Monday, October 8, 2012

50% Off Jesus - Limited Time Only

Do you have any bonus shopper cards or member privilege cards? You know, the ones you have to hang on your key chain and let the checkout person scan to get your "special" deals. I do and I don't really like them. In addition to the retailers storing my shopping habits they also have my e-mail address and send me all these "special" deals, only good for a limited time, if I act now! I received an e-mail just the other day for an extra 50% off the already reduced price but the awesome sale was for a limited time only!

About the same time I received one of these e-mails I was reading through the book of Acts. The book of Acts is probably one of my favorite books of the Bible. I was reading about the apostle Paul standing trial before Agrippa. The Jews had accused him of stirring up trouble:
Acts 24:5-8 - 5 “We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect 6 and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. 8 By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.”
Paul first stands trial before Felix in Acts 24. Through a series of events Paul finally ends up before Agrippa and his wife Bernice to plead his case. The speech Paul gave before Agrippa as recorded by Luke is one of the most powerful testimonies we read about in all of the New Testament. Paul tells of his persecution of the Christians and the church. He talks about his conversion on the road to Damascus and his mission to reach both the Jews and the Gentiles with the Gospel. It is a fascinating read.

So what does this have to do with a marketing strategy of a big retail store? Good question. What struck me is the response of Agrippa after hearing Paul's testimony.
Acts 26: 28 - 28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
I think that many churches, many pastors are trying as hard as they can to get people to come to church. They are trying to offer everything they can from coffee bars to gift cards to get people to show up to church. They think that if we lure them in with a "special deal" they might turn from their ways and become a part of the church. Many pastors try to work people up at the end of a sermon with a turn or burn before it is too late "act now" message.

I think Paul understood that all he needed was the Gospel. All he needed to do was share the Gospel and let God do what he does best. Draw people to himself.
John 6: 37 - All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.

John 6: 44 - “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.

II Thessalonians 2: 13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
I think Paul also knew that the timing of when someone came to faith in Christ was also up to God.
Acts 26: 29 - Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
I believe the church has gotten way too gimmicky. The church is trying to offer too many specials, too many limited time only offers. The church appears to be relying on their power, their creativity, their ability to lure people in just like a big retailer. However, the church seems to have forgotten that we have something that the retailers do not have and that is the Holy Spirit. The church needs to preach the Gospel to whoever shows up on Sunday morning and let the Holy Spirit move in a way that only he can. As a church we need to have the thoughts and attitude of Paul "Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am".

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