Thursday, September 03, 2009

What do you think of this?

One of my church members came to me with a ticket to an event that he'd heard about that offered a chance to win the choice of 1 of 2 brand new vehicles. All I had to do, according to the ticket, was listen to a 3 minute story. So I looked a the ticket and went to the web site, and here's what I found. Apparently you set up a private viewing area that has these videos available for viewing. People watch the videos and fill out a card that asks them if they want to make a decision to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. The card serves as their registration for the car give-a-way.

I don't know how I feel about this. I love the idea of using people's stories to share the truth of Jesus Christ, but I hate the idea of having to bribe them to do so. Then again, people came to Jesus all the time because they heard that he might perform some kind of miracle , or heal them of their sickness. Isn't that the same thing? At what point, though, does the car give-a-way overshadow the Savior? The idea behind this is that people will be lured in by the prospect of winning a new car, but once they enter the private viewing area, they are introduced to the unexpectedly wonderful story of Jesus. Is this a good idea, or is it just a bait and switch?

If it's ok for us to lure people in with a chance to win a new car, then would it be ok for us to offer free crack to people who will listen to a story for three minutes? At what point is it ok to use this kind of tool, and at what point is it no longer ok? I'll be real honest: I'm uncomfortable with the car give-a-way side of this, but I'm not at all uncomfortable with the fact that everyone who comes to Jesus does so out of selfish motivation. What's the difference between coming because you want a car, and coming because you want heaven instead of hell?

Anyway, check out the site and see what you think. I'd really love to get your insight on this one, so please post a response. I'd especially love to hear from those of you who aren't particularly involved in church, or who wouldn't consider yourselves Christians. How would this kind of thing hit you?

By the way, if you respond, I'll give you a free car!


Anonymous said...

Okay, when I just read you post, I thought I was going to scream out in anger!!! Then I went to website, and I was pleasantly surprised. The reason I was surprised was because the quality of the site and videos where great! A lot of time what we Christians do to be "relevant" looks cheap and cheesy! But, the site itself was great!
However, this is not something that I would do! This isn't something that I would tell others to do! It is a bait and switch! Now I am sure that they do actually give away that car... but this looks like a classic example of us throwing money at a problem so we don't have to get our hands dirty! It is easier to send someone to website to hear a message of salvation than it is to share your personal story with someone and walk with them. There is no relationship here! Just the promise to get in a drawing to get something new. That makes this cheap! I think this is a bad idea...but I sure hope that I win that truck!!!!

Chad Freeman

Cody said...

i have two fears with this stuff. honestly, it has nothing to do with the quality of the work. in the last couple of months i have struggled with the idea of the "the medium is the message", does sending someone to a website with another persons story on it, instead of telling our story, detract from the holy in us, does it defame the way that jesus shared his story.

yes others came to him expecting something else but he also often tells the people who were healed that it was their faith that healed them. no faith wins you a new car.

i just wonder who is sending people to this site and if they share their own story first. if we believe that it is the holy spirit who evangelizes then why does it seem like we think that it is big door prizes or websites evangelize.

just some questions i have. it may sound like my mind is made up but it is not. the last thing i want to do is to slap a ministry around, that ministry has zero accountability to me and should not do what i tell them to. and like luther said when he was questioned about infant baptism, his response to those who asked him why he believed in it was, "you prove to me that God can't save an infant." I can't prove that people are not finding the beauty of Jesus from this website or from these stories.

-cody shouse

Steve Hayes said...

Yeah, Cody, I see what you're saying, and I agree (looks like someone's been reading Flickering Pixels!). I'm working through this myself, and sometimes I feel so close to it that I can't see it clearly. I guess my problem is seeing what the difference is between this and, say, Upward Football. Upward promises that your kid will learn how to play football, will get a cool jersey, and will learn the value of team work. Oh, and while they're at it, we'll introduce them to Jesus. Now, he's not the main reason you sign up... that would be football... but he's in there somewhere behind all the jersey's and games and stuff.

Don't you guys serve free pizza on Wednesdays in hopes that you'll draw someone in to hear the gospel? Isn't that the point?

Where do we draw the line here? We know people love pizza and football and new trucks, so we use those things to draw them in to a deeper understanding of what they really need. What if we were giving the cars away, and instead of having video's, we had real live people sit across from them and tell them there story? Would that be any better?

My tendency is to look at all these things and see them as gimmicks, but did Jesus use gimmicks to get his message across. When a loud rushing wind and tongues of fire descended upon the heads of the leaders of the early church, and then Peter gave a sermon describing the power of God, wasn't that a lavish attention getter to bring in all the folks in the area and make them excited about God's new venture called the church? Didn't Jesus strategically use the well to fuse the needs of the Samaritan woman with his message of "living water?" Didn't Paul use the gimmick of the statue to the nameless God at Mars Hill to introduce the crowd to the knowable God? Aren't these gimmicks that were effectively used to help change the hearts and minds of those who were onlookers?

I'm uncomfortable with this, to be sure, but I'm still not sure if I have good reason to be.

Will Stranathan said...

When Jesus healed people, he almost universally healed, then offered something they need more. At the end of this, if you give your life to Christ (or SAY you gave your life to Christ), which thing will excite people more - that they had an eternity-altering conversion experience, or that they won a new car?

The thing that bothers me the most about this - is that few enough Christians are honest and bold about sharing their faith that we have to resort to gimmicks like this.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone walks, let him come to me and drive. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will roll convoys of living 626's.'