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The SGtoDC: What’s in the bag?

February 10, 2010

Speaking of game shows. Well we were talking about game shows weren’t we? Anyway, speaking of game shows, do you remember when they always gave the loser some sort of parting gift? They probably still do, I’m just not watching any game shows these days to know.

I remember watching the classics like The Joker’s Wild. If you lost you received parting gifts. I always wondered what those parting gifts were. If you wanted to do some more digging you could probably find out exactly what some were. I also wonder, did it soften the blow of not winning the $10,000? Anyway, the point was that if you left the game without the grand prize you didn’t leave empty handed.

It hasn’t been that many years ago that churches got into the parting gift game. You came to visit a church and boom, you received a parting gift. I remember taking my brother to a church in Wichita, Kansas several years ago. Well, I went and checked it out for him since he didn’t have a church home. He went the next Sunday and sure enough, they gave him parting gifts.

For game shows it is the idea that no one comes away with nothing. Maybe it’s a similar idea with churches. No one comes away without something. You didn’t like the music but don’t miss the parting gift. Preaching below your standards? Hey we’ve got matching Ginsu knifes for you to take home.

But wait, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones should they. We used to give away parting gifts as well. Why? Because we were told that to be serious about being Jesus you had to have something for your visitors. If you are going to attract people you need something. A classic Sicilian choice needs to be made. If you don’t do it, no wonder the people don’t return. You had no parting gifts. Again, here we have that intelligently reasoned, air tight case, until you do indeed have something for your guests and nothing happens.

I’m going to brag just a little bit because I think we put something together that was creative and clever and well done. I warned you I was going to brag a little bit. Several years ago I had a friend in marketing that was giving me a tour of his office space. He offered me a cup of coffee and informed me that it was his companies own coffee blend. I thought how cool to have your own coffee.

He let me know it might be cost prohibitive to have them do the same for our church. Instead he suggested I blend several existing beans together to create our own coffee on a budget. What a great idea.

So I traveled home and began constructing the most creative gift bag in the history of organized religion. I will just say it again, I warned you about the bragging. We made labels with a custom logo. We found and printed custom coffee sleeves with our slick coffee inspired mark.

We didn’t stop there. We went online to MySpace, you remember MySpace right? We went to MySpace back when it was relevant and helpful when you wanted to search for various types of music. We searched for independent Christian artists from Oklahoma and found several from the state and surrounding area who would allow us to use one of their songs. We put it on a CD so that people could relax while they learned more about New Heights Church.

To help them learn we threw in a DVD with video and promotions. We had members from various demographics give their testimony on why they loved what God was doing at New Heights Church. I get winded and teary eyed just thinking about it.

Do you mind if I take a second to give a shout out to those artists that helped us out back in the day? It will only take a minute and they really do have some great music and a part of it was promoting them. (Well if you don’t want to you can skip ahead).

Joel Limpic – “We Enter Your Gates” from the Remembrance EP
Ryland Russell – “Name be Praised” from Waking up to Dream
Zach Payne – “Run” from his Self-titled Zach Payne album
Maria Long – “Inside” from Here With Me
Aaron Hansel – “In the Way” on the album Ashes
Nick Fry – “Over and Over” on Waking up to Dream

Thanks for taking the time, it means a lot to me.

So we gave them this in a tastefully done bag. We did this over and over and over and over for several years. Then we stopped. Why did we stop? Well mostly because I was tired of doing bags. From what I understand the coffee blend was a big hit.

But guess what, these bags for all of their creative cleverness, remember my warning, all of their sharp classic design, for all of the wonderful important tastefully delivered information, they had no measurable impact on our ability to attract new members or to connect with those who were far from God.

None. In fact the real truth is that since we stopped doing the bags we have seen an increase in people returning to Christ and deciding to become a part of the work at New Heights Church.

So here it is…

You heard me. If you want to be an un-attractional church don’t offer anyone any parting gifts. Don’t do it. Just say no. Actually expect them to either want to be a part of what you are doing because God called you to do it or not. Stop pandering to them. Sucking up and otherwise bending over backwards just hoping over all hope that they will acquiesce and make their presence known at your church on a regular or at least semi regular basis.

Don’t get me wrong. Be nice and try to show them love, just stop begging. I know, we want people to have a good experience. We want them to leave with a positive vibe. We don’t want to turn people off to Jesus. Okay, I get it, but that is because we are trying to be attractional. This is a guide to being un-attractional. This is a guide that believes you are caught up in a false choice.

What if all this trying to attract people to Church is keeping many more from being attracted to Jesus Christ? What if we are only getting people who want stuff? What if our desire to see the pews or chairs or couches full is really for our sake so we can say look at what we have done? My bragging about coffee cups and bags and blends certainly sounds a lot like that doesn’t it?

What if our attempts to attract with gifts and bags and M&M’s and free car washes and a free cup of coffee at the on-site Starbucks are actually keeping people from meeting a risen Savior who bled and died and asked for self-sacrifice?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
Isaiah 53:2

No beauty or majesty to attract us to him. Nothing. Yet they flocked to him. Yes he did something for them but what Jesus did was no gimmick, no marketing ploy, no simple parting gift. It was love from the heart. It was the hope of transformation. No, if Jesus could be un-attractional couldn’t we? Shouldn’t we be?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Daniel permalink
    February 11, 2010 2:52 am

    My youth ministry prof’s motto was “what we win them with, we win them too” sounds like your line of thinking now.

  2. February 16, 2010 6:57 pm

    Daniel, I hear you on that.

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