September 9, 2008
If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead. Luke 16:31b
Scripture is clear: if we are going to be saved, it will only be through freely given faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.
Of course you knew that, didn't you? So did St. Paul. He made that wonderful truth clear when he wrote the church at Rome that we are all sinners-sinners who have received the gift of grace through Jesus.
Sadly, for some people, Jesus' gift of grace might not be enough to transform them into serious followers of the Savior.
That's not my opinion, that's what an Associated Press article said last week. The story told how some churches are sweetening the deal of salvation by using modern marketing incentives to woo worshipers to their pews.
The article specifically referred to a Congregational United Church located in the Midwest. The congregation had given $50 worth of gas to new worshipers.
True, one couple did leave the congregation because they thought their church was offering newcomers a bribe, but the pastor defended the act by explaining it this way: "It's a method of marketing for the church. . . For a $200 investment we've made, we got featured in the local newspaper once, twice on TV, and it's the buzz around town. I can't get a quarter-page ad for $200."
The pastor was probably right. If your goal is "marketing for the church," a congregation ought to do everything it can to sell itself.
Thankfully, most of the pastors and parishes I know, while trying to put their best foot forward, remain dedicated to sharing the Savior's story of suffering, sacrifice, and third-day resurrection.
They're in good company. As I read through the New Testament, I can't find the Savior or any of His followers offering incentives to prospective buyers.
On the contrary, after Jesus fed the 5,000, He made a deliberate decision not to keep the bread and fish flowing to help hold the crowd that had been following Him (John 6:15). If one paraphrased the words of Abraham from the parable above, they might read like this today: If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should give them a $50 gas card.
Our churches may not be good at marketing, but they do share Jesus' blood-bought salvation, and that should be enough for any sinner.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, help us first and foremost to always look to You as the Savior of our souls. Give our churches the ability to point lost souls to You and let those souls be given salvation. In Your Name. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries