By Jared C. Wilson
We are nearing the day many Christians look forward to all year. Yes, there’s the somber reflection and penitence of the Passion week, culminating in the resurrection of Jesus to celebrate on Easter Sunday, but there’s also some fabulous cash and prizes. Every year some churches seek to outdo themselves — and their local competition — by luring unbelievers (and I suppose interested believers) to their Easter service(s) with the promise of big shows and in some cases big giveaways. One guy in Texas made national news for giving away new cars. Another church has dropped prize-filled Easter eggs out of helicopters to gathered crowds below. Local churches with more modest budgets sometimes promise door prizes like iPods or iPads or gift certificates to local restaurants.
I think this is profoundly unwise and in many cases very, very silly. I want to offer ten general reasons why, but first some caveats: I’m not talking about a church giving out gifts to visitors. Gift cards, books, etc. to guests can be a sweet form of church hospitality. What I’m criticizing is the advertised promise of “cash and prizes” to attract people to the church service. Secondly, I know the folks doing these sorts of things are, for the most part, sincere believers who want people to know Jesus. But I don’t think good intentions authorizes bad methods. So:
Ten reasons luring people in with cash and prizes is not a good idea.
1. It creates buzz about cash and prizes, not the Easter event. When the media takes notice, nobody wants to interview these pastors about the resurrection. They want them to talk about the loot.
2. It identifies the church not with the resurrection, but with giving toys away. It makes us look like entertainment centers or providers of goods and services, not people of the Way who are centered on Christ.
3. Contrary to some offered justifications, giving prizes away is not parallel to Jesus’ providing for the crowds. Jesus healed people and fed them. This is not the same as giving un-poor people an iPod.
4. It appeals to greed and consumerism. There is no biblical precedent for appealing to one’s sin before telling them to repent of it. This is a nonsensical appeal.
5. Yes, Jesus said he would make us fishers of men, but extrapolating from this to devise all means of bait is not only unwarranted, it’s exegetically ignorant. The metaphor Jesus is offering here is just of people moving from the business of fishing to the business of the kingdom. There is no methodology being demonstrated here. (But the most common one would have been throwing out nets anyway, not baiting a hook.)
6. It is dishonest “bait and switch” methodology. Sure, the people coming for the goodies know they’re coming to church. But it’s still a disingenuous offer. The message of the gospel is not made for Trojan horses.
7. It demonstrates distrust in the compelling news that a man came back from the dead!! I mean, if nobody’s buying that amazing news, we can’t sell it to them with cheap gadgets.
8. It demonstrates distrust in the power of the gospel when we think we have to put it inside something more appealing to be effective. What the giveaways really communicate is that we think the gospel needs our help, and that our own community is not attractive enough in our living out of the implications of the gospel.
9. The emerging data from years of research into this kind of practice of marketing/evangelism attractional church stuff shows the kind of disciples it produces are not strong. I have no doubt these churches are going to see decisions Easter weekend. They’ll herald them on Twitter and on the blogs. As questionable a practice as that can be, I’d be extra interested in how discipled these folks are in a year or two years or three. Hype has always produced “decisions.” Would anyone argue that after 30 years or so of the attractional approach to evangelism the evangelical church is better off, more Christ-centered, more biblically mature?
10. What you win them with is what you win them to.
-Jared C. Wilson, Read Jared’s original post here.
Lord, Thou wilt hear me when I pray,
I am forever Thine;
I fear before Thee all the day,
Nor would I dare to sin.
And while I rest my weary head,
From cares and business free,
’Tis sweet conversing on my bed,
With my own heart and Thee.
I pay this evening sacrifice:
And when my work is done,
Great God, my faith and hope relies
Upon Thy grace alone.
Thus, with my thoughts composed to peace,
I’ll give mine eyes to sleep;
Thy hand in safety keeps my days,
And will my slumbers keep.
-Isaac Watts, Psalm 4, The Psalms of David, 1719.
Hosanna, loud hosanna, the little children sang;
Through pillared court and temple the lovely anthem rang.
To Jesus, who had blessed them close folded to His breast,
The children sang their praises, the simplest and the best.
