Is the American church pandering to consumers?

You tell me. This is what one megachurch in South Texas did to attract the unchurched on Easter Sunday this year...

I am speechless. I bet you have a something to share about this one way or another.



Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3 said...

i think the key here is that that same church had over 1,600 people accept Christ...when the dust clears, that is their objective and it ought to be ours


Randall Neighbour said...

Point taken, but one must wonder just how many of those people will be in their church or any church for that matter, in a year's time. I doubt they'll ever release that information.

Another practical issues surrounds those just out of warranty European cars they gave away. The members received a nice tax write off by donating the cars to the church, which I have no problem with... but the unsuspecting winners will have whopping repair bills to deal with if they don't wise up and sell the car as fast as possible. And then there's the tax on the winnings they must pay regardless...

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3 said...

I see what you're saying...and it'd be hard to determine exactly how many of the people who accepted Christ this Easter will be in that church in a year's time. At the same time, in a church with 10 to 20% annual growth, it's more reasonable to assume that next year's higher average attendance is a combination of many who are now regular attendees and many who are completely new.

For example, Woodlands Church had over 36,000 at 24 services (on 4 campuses). They will be 17 years old this November. Many of the people are now regular attendees came for the first time on Easter (or Christmas Eve). Some of them will come to 101 this month. Some of those will accept Christ and be baptized in April. They'll become regular attendees and members this year...and be back with their friends next Easter.

What about the repairs or the taxes on the cars given away? I have no idea. But since there's no problem-free...I'll take that set of problems every time.

Randall Neighbour said...

You used the words "attendance" and "attendee" numerous times in your last response, which really helped me understand what bothers me so much about big ticket give-aways in churches. Thank you!

Attendance, be it faithful or annual, is not what church is about for me. It's about sacrificial participation as the body of Christ and the transformation, healing, and fulfillment of life purpose that provides for those who enter into it.

In Organic Church, Neil Cole wrote, "What you draw them to the church with is what they'll be committed to."

Randy Frye said...

We so do not get the discipleship concept of losing one's life to gain it. Those people were attracted to the church by the enticement of personal material gain. They were probably already oriented that way and the church just REINFORCED that notion. So they are now building their houses on quicksand, and the church helped. It grieves me thoroughly.

Brian said...

I'm so grieved by this.

And stunned by the first commenter's remark that the key is that over 1600 people accepted Christ.

So does any means justify then end, as long as it leads to more people in the pews?

How can we call people to discipleship, to a life of death to self, when they get a flat screen TV on their first Sunday at church?

True, Jesus came to offer an abundant life, but it has nothing to do with cars, tvs, or $300 worth of gift certificates. An abudant life is all about both forgiveness of sin and freedom from sin.


barbbaker1102 said...

jesus was careful not to let the folks He fed follow Him and make Him their food guru! How have we gotten so far away?

his examples of using the Spiritual gifts for God's glory and to draw people were carefully seperated from the intimate fellowship of believer's.

joelcomiskey said...

I have to agree with those who have said, HOW HAVE WE STRAYED SO FAR?

In the past, we’ve often joked about church growth through giving away money, but now THIS HAS ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

And I believe when the DUST CLEARS, the overall church of Jesus Christ will have suffered tremendously. I'm thinking of the pastors and churches who will be emboldened to follow such a scheme.

This example is the absolute epitome of technique/gimmick driven church growth.

I could go on. . .

Joel Comiskey

Rick Diefenderfer said...

There was a SBC church in Fort Worth that actually put a huge inflatable Easter Bunny on the roof of their church building in hope of letting the city know they are 'seeker-sensitive'!

Brian asks, "So does any means justify then end, as long as it leads to more people in the pews?"

Sure does appear that way. Sad, so very sad!

Anonymous said...

My name is Curt and I know that when I came to Jesus in Apr. 1970 numerous older and even some younger staunch church kids thot that by going and listening to Groups such as Agape , J. C. Power Outlet and many others would, plus listening to people like Mike Yaconelli of Wittenberg Door Fame and just having fun that my Christianity would be tottally shallow and I would be lost to drugs again w/in a year. Now I would not do the Car tv giveaway more than likely but none of us here are GOD and what he can save people out of and thru is sometimes simply astounding and He is also able to keep them unto Himself. During the JESUS Movement there were so many bizarre things that went down. We may not agree we may not like but that Church may also do great things for GOD all year long and I for one don't long to be or want to be their Judge.

Randall Neighbour said...

Curt, I'm in total agreement with you that God can and does redeem most every act to bring himself the glory.

The original question remains though... is the American church pandering to consumers?

It sure looks that way.

Dan said...

I hear people speaking negatively of "seeker friendly" churches, but I'm not sure the concern is so much that the churches are "seeker friendly", but rather "sin friendly" where there is no seeking of the Lord in the least, but a full blown love for selfishness.

Jesus called us to take up our crosses and follow Him. There is a great fear that the real Gospel will scare the sinner's further away from God. The problem is that we often preach an anemic Gospel that either lacks the love of God or the justice and wrath of God. People need to be saturated with prayer and helped to understand the deep love and goodness of God before they will see the harm and injustice their sin, selfishness, and pride is. And they need to know and become convicted deeply of the guilt of their sin and the eternal danger of their souls and how they are betraying their loved ones into hell as well by their selfishness and bad example. They need to see and become deeply convicted of their need to repent. They need to seek the Lord and seek to be examined and helped by God's grace to give up that sin rather than continuing to live in it.

