Bait ‘n’ Switch – in the Church?

kinnon —  April 21, 2006 — 3 Comments

I linked to Roy Williams earlier this week and his Monday Morning Memo on the Cashier Con:

The first time I was cashier conned was at the Apple Computer Store in the mall. My laptop needed repair so I decided to buy a new one, upload my data into it, repair the old one and give it to Barry. I had to have the new laptop immediately so I went to the Apple Store. I love Apple. If I was ever going to get a tattoo, it would probably be of that multicolored Apple logo. Is that nuts? Okay then, guilty.

I stood at the cash register, credit card in my hand, as the cashier asked, “Would you like a copy of Microsoft Office for an extra fifty bucks?”

“Fifty bucks? Sure.” So he stuck the software in the bag with my new computer, ran my credit card and had me sign the dealie. Then he slipped my receipt into the bag with a curious looking folder. On impulse, I pulled the folder out. It was a long and complicated application for a $150 rebate. The little rat bastard had charged me $200 for the software and silently slipped me a rebate application.

“Am I supposed to fill this out?”

Eye roll. “Yes, sir.”

“Did you say to me, and I quote, “Would you like a copy of Microsoft Office for an extra fifty bucks?”

Self-righteous now. “Yes, sir.” The little RB was acting like I was out of line for being annoyed by this.

“Sorry, but I don’t fill out rebate forms. Here’s your software. Give me back my money.” I’ll never visit another Apple Store. Future purchases will be strictly online where I can read all the fine print before I say yes. I’m glad I didn’t get the tattoo.

Mom: So what does this have to do with the church, Bill? And I’ll wash your mouth out with soap if you ever use that RB phrase like Brother Roy.

Bill: Well Mom, we’ve just come out of Easter. A lot of Christian folk have put on a lot of pageants, special music, major productions, the whole nine yards. We realize that this is one of two times a year that a lot of folk darken the doorsteps of our churches.

Mom: What’s your point, son?

Bill: The point is that we want to convince them of how great the church is – what a great place it would be to come and hear about God – but rather than have a typical service…we put on a show. And when the one or two percent do return, they discover that Sunday mornings are nothing like Easter Sunday. Bob Hyatt on his blog…

Mom: Blog? What in heaven’s name is a blog?

Bill: Read the Economist this week, Mom. As I was saying, Bob Hyatt writes:

Easter is dangerous for those of us who are trying to avoid an attractional model of church because the attractional model reaches its zenith… or maybe its nadir… every year at Easter as thousands of churches try to do “something special” in the hopes that their people will invite others to come and be bait-n-switched into a relationship with Jesus… and we, trying hard to do something a bit more simple and organic, are tempted to abandon the rhythms of our community in a misguided effort to “keep up.”

Yeah… I said “bait ‘n’ switch” because that’s what it is. More than simply communicate to our people that it’s not their job, we communicate something to those we would love to see become part of our community… And it’s not a positive message. In fact, if we’re not careful, we could end up really disappointing some people. How?
By “offering” them less on subsequent visits. Less pizzazz… less oomph. I’d be kind of pissed off if the first week I went was Cirque Du Soleil and the next week was Phil and Ted’s Bargain Rate Circus, you know?


Mom: Billy, I’m shocked that a man of the cloth would use p.o’d! Shocked!

Bill: Well at least he didn’t call bait ‘n’ switch pastors, rat bastards, Mom.

Mom: Billy!!! Where’s the soap….

DISCLAIMER: Mom is a fictional character in this blog post and in no way represents this blogger’s sainted mother who only once washed his mouth out with soap – and that was when he was told to stop calling his shoelaces stupid – and he repeated the word stupid over and over again – only stopped by a liberal application of foaming dish soap on his stupid tongue.

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kinnon

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A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

3 responses to Bait ‘n’ Switch – in the Church?

  1. Hi Bill, I think you and Roy sound like a couple of Easter Scrooges in this post (Mom is a hoot – I hope she’ll be back!) Are you guys seriously saying that giving Easter services our best is BAD because our visitors might actually like our church enough to come back, and when they do they will find out that not every Sunday is as huge a deal in the Christian calendar as Easter? Heaven forbid! Did you guys ever stop to consider that seekers have brains?

    Bill, I’d also have to disagree with you when you imply that churches do pageants, musicals, etc. to sucker people into coming back to their church. My brother-in-law grew up in a church that didn’t give a flying rip about seekers, but they still put on a lavish passion production every couple of years. If they weren’t trying to bring people to Christ, why do all that hard work? My guess is that they, like churches all over the world on Holy Week, were trying to worship Jesus Christ with the talents and gifts they had.

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  2. I think the problem has less to do with churches creating special services and more to do with our contemporary sense of community.

    God’s people have historically held times of celebration in which they seemingly pull out all the stops. It didn’t necessarily influence a person’s perception of a church or gathering, because you were part of the community. You knew what it was like year-round. One service or ceremony was just a part of your cumulative understanding.

    Nowadays, we’ve bred church shopping. Just check out link to churchreviews.org
    (they’ve got quite a list in Toronto)

    Just being part of a greater community doesn’t give you an understanding of the surrounding churches. So, we pop in and out of churches that we think we’ll like based on the denomination, style of worship, watching services on TV, or the word of mouth it generates. Problem is it usually takes time to figure out if you fit into the culture and community of a particular church. But time is the one thing we don’t afford ourselves.

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  3. DUST!N, Well said.

    I’m all for celebrations of what the Lord has done for us – at Christmas, Easter, Pentecost…. It’s when the celebrations are intentionally used as a marketing tool that I struggle. The issue is community. How do we build authentic community in a world of complete instability? How are we missional in our community – rather than program focused.

    When I have a few minutes, I’m reading a very good book from Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader, Equipping Your Church to Reach A Changing World. Al and Fred are both church consultants and Al was a pastor for 30 years. (He’s also an old friend of mine and a former pastor.)

    There point is that we are in an era of massive change culturally. There is little that is permanent in our lives – jobs change, locations change, life has massive disruptions. In the midst of that, much of the church is attempting to carry on the same way as usual. It’s not working. People are desperate to make sense of their own stories – and understand how others’ stories and more especially the Story of the Church impact theirs.

    The book sees the local congregation as the only really viable organism to express the story God wants to tell in our culture – the local congregation in all it’s brokenness, ineptitude and decay. The biblical narrative suggests that God works most powerfully in the midst of our brokenness.

    Check it out.

    Reply

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