From Olivet they followed mid an exultant crowd,
The victor palm branch waving, and chanting clear and loud.
The Lord of men and angels rode on in lowly state,
Nor scorned that little children should on His bidding wait.
“Hosanna in the highest!” that ancient song we sing,
For Christ is our Redeemer, the Lord of heaven our King.
O may we ever praise Him with heart and life and voice,
And in His blissful presence eternally rejoice!
-Jenette Threlfall; based upon Matthew 21:15,16.
Lord, Thou hast searched and seen me through,
Thine eye commands with piercing view
My rising and my resting hours,
My heart and flesh with all their powers.
My thoughts, before they are my own,
Are to my God distinctly known;
He knows the words I mean to speak
Ere from my opening lips they break.
Within Thy circling power I stand;
On every side I find Thy hand;
Awake, asleep, at home, abroad,
I am surrounded still with God.
Amazing knowledge, vast and great!
What large extent! what lofty height!
My soul, with all the powers I boast,
Is in the boundless prospect lost.
Could I so false, so faithless prove,
To quit Thy service and Thy love,
Where, Lord, could I Thy presence shun,
Or from Thy dreadful glory run?
If up to Heav’n I take my flight,
’Tis there Thou dwell’st enthroned in light
Or dive to hell, there vengeance reigns,
And Satan groans beneath Thy chains.
If, mounted on a morning ray,
I fly beyond the western sea,
Thy swifter hand would first arrive,
And there arrest Thy fugitive.
Or should I try to shun Thy sight
Beneath the spreading veil of night,
One glance of Thine, one piercing ray,
Would kindle darkness into day.
The veil of night is no disguise,
No screen from Thy all-searching eyes;
Thy hand can seize Thy foes as soon
Through midnight shades as blazing noon.
Midnight and noon in this agree,
Great God, they’re both alike to Thee;
Not death can hide what God will spy,
And hell lies naked to His eye.
O may these thoughts possess my breast,
Where’er I rove, where’er I rest!
Nor let my weaker passions dare
Consent to sin, for God is there.
-Isaac Watts, Psalm 139, The Psalms of David, 1719.
by Tim Challies
“So how many people go to your church? This is question nearly every pastor faces at just about every conference he attends. I’ve written about the question before but, having spent the week at Together for the Gospel, and having been part of many conversations, it seems like a good time to revisit it. It usually doesn’t take long for a conversation with a pastor to progress to that point. For the pastor this can be a moment of pride or humility, freedom or shame. And somehow it is a question that always seems to come up. And it comes up for those who are not pastors as well; you begin to talk about your church and the other person inevitably asks that same question. So how many people?
I’d like to make the same two-part proposal I made a few years back: Let’s stop asking, “How many people go to your church?” And when someone asks us that question, let’s not feel obliged to give a direct answer. …”
“…I wonder, what would happen if we found better questions to ask and better ways to answer them. Instead of going to the easy question of, “How many people go to your church?” why don’t we ask things like this:
- How have you seen the Lord working in the lives of the people in your church?
- What evidences of the Lord’s grace has your church experienced in the last few months?
- What are you excited about in your church right now?
- Who are you excited about in your church right now?
- What has the Lord been teaching you?
- Who have you been discipling recently? Tell me about some of the future leaders at your church.
When asked, “How many people go to your church?” why don’t we consider answering something like this:
- As many as the Lord has determined we can care for at this time.
- Enough that we are actively working toward planting a church.
- I don’t know, but let me tell you about a few of them…
-Tim Challies, read the full article here: http://www.challies.com/articles/how-many-people-go-to-your-church
By Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor
“In our new book, The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived, we assume but do not argue for a precise date of Jesus’s crucifixion. Virtually all scholars believe, for various reasons, that Jesus was crucified in the spring of either a.d. 30 or a.d. 33, with the majority opting for the former. (The evidence from astronomy narrows the possibilities to a.d. 27, 30, 33, or 34). However, we want to set forth our case for the date of Friday, April 3, a.d. 33 as the exact day that Christ died for our sins.