And just as natural living beings reproduce after their own kind, those who come to that saving relationship with Jesus Christ through faith will always be changed deeply to the point where it would be right and honest to call them new creations. The old has died. And for the love of God and their fellow human being, they will reproduce after their own kind desiring that none should be lost.

They will not sit around on their rear ends like a bunch of lying hypocrites letting their own loved ones perish into hell without a single prayer. They will not whine about the color of the carpet or rip the pastor to shreds with lies and cruel gossip or get all snooty and hold back their tithes and offerings until they get their egos stroked like a bunch of over entitled arrogant zillionaires who have not matured to the point of puberty spiritually.

Can you imagine God being so irresponsible and stupid as to allow them to come into heaven and literally turn it into another hell with their sin and arrogance?

No way! Jesus did not die on the cross to buy them a license to live in sin. God did not love sin so much that He gave His only Son so that whosoever rattleth off a sinner's prayer with all eyes closed and heads bowed ashamed of the Gospel in the midst of the church should not perish but have everlasting life.

If Nero came into the churches today, I fear He would think to himself, "Wow, I can't believe they're all just like me!"

No. There is a reason early Christians, men, women, and children were nailed to crosses, doused with tar and lit on fire. There is a reason they were fed to the lions, beheaded, dragged behind horses, boiled in oil, and sawn asunder. They were in conflict with the world and they were hated just as Christ was hated.

Now, God is seeker friendly, but many churches called "seeker friendly" are not. They are "seeker haters". They don't like people who truly seek God. We need to seek God anyway.

I realize I have written in a rather firm tone, but I don't mean to imply in any way that we should be mean or disrespectful or rude. It's just that in our love for others, we need to make sure our hearts are in the right place and that we're leading people heavenward rather than comforting them into hell.

It might help greatly if we were to examine how Jesus dealt with the rich young ruler and the woman at the well and Nicodemus. Jesus loved the sinner very, very deeply, and He was not cruel toward them. And at the same time, He was sincere and did not coddle them into hell out of cowardice. Jesus was not satisfied to glorify Himself by counting numbers of converts He supposedly got. Every soul was of infinite worth and nothing but the pure Gospel can be given lest some be lost unnecessarily.

Rick Diefenderfer said...

Dan wrote, "I'm not sure the concern is so much that the churches are "seeker friendly", but rather "sin friendly" where there is no seeking of the Lord in the least, but a full blown love for selfishness."

I agree! Why else would someone choose to go to the church that is giving away cars rather than to a church that doesn't stoop to such a level if not for the thought that I emphasis upon the I might win a car?

In a book titled, “Spring Training for Christians”, p8, the author, Neal E. Snider writes,

“The essential nature of sin is self-centeredness rather than God-centeredness. Sin removes God from His rightful position of authority and establishes the self as the highest authority. Consequently, sin is nothing less than rebellion. God is not worshipped and honored because the self has asserted itself to the position that is appropriate for God alone.”

I believe it is precisely because of our self-centeredness that we tend to ignore God’s authority and His plan for our lives. In our selfishness we (not God) decide on paths God never intended for us travel.

I believe it to be true that our self-centeredness IS THE essential nature of sin which prevents us from giving God His rightful position of authority.

I agree with Curt in not wanting to pass judgment but see no harm in quetioning the motive behind the South Texas seeker-friendly church gimmick and in questioning the thinking of those who visited that church with the hope of winning a car.

Did those folks show up with any true desire to worship God?

Did they leave the service with the understanding that we must let God lead us on His path and we must surrender our lives so He can accomplish His plan in our lives?

I believe Dan's post and the author of the above mentioned book hit the nail on the head. “The essential nature of sin is self-centeredness rather than God-centeredness.

Did those folks attend that South Texas church desiring to worship God (God-centeredness) or to win a car (self-centeredness)?

I also believe that if we (each and every one of us) are serious about being in right relationship with God and living God-centered lives then the Bible says there are four things we must do once we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior:

1. We must admit we need God’s guidance.
2. We must ask for God’s direction.
3. We must listen for God's response. And,
4. We must simply trust God.

Joel mentioned that we’ve often joked about church growth through giving away money. I must admit, as pastor of a small rural church, I once gave this some thought but now thank God that He has allowed me to find contentment in being a pastor of committed Christ-followers and serving in a church that is "a church to the core".

Iain said...

Hey Everyone - let's focus on the gimmick thing. Give away car = whole lot of decisions? Good? Bad? Well we would really need some qualitative research to find out what results were achieved. But my gut instinct is that gaining pew sitters will not equate to producing disciples who will then reproduce themselves, producing more disciples of Jesus. If this church is expecting to have a massive increase in numbers (that is what the video said) then they will most probably just be re-shuffling the saints, attracting half baked undiscipled christians from other churches. THeir slice of the pie will get bigger, but the pie won't grow in size. Drawing unchurched people into a church service is fine, but will any of those decisions make it out of the other end of the discipleship tunnel? That's when you will find out if giving away cars will be a useful church growth tool. The attractional model of church growth doen't have good long term outcomes. Christians in the Developed World must be rolling their eyes.....

Anonymous said...

I too am deeply saddened by the first comment suggesting that the number accepting Christ that day justified what is, to me, such a disgraceful act. How has it come to the point where a Pastor, let alone the elders/council whatever, or the ordinary members of HIS church condone this.

Yes Randall, in answer to your question, this is definitely pandering in the extreme - but what it says about that church and its leaders is so, so much worse. I can't imagine how such gimmicks (that's not a strong enough word) hurt the Father.