If God has already provided the ordinary means of growing in grace as we find in His Word, why do we think that we have the right or the greater wisdom to invent new ways through entertainment-driven, success-oriented worship and ministry? Brian H Cosby, Giving Us Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Church
I must admit that during my brief stint as a youth leader in a church that we attended some years ago, I did some things that yes some still talk about but I hopefully now have better judgement in not doing. Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 9:22, that we were simply becoming “all things to all people that [we] might by all means save some.” But I’m quite sure he wasn’t talking about preforming antics so that we could try to convince some teens in coming to church.
You know how the story goes, took some teens bowling trying to have a good time and half way through the night, the crazy notion comes in your head to tell them if they beat me in score then I would wear a skirt to church the next day. Needless to say, they beat me by 1 point. There I was stuck. I cant go back on my word, they would never trust me after that. No, I had to go through with it, but at least the Lord helped me by thinking of a way of fulfilling my promise and not getting completely thrown out of the church forever. Fortunately my wife had one of those elastic waisted skirts that I could pull over my suit and fulfill my promise and retain some dignity at the same time.
The point is what sometimes happens in youth groups is not necessarily appropriate for our church services. I am afraid that too many churches are relying on gimmicks to bring or retain people into the church. The Gospel can be lost whenever Christianity becomes too casual and worship is reduced to entertainment. Many megachurches have a mini-Gospel where the emphasis is more on attracting people rather than retaining them for discipleship and service. They are relying on their cleverness and creativity more than what should be at the base of everything we do…the plain and unedited gospel of Jesus Christ.
Yes, I agree that there are extremes that we can go either way. We can swing so far one way and seem to turn our desire to attract people to our churches that it can look more like a circus instead of a place of worship or we can swing so far the other way that we become so institutionalized that we shut out anyone that is not like us and almost seem to be a exclusive club that guards each and everyone that is allowed in to the inner-sanctum. But that is not the way that Jesus, the master-builder and architect of the Church draw people unto Himself.
Jesus did not feel compelled to put on skinny jeans and wear tee shirts that was too tight to try to be relatable to the crowds. Jesus didn’t feel that He had to be more approachable to reach the people He was talking to. Jesus spoke truth plain and simple. He did not jazz things up to get their attention, He proclaimed the Kingdom of God and left the crowd to digest it and ponder the information and many responded, but many more didn’t. Our passion should be the gospel in the purest form possible without helping it with gimmicks.
There must be at the core of everything a church does, weather big or small in size, a true burning passion inside that weeps at the thought and sight of lost souls all around us that do not know this Christ that came to save the a lost world (John 3:16). Returning to our core mission and commission to “Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations” must be the central and exclusive mission drawing people unto Christ. Gimmicks do not change peoples lives but the gospel of Jesus Christ does. We must be about speaking the gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way that people are persuaded to follow. The focus should not be on programs, gimmicks, or events. But true biblical evangelism happens, not when crowds are attracted to a church for their spectacular experience with worship that is covered in blue and purple colorfully lit stages or a sanctuary that is so dark that we think we are in some kind of secular concert wanting to raise lit bic lighters for tribute to Jesus. But rather when the members of the church are sent out into the world to bear witness to Christ to the community around them, that is when Christ is truly honored and glorified and not in a production.
*When Jesus said, “I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself,” His primary reference was to the cross, but His words also include the resurrection and ascension in its meaning. Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension are all linked to His glorious exaltation and the drawing of sinners to Himself (Romans 6:9–10; 1 Peter 3:18–22; Revelation 1:18). But it is the cross that is the centerpiece of the gospel and the magnetizing force of Christianity. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, in all its magnitude of meaning revealed by the power of the Holy Spirit to human hearts, appeals to the whole wide world. No class, social status, race, nationality, sex, or age group is excluded from its attraction.
It is Jesus who does the hard work of drawing and converting people for His Kingdom. Our job is to simply lift Him up, glorify Him, and tell of His wonderful gospel. If you desire to see your church revitalized in real and tangible ways then stay on focus and keep your eyes on Jesus. You can rearrange the stage all you want, you can change the lighting to as many colors as you like, and you can try to pull out as many gimmicks as a magician, but the power is in the life, cross, and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone. Many churches today are in need of revitalization because they have strayed too far away from the passion and power of the straight gospel message for gimmicks.
Pastor Rob Beckett, Shepherdsville First Church of the Nazarene. Shepherdsville KY “Restoring the Image of God to the broken and the hurting”