The other day I received in the mail a check for $30,000. Well, at least it looked like a check. It smelled like a check! It said “Pay to the order of” and had my name in the blank! It had the amount $30,000 both in numbers and spelled out:
Thirty thousand dollars……..00/100
Wow! I couldn’t wait to go cash it! But wait! As I looked at the small print, it said “valid only when used toward the purchase . . .” and then those words I hated to read: “DO NOT CASH”! Then I turned it over and read the rest of the letter that was attached and realized quickly that this was just another gimmick to try to get me to buy something. If they could just get me to come down and look, then a sale could possibly be made.
Many Churches and para-church organizations (camps, colleges, conventions) often find themselves caught up in the gimmick game. What does it take to get people to come to church services. And if we get them there, how do we keep them? What about the children? Do we have to have right “gimmicks” to win people to Christ?
I remember telling people about Hillsboro Family Camp and how great it is to attend. They asked what do you do all day long. I told them I am fed the Word by preaching and teaching! I was often asked how I could sit and listen to sermons from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM with only a few breaks for meals. There was nothing there to entertain me but the preaching of the Word! Oh, yes, they did have some singing, but that was not the focus. The focus was upon the preaching and teaching of the Gospel!
That old saying comes to my mind, “what you win them with, is what you win them to”. I love good music—but if you win people with just music, you win them to just music. What happens if the music isn’t so great? Does that mean that someone doesn’t attend services or a camp or a convention? To some in our churches it does. If the preacher isn’t a good story teller or polished or gives us good pop psychology and “positive” preaching, we are not going to attend. But a church that is simply winning people by entertaining them, is only winning people over to entertainment as the old saying goes.
I remember years ago being part of a church softball league. In order to play on the church team, a person would have to be there at least three Sundays a month. During softball season the attendance would go up. People would attend services that you never thought would even come through the church building doors. Even after hearing the gospel proclaimed “at least three Sundays” out of the month, when softball season was over, so was their church attendance. We won them with softball, and that is all we won them to. Is it possible that the only reason they even attended was to put in their time so they could play softball?
Now I may be old fashioned, but I believe that there is still power in the Gospel WITHOUT all the gimmicks! Maybe this doesn’t bring the “instant” growth like many Christians are expecting. The Gospel must remain our focus, not the gimmicks! It was the Apostle Paul who wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). He doesn’t mention any gimmicks. He simply says the Gospel! He would later tell the same Christians in Rome that faith came by hearing (Romans 10:17).
I personally believe that the preaching of the Word can still win people to Christ. Not that there is anything wrong with music or softball or entertainment, but that cannot be the focus of the church. We Christians like to have a good time together and that is all right (look at the back of this newsletter)! But the church is not in the entertainment business! We are in the business of saving lost souls from a dying world!
I do understand the concept that we need to draw people into listening range. How we do that is something that still needs to be restored in the church today. Let me suggest that the early church didn’t win the world with gimmicks. The converts in the New Testament were won because of two primary things.
1. The preaching of the Gospel (Acts 8:4).
2. The faithful committed lives of the early church (Acts 2:42).
I still believe that if you win people with the gospel, you will win them to the gospel!
Boldly preaching the Gospel, without the gimmicks!
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