For it is by grace you have been saved...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

One Shot

The old saying goes: You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule, but there is some truth to this. I was thinking about this as I listened to my advance download of a few songs from the Newsboys upcoming release (I was so excited about this new CD that I actually tried to buy it a month early. Had my dates confused and came away looking pretty silly. Anyway…)

One of the new songs, called One Shot, has a catchy little chorus that says:
All around the world
Every boy, every girl's got one shot
To prove what they're all about
I'm gonna sing about my God
And it doesn't matter what's hot

I thought about that and how it plays into all the “entertainment” oriented church services, using every popular hook we can think of to get folks in the door. What does that say about our one shot, our first impression? If we hook folks with gimmicks, how will they ever take us seriously when we talk about the life or death truth of the gospel? Have we squandered our one shot in that case?

Again, there are always exceptions. God often works in spite of us. The truth of his Gospel is powerful on its own, and often does its work in spite of the trite way we present it. But the church has become addicted to gimmicks and gadgets to try and draw the crowds and show that we’re bigger and better than the church down the street. And then we wonder why we end up producing shallow church members.

Way back in the day, Sheila Walsh recorded a song called Triumph in the Air (back when the girl knew how to rock). Even back then there were signs on the horizon about how we present the gospel. The song says: “Games, that’s all we have played. All we have made of the truth we have freely received.”

How right she was. The church has become a game. Sex sermon series to grab attention. Gimmicky T-shirts and bumper stickers that trivialize the truth by trying to imitate the world. On and on. (Check out the Museum of Idolatry some time for some sickening examples of this stuff).

Again, once we’ve hooked folks with these things, how do we then overcome the first impression of shallow crowd pleasers to show them the life or death seriousness of sin and the only way to overcome it? I’m afraid the answer is, we probably won’t in many (most?) cases.

I know that some folks think I’m a bit hypocritical. After all, here I am quoting a Newsboys song to make the point to begin with. Not exactly the most suit-and-tie kind of stuff. But I’m not saying we can’t like contemporary music, or even enjoy some entertainment. I’m asking whether or not we take the Gospel seriously enough to allow the Gospel to be the center of what we do. Why do we think the church needs gimmicks to reach people? Why isn’t the gospel enough?

Seems to me that God’s Word had been enough for the church for about 2,000 years. Then suddenly, we realized that it was lacking, so we had to add some more “fun” stuff to it. Otherwise, folks just won’t get it, right?

We may only get one shot at this. I’d rather fill my canon with the power of the Gospel message and let God do a work, than try to manufacture a bang on my own which may only lead to a long term fizzle once the excitement wears off. We were called to make disciples, not satisfied and entertained attenders.

To again quote that new song from the theologically astute ‘boys:
Are we scared to stand out from the crowd?
Make a difference in our own town?
If we stay silent with our voices now
The rocks will cry out
Believers let me hear you shout

As I’ve said here recently, and often, the church is called to stand out, not fit in. It may not be the best way to grow a big popular country club, I mean church. But it is the way God will build His church. Let’s use our one shot wisely.

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:2, ESV)


Eddie Eddings said...

"I thought about that and how it plays into all the “entertainment” oriented church services, using every popular hook we can think of to get folks in the door."

Been there and got sick of it.

I hope the Church wakes up soon. Until then, keep sounding the alarm!

Scott said...

Thanks Mr. Eddings, sir. I guess I should have been more honest in saying that I've been there as well. Used to do all sorts of "gimmicks" during sermons to "get their attention" etc. Got tired of trying to one-up myself, plus the fact that the only thing people ever remembered was the gimmick (remember the time you...)
I pray God forgives those days, although I must confess, the crowds were bigger in that church!

Eddie Eddings said...

A former pastor of mine booked a concert hall for Randy Travis, thinking this would bring in many to hear the Gospel. He had never met Mr. Travis or even did any research on him. After the Gospel singing (and his hit records) performance, my former pastor sat down with him on stage and started asking him questions about "how to be saved". My former pastor ran into wall after wall when Randy Travis answered his questions with his Church of Christ answers. Every answer Randy Travis gave pointed to baptism as the way of salvation.
It was quite an embarrassment.

Gregg Metcalf said...

I learned a long time ago that I am not so concerned with the empty seats as I am with the filled seats. My goal is try to effectively love and shepherd those who come to hear the word. My focus isn't really on who isn't there becasue I don't have best show in town.

Don't get me wrong, if a sheep gets out of hte fold and gets lost, I am concerned about finding it and returning it to the fold.

It's just if there is 3, 30, or 300 my passion, intensity, love, and accurately handling the word is the same. Let those other "guys" put on the show and fill the pews, they have to give an account for them one day.

Scott said...

I once heard that if you can't say "Amen" you ought to say "Oh My!"

To the last two comments I can say both, in reverse order:
Eddie: Oh My!
Gregg: Amen!

Christina said...

Great post.

I have seen first hand the kind of carnage that this kind of false gospel produces. It's not pretty. And you are right, God, in His sovereignty, still works through it.

When preachers and teachers do not preach Christ, and Him crucified then they are left with no other alternative but to rely on such techniques.

May God have mercy on the sheep who are ensnared in this kind of teaching. May He deliver them from error to Truth.

Blessings to you, my dear brother!

Lori said...

We need a resurgence today in the art and science of real preaching. Why? Of all the resources that people might have at their disposal, one they cannot afford to be without is leadership. The pulpit is designed to create leadership in many different fields and disciplines – as many as may be represented in the pew in front of each preacher. It is the pulpit that trains people to think and act with wise discernment having first identified the obstacles standing in the way of righteousness.

It is thought that the pulpit must be “relevant”, and that relevancy somehow means catering to the least common denominator understanding within societal behavior and belief. The result is that the pulpit ends up mimicking the fads and trends that enmesh and even enslave the thinking of non-Christian people.