Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

Go back and read the title of this blog again, but this time, read it with the same voice the announcer uses for the "Monster Truck" races. You know the one - low, rumbling and overly excited?
Wasn't that fun? Now read the following advertisement in that same announcer voice: (C'mon, you know you can do it! Try reading it out loud to really get the full effect!)

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!
Come join our Easter 2012 celebration!
7 Easter Experiences! April 6 through 8th! Good Friday! Saturday! Easter! Easter! Easter!
Unforgettable Children's events! Win fun prizes at every celebration service!

Mall sized merry go round!
Celebration prizes include an XBOX Kinect! Ipod Touch! Cash! Disneyland tickets and more!
Treats! Egg Hunts! Puppet Shows! Fun Games!
Join us for Easter 2012 at __________ Church!

(OK, you can go back to using your normal voice now.) How did you feel reading the above advertisement? Did you find it humorous? Outrageous? Irreverant?
Would you believe me if I told you this is a real ad? Yup, it's true. The words above were in a full page, color ad that came out in my hometown newspaper the week before Easter. The bold advertisement featured a green marble background, modern fonts and pictures of the XBox, Ipod and Merry Go Round. At the bottom was a posed portrait of the pastor - a hip, young, gotee'd guy with his Martina McBride look-alike wife.

When I saw this ad, I was blown away. Not by the expensive prizes, but by the sheer audacity of it. Personally, I found it disturbing. My first thought was "This church has turned Easter into a carnival!" which immediately led my mind to the story of the Jesus clearing out temple of all the money changers and animal traders in the gospel of John. How could the words "XBOX" and "Easter" be in the same ad? "Ipod" and "Good Friday"? I was appalled.
Then I thought of all the people in my town who would be trying to decide where to go to church on Easter Sunday. For many, it would be the only time all year they would darken a church door. Would they choose this church because they might win an ipod? I pictured an eight year old pig-tailed girl pointing at this ad saying, "Ooooh, Daddy, can we go to this church on Sunday? They're going to have a merry-go-round!" Right then her older teen brother rips the paper out of her hands, looks it over quickly and says, "Merry go round? Who cares! I wanna win the Xbox!"
The ad was definitely eye-catching. I looked again at the portrait of the pastor and his wife at the bottom. Their smiles were sincere. His tight black t-shirt and her pink corsage showed they were both hip and conservative. Did they mean to turn Easter into a circus?
Whatever brings 'em in. I could hear them say. If it takes a cash prize to get 'em in the door to hear about Jesus, so be it. Whatever we can do to lure them into the loving arms of Jesus. It's not a bribe, really. It's an incentive. We've only got Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! with these people so we need to use whatever we can - prizes! rides! games! treats! - whatever it takes to get them to come inside and hear the message of Christ. Yes, they might only be coming to hunt for colorful eggs, but in the end, what they will find is Jesus.
In other words...
They don't believe people will come just for Jesus?
Well...Jesus isn't shiny. He can't play all your MP3s. He's not as fun as Disneyland. He can't keep you entertained for hours. So we spent money on this giant ad, the prizes, games and activities for the kids because we know you have many choices for church this Sunday, and we want you to choose us. Choose us! And we don't care why you choose to come, we just want you to come! (This reminded me of the free gift hotels use to lure you into the "time share" room. You go because you want the free buffet or sunset cruise, but what you get is an earful of something you're really not all that interested in. If you're lucky, you get out the door without having to buy your share of the 2 bedroom condo on Rosarita Beach.)

What if, the Easter ad read like this:
(Yes, it's time to get out your announcer voice again!)
Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!
And everyday!
Jesus loves you! We love you, too at __________church!
Come join us, AS YOU ARE, this Sunday and every Sunday!
We'd love to have you with us! No matter who you are!
This SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! and everyday! We worship the risen Christ by loving him AND YOU!

No prizes. No egg hunts or merry-go-rounds.
No tech gizmos.
No cash prizes and no Disneyland tickets.
Just Jesus...
Really that's all?
Then why come?
To hear the good news about how the Messiah! This is what Easter is all about!
Jesus, came to earth, laid down his life to save us all and then rose again on the third day. My friend, there is no earthly prize that can compare to the joy, peace and hope that comes from hearing about and sharing in His astounding love! His love is our's this SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! and EVERYDAY!

Or maybe we don't advertise in the paper at all. Maybe we live our lives in such a way that we advertise our church - our faith in Christ - all year long. Everyone around us sees our service of others, our compassion, the kind way we treat our neighbor, our outreach to the poor and our care of the needy and they want to know more. We leave the big, gaudy ads to the Monster Truck Shows and we let our loving lives be what draws people to Christ this SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! and everyday.

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