To be clear, the Bible does not explicitly specify the precise date of Jesus’s crucifixion and it is not an essential salvation truth. But that does not make it unknowable or unimportant. Because Christianity is a historical religion and the events of Christ’s life did take place in human history alongside other known events, it is helpful to locate Jesus’s death—as precisely as the available evidence allows—within the larger context of human history”
|Beginning of Tiberius’s reign||a.d. 14|
|Fifteenth year of Tiberius’s reign: Beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry (Luke 3:1)||a.d. 28|
|A few months later: Beginning of Jesus’s ministry||a.d. 29|
|Minimum three-year duration of Jesus’ ministry: Most likely date of Jesus’s crucifixion||a.d. 33 (April 3)|
John’s Gospel mentions that Jesus attended at least three Passovers (possibly four), which took place once a year in the spring:
•There was a Passover in Jerusalem at the start of his public ministry (John 2:13, 23).
•There was a Passover in Galilee midway through his public ministry (John 6:4).
•There was a final Passover in Jerusalem at the end of his public ministry, that is, the time of his crucifixion (John 11:55; 12:1).
•And Jesus may have attended one more Passover not recorded in John but perhaps in one or several of the Synoptic Gospels (i.e., Matthew, Mark, and Luke).
|Nisan 14||a.d. 30||John 2:13|
|Nisan 14||a.d. 31||either the unnamed feast in John 5:1 or else a Passover that John does not mention (but that may be implied in the Synoptics)|
|Nisan 14||a.d. 32||John 6:4|
|Nisan 14||a.d. 33||John 11:55, the Passover at which Jesus was crucified|
For more details, read the rest of the article: http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/04/april-3-ad-33
From Tavis Bohlinger
Reading Isaiah in bed just a few nights ago a piece of folded paper fell out into my lap. It was a photocopy of the same text that has been sitting on Pastor John MacArthur’s desk for many years now. I received this while attending The Master’s Seminary, and it has stuck with me every since. It is a timely reminder for me at the end of what has turned out to be a very difficult and challenging, though at times rewarding, first year of PhD studies. John prefaces this quote from an anonymous author with the following words: ‘To regularly remind myself of … self-sacrificing love, I have on my desk the following words from an unknown source:’
“When you are forgotten or neglected or purposely set at naught, and you sting and hurt with the insult of the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ—that is dying to self.
When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient loving silence—that is dying to self.
When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, and irregularity, or any annoyance, when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility, and endure it as Jesus endured it—that is dying to self.
When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any attitude, any interruption by the will of God—that is dying to self.
When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works, or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown—that is dying to self.
When you see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances—that is dying to self.
When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself, can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart—that is dying to self.”
While men grow bold in wicked ways,
And yet a God they own,
My heart within me often says,
“Their thoughts believe there’s none.”
Their thoughts and ways at once declare,
Whate’er their lips profess,
God hath no wrath for them to fear,
Nor will they seek His grace.
What strange self-flatt’ry blinds their eyes!
But there’s a hast’ning hour,
When they shall see with sore surprise
The terrors of Thy power.
Thy justice shall maintain its throne,
Though mountains melt away;
Thy judgments are a world unknown,
A deep, unfathom’d sea.
Above the heav’ns’ created rounds,
Thy mercies, Lord, extend;
Thy truth outlives the narrow bounds
Where time and nature end.
Safety to man Thy goodness brings,
Nor overlooks the beast;
Beneath the shadow of Thy wings
Thy children choose to rest.
From Thee, when creature-streams run low.
And mortal comforts die,
Perpetual springs of life shall flow,
And raise our pleasures high.
Though all created light decay,
And death close up our eyes,
Thy presence makes eternal day,
Where clouds can never rise.
-Isaac Watts, Psalm 36, The Psalms of David, 1719.
Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory.
Teach us, Lord, full obedience,
Holy reverence, true humility;
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity.
Cause our faith to rise; cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority.
Words of pow’r that can never fail—
Let their truth prevail over unbelief.
Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us—
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises,
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory.
“Speak, O Lord”
Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music http://www.gettymusic.com/hymns-speakolord.aspx