I just felt the need to bring the issue up again after reading a recent article from my own denomination’s state newspaper. Seems the Missouri Baptist Convention, with grant money from our North American Mission Board, will be sponsoring a night of “outreach” at a racetrack here in southwest Missouri.
So far, I’m on board. I love racing. I’m a bit of a recovering NASCAR-aholic and have to admit that I was favorably impressed with some of the local ministry efforts at the big NASCAR race in Bristol, TN a few years ago. One of my wonderful deacons had tickets and invited me along for the ride. What a guy! Anyway, it was a fun day, and I appreciated the presence of folks trying to offer ministry at the track.
So when I first read about this effort at a local dirt track, I thought it sounded great. Growing up south of St. Louis, I had occasion to attend a few races at the track owned by NASCAR legend (at least I think he is) Kenny Schrader. Again, good times, and I think a ministry presence in that kind of venue would be good.
As I’m reading the article in our state paper, I’m enjoying the idea, thinking of how I can manage to get in on the “action,” when I come across this sentence: “Race-goers can enter to win several donated giveaways by listening to a short gospel presentation in the areas surrounding the grandstands.”
Are you serious?! You can enter the prize drawing by listening to a gospel presentation? This is outrageous. In that previous article I mentioned how distasteful it is to use “giveaways” as a draw to bring guys into this or that event, just so we can shove a quick “come to Jesus” speech at them. Again, you can read that post if you want more details.
But this? This tops it all. Now, we not only offer a giveaway to get you to attend the event, but now, sitting through a “short gospel presentation” is your lottery ticket. If you want to win, you gotta sit through this first. What a mockery this makes of the gospel. "Here let me tell you about Jesus; you might just win a new car!" Heaven help us! Suddenly I have images of golden calves and Simon the Sorcerer in my head.
Hear me clearly. I have no problem with using an event like this as opportunity to share the gospel with folks. I have no problem setting up a booth and inviting folks to come by and visit, walking the grandstands offering to help folks and inviting them to come by the booth, etc.
But please, I’m begging you on hands and knees: Don’t make the gospel a cheap lottery ticket! Please! Christ’s atoning death on behalf of lost sinners is so much more precious than this. As I said in the previous article, the Gospel is sufficient on its own, we don’t need to “bait” folks with the promise of prizes. Preach the Gospel! Be fishers of men…still no bait required.