Thanks to Aunt Sarah, who sent me an article about a church in Arizona offering free gas cards to new members and visitors. Why? To remove a possible excuse for going to church, of course! What happens when your church is so focused on visitors and growth? Your focus becomes your marketing strategy, which this church has in spades.
Putting aside the sarcasm for a moment, this is really, really sad. These people are believers; they love Jesus, they have believed on him for salvation. But they're getting important parts of the church wrong. Lest we put overdue focus on the first church of gas, this is a phenomena that spans our country. Their love for the lost is commendable, and ought to rebuke many of us. But the church doesn't exist for the lost; it exists for our bridegroom. It doesn't exist by our worldly wisdom; it exists by our King's power. What a drastic compromise we have made with the world.
I guess what put me over the edge on this one was this particular church's emphasis on creating a brand. From their website: At The XXXXX, we will create a brand... We desire to be the first “Brand” of church that comes to a non-attender’s mind when thinking of or looking for a church. I would point out here that an emphasis on marketing and "branding" will likely lead to the opposite of their goal: they will turn off those they are trying to reach. This will happen because we've been marketed to our whole life. I don't need another product; I need a church. If you have to sell your church to me, it's a product, not a church. I don't need someone else to pander to me, I need a church that believes God - not me - is the center of life.
Where in Scripture is the purpose of worship to attract - or even minister to - unbelievers? Surely the lost are called to faith by Biblical preaching, but the purpose of worship has never been centered on those outside the covenant. Where in the Bible does God ask us to come up with marketing strategies? How weak is our faith in Christ's promise to build His church that we feel the freedom to push aside the Holy Spirit and buy people into church?
Note: I originally had links in this post to the article and the church's website. I removed them, wanting instead to comment on the problem at-large than simply take pot shots at one church.