Saturday, April 3, 2010

10 Reasons Big Easter Giveaways are a FAIL

Two caveats:
a) I'm not talking about giving gifts to guests who attend. Gift cards, books, etc. to visitors can be a sweet form of church hospitality. I am talking about the use of "cash and prizes" to "lure" people to church on Easter.
b) I know the folks doing the luring are, for the most part, sincere believers who want people to know Jesus.

I have a hard time pinning down that this sort of thing is wrong, by which I mean "morally," but I do think it is profoundly unwise. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it.

Ten reasons luring people in with cash and prizes is gross and stupid:

1. It creates buzz about cash and prizes, not the Easter event. Nobody wants to interview these pastors because they want them to talk about the resurrection. They want them to talk about the loot.

2. It identifies the church not with the resurrection, but with giving toys away.

3. Giving toys away is not parallel to Jesus' providing for the crowds. Jesus healed people and fed them. This is not the same as giving un-poor people an iPod.

4. It appeals to greed and consumerism. There is no biblical precedent for appealing to one's sin before telling them to repent of it. This is a nonsensical appeal.

5. Yes, Jesus said he would make us fishers of men, but extrapolating from this to devise all means of bait is not only unwarranted, it's exegetically stupid. The metaphor Jesus is offering here is just of people moving from the business of fishing to the business of the kingdom. There is no methodology being demonstrated here. (But the most common one would have been throwing out nets anyway, not baiting a hook.)

6. But seriously, how lame is it to "lure" people some place to create a "captive audience"? Sure, they know they're coming to church. But it's a disingenuous offer. The message of the gospel is not made for Trojan horses.

7. It demonstrates distrust in the compelling news that a man came back from the dead!!

8. It demonstrates distrust in the power of the gospel when we think we have to put it inside something more appealing to be effective.

9. We are just now seeing the data emerging from research of years of this kind of marketing/evangelism attractional church stuff, and the results are not good. I have no doubt these churches are going to see decisions this weekend. I'd be extra interested in how discipled these folks are in a year or two years or three. Hype has always produced "decisions." Would anyone argue that after 30 years or so of this approach to evangelism the evangelical church is better off?

10. What you win them with is what you win them to.


Josh Montague said...

This is also the reason I get frustrated with pastor's conferences that offer free xboxes/wiis/iStuff...

Is your content (the Gospel) really that unappealing?

Anonymous said...

Outstanding insight, brother.

Kurt said...

"We are just now seeing the data..." could you please refer me to some of this data, regarding the negative/empty results of the circus-church approach?

Jared said...

Kurt, Willow's REVEAL study is a start. Also check out Sally Morgenthaler's coverage of recent research too. I highlight this at this post:

In general, what we are discovering (or confirming, depending on your perspective) is that the rise of the attractional megachurch creates more big churches but not a net gain in professing Christians, and most of the churches are merely attracting Christians from other churches. The turnover rate -- I think average is every 4-5 years -- ensures constant customer base for attractionally-driven churches.

I do not think it's wrong, btw, for churches to maintain some level of "attractional." The mission of the church should be to make the gospel attractive, compelling, etc. I just don't think "anything goes" is a good philosophy for attraction.

Dylan said...

RE: "Would anyone argue that after 30 years or so of this approach to evangelism the evangelical church is better off?"

Yep. The folks still doing it! Which is a lot of people. And, some of the people raised in that culture earlier on are not mimicking what they know. (Discipleship gone bad.)

frankfusion said...

Score one for the Wilsonator! Good post sir. I bow to you ::bow::

C. Holland said...

Excellent thoughts, all, but especially number 10: "What you win them with is what you win them to." These are the people I've encountered who are shocked to later find the Christian life is about sacrifice and service, not perpetually receiving fun toys and having an easy life.

Bill said...

Exellent and spot-on, Jared.

Unknown said...

what churches do this?
I've not seen any of these churches, at least in my hood.

if these churches exist (which I'm sure they do) your list is spot on! Luring people w/ gimmicks is a catch 22, because now to keep em you must do so with even bigger gimmicks.


Jared said...

Bryan consider yourself blessed.

Some of the churches doing this kind of thing have been on national news lately talking about it. Bay Area Fellowship in Corpus Christi, TX is one.

Bernie said...

Great post, Jarod. Thanks for this. I've cried foul on this whole issue, as well ... and have had well meaning folks come back with the arguments you so gracefully disemboweled (can you disembowel gracefully? Sure!) here. The churches around the world watch and often emulate what they see in the American church. We've exported a lot of crap to over here (I'm in Mongolia ... but it's everywhere) and unfortunately we've communicated the exact opposite of what the Gospel message actually is. #10 is most relevant where I live ... and in many other parts of the world. We've not won people to Jesus and his saving grace and power. We've won people to free trinkets (cars and and iPods) that has only the power to destroy and condemn.

Unknown said...

mmm, Texas!?
I've only heard stories of the gimmicky Christianity from there. ;)
I don't feel like we see much of that here in least in my experience.
I'll pray for God's blessings for your Easter!

Unknown said...

I just watched the video clip...still trying to untie my stomach.

Unknown said...

What about having the Jonas Brothers play at your Easter service? Does that count as a giveaway? ;-)

Jared said...

James, shhh. Don't tell Bryan, but that's at a California church. :-)

kinleyw said...

Seems to me you end up with a lot of seed on the path, rocky, and thorny soils. You do reap what you sow.

JamesBrett said...

i'm with you on all but number 4. "store up for yourselves treasure in heaven." i think Jesus makes pretty good use of our selfishness in a few places in scripture.

that said, i believe this is a whole 'nother ballgame. i don't support what's going on here at all. just feel like Jesus himself occasionally appealed to greed and desire.

Laura Angelika said...

Thank you for this insightful post!

stephy said...

Haha, so totally! Although I'd kinda like a resurrection egg just for old times' sake.

Molly Betsy @ Star Cottage said...

This is insane, I had no idea people did this. I am learning so much from your site.