I Never Had an Easter Basket Like This…But I Guess Everything is Bigger in Texas

This morning I read an article about a give-away that a church in Texas is doing to attract people to their Easter services this weekend.  Basically they are giving away gift bags, bikes, flat-screen TV’s and 15 cars, in hopes that people will come, and then learn from the stuff they win that Christ is a way better treasure.  I encourage to read the whole article here.  Now, while I not questioning the hearts and motives of this church (I hope they genuinely want people to come to know Christ), I do question the legitimacy and effectiveness of this type of “outreach”.  When I read the article, it really made my heart ache, for a lot of reasons but here are three big ones:

1. This type of thing obscures the gospel, because it takes the focus off of Jesus and puts it on stuff.  In other words, the draw is not the message about Christ, but the stuff you can get for showing up (or from another angle it isn’t about what Christ has done for you but what cool things Jesus can give you).  Once during His ministry on earth Jesus rebuked the crowds that came to Him for just this sort of thing.  The people came to Jesus because the day before He had fed them through a miracle.  Jesus rebuked them because they weren’t seeking Him in order to worship, serve, love, and obey Him, but rather to get another free meal.  I fear events like the one in this article encourage people to make that same mistake; the gospel gets lost in stuff.

2. This type of event devalues the gospel of Jesus.  When you begin trying to draw people in by giving them stuff, you are implying that you don’t believe the gospel is compelling enough on its own to attract hearers.  So, you have to sweeten the deal by offering TV’s, cars, and goody bags.  Maybe if the world doesn’t find the gospel compelling it is the fault of the messengers and not the message.  As followers of Jesus (and I include myself here) we need to remember that the gospel itself is compelling.  What is dull about the fact that the creator God became a man, lived a perfect life, died on cross in our place, to pay the price for our sins, and rose again 3 days later so that we can live as we were created: to love, worship, and obey Him?  If you don’t believe that this message is still compelling on its own, watch the History Channel this week and see all the specials where people will try to explain away this message. People want to understand this message about Jesus, it compels them to listen and find answers.

3. Events like this promote misguided generosity.  While the people who gave money and goods to this event were certainly being generous, I think it is a bit misguided.  Instead asking people to give sacrificially with no promise of getting something back, they give with hopes of seeing more people at church, and the possibility of winning something themselves. Perhaps a better use of the funds would have been to buy some cars or other goods, find individuals and families in the community who really need them, and then the church simply give them to those people, no strings attached, just to show the radical, generous love Christ. Moreover, giving away TV’s and the like does more to fuel consumerism than it does to meet practical needs, in my opinion.  So, while people give money, and people get things, are needs really being met by such generosity?

In the end, I think the majority of people leave events like this satisfied in the stuff they get and not in Jesus, and it brings them back hoping for more stuff, not for more of Jesus.  Let me be clear, I think as Christians we ought to be wildly generous with our resources, and sacrifice far more than we often do to advance the gospel and meet real needs and address real injustice for the cause of Christ.  But we also must avoid replacing the gospel with gimmicks and the compelling nature of the Christ with the contentment of stuff.  My prayer this Easter is that in all churches (even the one in the article!) and in lives of individual Christians that the risen Jesus would be glorified as the only Savior, the only thing that can satisfy, the One who is more than enough.

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19 Comments

Filed under Church Life, Culture

19 responses to “I Never Had an Easter Basket Like This…But I Guess Everything is Bigger in Texas

  1. Hello Matt
    “Wonderful Post”!!! I agree! May God continue using you in a mighty way and do have a peaceful day. Your letter really caught my eye as I went to sign in.

  2. I used to love Easter Sunday when I was a kid.. I had a huge basket just like this… memories 🙂

  3. This is the best post I have read.
    I certainly believe that Christians are called to be generous. The story about all the workers being paid the same – even those who started late in the day – tells us that the generousity of Christ is beyond our understanding.
    But I agree with you that offering people generous material rewards for turning up at church is not about the generousity of Christ – it strikes me that it is a bribe.
    The message of the gospel is indeed compelling and powerful. Everytime I read a comment about the wrong-headedness of Christians, or about the popularity of the “God Myth” I am surprised again at the powerful reaction caused by the message.
    People hardly ever get so emotional about other issues – well, they certainly don’t STAY so emotional.
    I could go on – but basically I am saying that I agree with you and you have presentd your beliefs in a very open, honest and readable manner.
    I wish you a joyful and blessed Easter.

  4. tax-free shelter….love it

  5. coolsville

    I don’t the small, occasional giveaway at church, but the fact that the church in question is giving away cars, flat screen TVs, etc. really seems over-the-top and materialistic. I don’t think that’s the appropriate method to get people to come to church.

  6. Jeepers. I’d settle for a bike from the church…but all I really want is the baby blue snoopy watch I got for Easter c.1983. I misplaced it at Burger King somewhere in Georgia that year. Do you hear me Easter bunny?!? Sigh…

  7. AWESOME post! Thanks for reminding us what Easter is REALLY about! God bless!

  8. Randy Starkey

    Great evaluation. I often feel like I’m alone in my concern about these type of methods. Most people will look at the results from this type of methodology and determine the effectiveness of it accordingly. The ends justifies the means. When in fact the reality is that God’s grace is at work in spite of our means. Churhes seem to ignore this possibility when the outcome to a questionable event is positive. I’m sure that it is likely that one person who attends an event like this will be truly changed and for that we ought to rejoice. But we should never assume our methods are the thing that brought about the transformation. Our responsibility is to be faithful in every way to the gospel and trust God for the results. Thanks for the careful consideration on a subject that is huge in a culture that seeks to be too relevant.

  9. Matt

    Hey everyone, thanks so much for your comments! The traffic today has been absolutely overwhelming and really humbling. Thanks for reading!

  10. andydbrown

    Matt, might I suggest giving people the opportunity to subscribe to your blog. That would be sweet! I’d be the first to sign up! God bless!

  11. Kendra

    You make some very good points in this blog post. I think it is good to try different ideas to get people into the church to hear the gospel, but we must be careful how we go about doing that. Thanks for the post.

  12. Magda

    Amen & Amen! I totally understand where you are coming from. I see this and call it “Christian Marketing”. Makes me think of that quote in Galations 3:3: “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”

    I don’t agree with these types of methods and have been in a church where similar things like this has been done, not TV’s or cars, but ipods. The church had many talented singers and a pretty good drama team. In my case, the drama team ended up doing concerts and people (members or pre-Christians) paid see a performance. What I saw happen is that the numbers of people that ended up coming became so large that the church continued to do more performances and events. The worship was hyped up and became concerts. (I guess it works for bringing in those who don’t know Christ but how do you keep them? Will the Word be enough or do they just want to be on stage too?) Are new members coming to know Christ or to be the next “American Idol”?

    I get concerned that when churches do this type of “marketing” and see the numbers, the shift focuses and now it becomes about how this church did “this” and how this church has “X amount of members” and then churches/pastors compete against each other and it becomes a disgusting religious act. There is no unification of churches within a community because one church wants to out-do another church or be “branded” as a certain style church. I think its sad and wonder if Jesus even visits some of these types of churches.

    The truth is we all need to go back to the basics of the gospel and keep it simple.

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  14. Good post Matt. I especially like the point about finding people who need the cars and giving them away. Too often it’s “ya’ll come” and not “let’s go and love people.” I’d be interested to hear the church’s thoughts in response. Maybe there is more than meets they eye.

  15. Hi I just wanted to leave a comment to say that I enjoy your blog. Looking at the number of comments, I see others feel the same way! Congratulations on a very popular site.

    thank you.

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