Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter: A Time for Clean Toilets

Before you read this, you should know that I AM NOT talking about every church out there. I am only speaking of those that use the celebration of Easter for their own selfish purposes. If your church isn't one of those that participate in such practices, you should not be offended.

Hey everyone, it's EASTER and you know what that means? All our "heathen" friends and family will once again awaken from their yearlong "stay the heck away from church" sabbatical to tank up on a heaping load of good ole Americanized religion. But fear not, the churches are ready! Yes sir the good news is that many churches are more than ready to make the most of every "opportunity", and nothing spells "opportunity" like an American holiday.

With that, I'd like to share an excerpt from an interview with the Senior Pastor (you know like it talks about in the bible) of ZOE Christian Fellowship in California. In this interview, the good pastor shares with us his church's "strategy" to win the lost….to church.

"On Sunday morning nothing compares to Easter service," he said. "We prepare for it. We think strategically about how to prepare for it. We go to great lengths to do that. We recruit more ushers, we hire a person to clean the restrooms every 30 minutes, we use more greeters to greet people as they arrive, and we put ads in the newspaper to invite people out to our Easter play.

"We do email blasts, mass mailings and tell the congregation to invite people," he said. "We go out into the malls and the community to invite people. We have special presentations: a large mass choir, a big drama presentation." Smith said the church uses members as actors in the drama presentations, and they are encouraged to invite family and friends out to see the production. Those involved include small kids, high schools students and adults.

"As a church we do what we call a comeback program, because we want them to have a reason to return. We tell them about events that are coming up. That's a unique marketing opportunity for us. It's a major opportunity."

Okay…so let me get this straight. You do the following to prepare for Easter:

  • You think "strategically" about how to get people to attend the show
  • You "recruit" extra folks to help with the show
  • You hire an outsider to clean your toilets (guess he'll miss the show)
  • Advertise the show
  • Email, mass mail, and invite people to your building for the show
  • Create a "production" for people to see (that's the show)
  • You tell them about upcoming "events"
  • And finally, call the whole thing a "unique marketing opportunity".

So my dear pastor guy, that's Easter? There for a minute, I thought we might be talking about a concert or maybe a Broadway show.

Is that your advice on how we should "prepare" to celebrate the sacrifice and victorious resurrection of the Lord of the universe?

Don't get me wrong, I love a good clean toilet and all, but honestly, that's your selling point? That's actually part of your "comeback program"? Geesh!

By the way, who or what do you want them to "come back" to, because I didn't hear one word about Jesus.

Now I realize this poor pastor guy and his "flock" are only doing what they believe to be right. Still, let's be honest here shall we? For Zoe Christian Fellowship, it seems obvious (at least to me) that Easter has become more about growing their corporation and less about souls and a Savior.

Corporation you say? Sure, you know a business. I mean that's what it sounds like to me. Sorry, but if you don't want people to assume it's a corporation then stop using business terms. Words convey meaning and much of what I read sounded more like a business plan than the gospel.

Disagree? Well, if you can find anything about creating a "unique marketing opportunity" in the bible, please let me know. Besides, the good pastor admits himself, this "major opportunity" is "for us".

I realize not all churches are involved in such shenanigans, but honestly many are especially during times of perceived "opportunity". Just this week in my own hometown, I've seen countless church marquees advertising "awesome" egg hunts, and special "activities" for the kiddies. You can be sure that behind every one of those signs is a church staff working hard to make their Easter seem….more attractive than the other guys. Why? Because, they want more……well you know.

By the way, if it's not about numbers then why do institutions such as the Southern Baptist Convention put out an annual listing of churches ranked according to the number of "baptisms" they've achieved and other "important" data? If you say it is to celebrate, you are obviously quite naïve.

Honestly, I wish these places would just come clean and put on their signs, "We want you to come because huge numbers make us feel successful". Of course, some might need to say, "We want your money, so come here and we'll make your kids giggle!"

Again, disagree if you so desire, but you know that to some degree I am speaking the truth.

Now before I drop my hefty basket of throwing stones, let me say this. My decision to part ways with these buildings some call churches does not in any way guarantee that my stay home version of Easter will be any more spiritually significant or worshipful. In the end, it is up to each individual to intentionally celebrate the goodness of our Lord. The decision to ignore him can take place from the couch just as easily as it can the pew. So there, I threw a rock at myself.

Still, I can safely say that I don't foresee having to use a "marketing strategy" to coerce my children into attending our family bible study at the dining room table. The cinnamon rolls do that!

The very idea that God's holy church feels the need to resort to such tactics is a sad indication of just how disconnected we really are from the truths presented in scripture. I suppose it's no longer enough to just share Jesus. No, now we must "seal the deal" with fancy programs and hyped up jargon that only works to confuse the world even more about the one who died and resurrected for a lost world.

Heck, if I were a lost guy I might begin thinking this Jesus fellow must have problems if churches have to work so hard to sell him.

So with that I'll end this blessed post. Have a great Easter and for those of you lucky enough, enjoy those clean toilets!


Nagel said...

Greater Works Ministry for the homeless is having a sunrise service at 7:00 at their building on Thornton Ave. And I would love to have you and your family join us there some second Sunday to help make breakfast and serve it to their clients. Let me know if you ever want to come!
Happy Easter !!

Quilty Lady said...

Hope you have a blessed Easter and find a few eggs.

Richard W said...

I don't know where I would be without the instructions, comfort, and friends of the churches I have attended over the years. Every New Testament Church had issues. Every Church today has issues. Early Christians met the physical needs to share the love of Christ. Churches today try to meet needs of people as an expression of the love of Christ with the desire that more come to know him. Now, the Church does need people to step on their toes as well. Church leaders need to be held accountable to keep doing things for the right reason. Ken, you express valid points. Personally, I could not lead my family as you do in your home church. A lot of true believers couldn't do it for a variety of reasons. I would be proud to be a part of a church with your gifts and talents and quest for the truth. I'll also continue to love and support the church that I attend knowing it will never be perfect but, as a whole, pressing on in the name of Christ with all of its ministries.