Sunday, May 18, 2008
When The Church Takes Steroids
I have back problems. Recently I was referred to a pain management doctor who gave me steroid shots in my back. O, what a wonderful thing!
The pain in my knees and hip also went away. I felt younger. I started jogging again even though my doctors told me that years ago to stop. I know why athletes take this stuff. It turns back the clock. It makes you stronger, faster and able to build muscle quickly.
But steroids have their downsides too. The problems associated with them do not justify their use. When stopped, the person taking steroids becomes the incredible shrinking man. Not only is all lost but things are much worse. So, what does this have to do with the church? I think that some churches are trying steroids like gimmicks to get people to come.
Sure, churches have always used gimmicks. I have heard it quoted so many times "be as innocent as doves but as shrewd as serpents" many times in the church. Now, I think we are using the shrewd part a little too much.
One church gave $10,000 to some lucky person who came to their church on Easter. They advertised and, yes, they had a huge crowd. Another church gave $300 gift cards to a local mall as door prizes to a youth gathering.
So, what's wrong with this? Aren't these churches growing? Are they not growing faster than any of the other churches in their areas? Yes, they are growing rapidly. They are baptizing people at at a phenomenal rate. Others are saying they are the poster children for church growth . . . just like people have said of athletes who could out perform their peers because they were on steroids.
This practice brings up many questions for me. Is the gospel not good enough to bring people to its message? What about the encore problems this practice creates. If you give out $300 gift cards, won't it take more and more of this to get the same or greater crowds? Eventually you will have to give away cars! Doesn't this do damage to the churches who are not using this tactic? Doesn't this pervert the gospel? Where will we be twenty years from now?
I don't know the answers to these questions. Maybe I am concerned about nothing.