I read a very insightful article this morning in Modern Reformation magazine (vol. 17, num. 3, May/June 2008). The author, Jay Lemke, attends Risen Christ Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota, and is a "public relations professional." He's concerned, as are a growing number of evangelicals, with the church's penchant to market itself rather than to preach the gospel. Here are a few excerpts from the article:
"Many in the American church seem intent to communicate under false pretenses, even as the secular world is learning its lessons. We'll bring people in with music, food, fun, and games; and we'll make them think being a Christian is about whatever interests them. We'll play on their felt needs, and we'll do research to determine what 'seekers' want in a church. We'll stick our collective fingers in the air and then we'll become what people want us to be. Finally, after all of that work, once we have people in the church, we may eventually get around to telling them, 'Oh, by the way, Jesus died for your sins.'
"In my public relations world that's called the old 'bait and switch.' But we in the church do it all the time...Whether overtly or subtly, we are telling people they should be Christians because it will make them better in their particular area of interest. The American church is playing a huge game of bait and switch. At some level, we must be ashamed of the basic message of Christianity, and we don't believe that on its own it is powerfully interesting--to men, to women, to boys, to girls. We are scared to give people the best message of all--because we believe we know better than God" (pg. 12).
Oh, how that last line gets to the heart of the matter--we believe we know better than God. We believe we know how better to appeal to the masses, to present the gospel to them (if indeed the biblical gospel is ever presented), to assimilate them into the life of the church, to equip them with some sort of quasi-biblical sense of mission.
We modern evangelicals have become so sophisticated in our approaches when all the while the simple truth of Romans 1:16-17 has stood knocking on the door: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'"
How I pray that God would grant a far-reaching repentance across the body of Christ, that we may come again to trust in the power of God for salvation--and that we may, in so doing, forsake trust in ourselves and our ways.