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Why should we spend so much time trying to drag people into church when we, the church, should be out ‘being Jesus’ to our community?

  14. “What’s In It For Me, Jesus?”

    ‘Well kid, I’ll tell ya.

    Death (your own personal cross) like I had…but then a resurrection, like I had.’ (Romans 6)

  15. Wow this did make me think (and laugh at the giant rodent part!). We did have an Easter Egg Hunt but it was small and wasn’t advertised beforehand. It’s true that we can we desperate to get people to church- as a student I would talk about the food after church to get my friends along. Guess it’s a balance so that whatever originally brings them along pales in comparison to Jesus.

  16. I love this post! On a side note, as a church, collectively, perhaps we should be more celebratory about Easter than Christmas. But, I think that also boils down to our materialism.

    However, I really love the chocolate covered marshmallow eggs, too. confliction…