We could get people to attend. We had 500 in one week. It required knocking on every door in targeted neighborhoods of a particular demographic. We could also "get" professions of faith, and we did believe in repentance. We never used worldly music. We did use extravagant puppet programs I wrote and produced and lots of other incentives---prizes, ice cream, toys, competition, games, and changing them up to add a little suspense. It also involved a well-crafted and alluring flyer.
And then I got far enough into the New Testament, the example of Jesus and the Apostles, and the instruction of the Gospels and the Epistles, that I knew the promotion was wrong. I concluded that the invitation philosophy was wrong. We still loved the kids. That never stopped. Before we quit going out to invite people, we ceased giving them things when they came. When we stopped the handouts, the attendance trickled down to almost nothing. This affected the motivation of workers. Workers' invitations weren't effective unaccompanied by incentives. When there were big results, it seemed to them like God was using them more.
Did we stop loving the kids? Of course not. God is love. Obeying Him is not less loving. God defines love. We are always more loving when we follow the pattern God has set for us. We are always less loving when we don't follow it. We love other people by doing what God says for them. They might not see it as loving. We are often less loving when we give people what they want. Because people like getting what they want doesn't mean that we are loving them when we give it to them.
I called a pastor a month ago and asked him to consider the affects of the above strategy on an even more massive scale. I didn't tell him everything that was wrong with it. I was concerned about one particular bad result for his church. Using this method, a church can easily bring in far more unsaved people into it every week than saved people. Church becomes about unsaved people. The plan and presentation and program is adapted to unbelievers.
Two bad effects occur that result in that about which I was warning. They are bad for everyone, but I was mostly concerned about his own young people and both the short term and long term consequences upon them. First, unsaved people affect the church. They corrupt. It's why we practice church discipline. We don't want unsaved people into the church, but this method brings them in droves. They come because they are being offered what they like, so when they come, we must give them something that at least approximates what they like too. Nothing in the way of serious exegesis will suffice. The biblical method is to go out and preach. That's as loving as you can get. It's what Jesus did. He left heaven's home to come to us, to reach us. We come to Him through salvation. If we use that biblical method, then they come to church because they are saved. Now they have a reason to come and we don't have to change things up to conform to them at all. All of these unsaved people week after week have a cumulative effect on our kids. We're bringing it right into the church.
The first one isn't as serious as the second one, and that is the way that this philosophy of ministry changes the nature of the gospel. The deep plowing of the soul through thorough gospel preaching doesn't occur. Can someone be saved through the above strategy? Probably. The norm is a lot of professions with a very high turn over rate. The gospel is minimized to fit the target group. And this happens week after week. People feel sorry about this after hundreds, even thousands, slip through the cracks. But they had their chance. And we move on. No. This isn't right. We shouldn't move on. And that's just the kids we drive in. Our own young people also hear shallow after shallow gospel presentation that doesn't test the worldliness and stubbornness of a child's heart, that doesn't challenge his true desires. It doesn't explore whether he truly even wants Jesus more than anything.
And so the kids in the church make professions. But many are not saved. And then later that starts showing up in behavior. The answer from leadership isn't conversion or methodology. The answer is parenting tactics. More spanking. Less television. More grounding. Big threats. Public embarrassment. Pushes to conform. But you can't get an unsaved person to act like a saved person. And if you do, he won't keep acting like a saved person. He can only maintain that act so long. Some drop out mid high school. Others in college. Some will even make it through college, as long as it's the same type of environment that forced them through to this point. And if they don't make it, it's probably because of either bad parenting or not supporting church authority. They didn't listen. If they'd listened, things would have worked out fine.
Could it be the unbiblical methodology? Could it be that something internal is being avoided due to methods that can only veer away from it? Shouldn't that be considered? Could it be that the parents should be trained in actual evangelism and discipleship instead of how to promote and market their way into a bigger bus attendance? I think these questions should be asked.
When I called this pastor in private about the above, he was gracious and receptive, no signs of anger. The next few Sundays, outside of my presence and in public, he was angry and mentioned the phone call in his sermons. He and his church were not going to stop loving these kids. That was what he got out of that part of my phone call---that I wanted him and his church to stop loving kids. But they wouldn't stop loving kids like they do! Circle the wagons! The private phone call attacking us has come!
A lot in the world that is called "loving kids" is actually hating kids. You don't love kids by using unbiblical methodology. You love them when you go and preach to them. If they want the gospel, they'll come. If they don't want it, they won't. That is what Jesus did. And He is love. He defines love. You don't love the people of your church more when you involve them in unbiblical methods. You love them when you teach and train them to live by faith. Living by faith is operating based upon what the Bible says. They see what it says and do it. It takes faith to go out and preach the gospel. It's foolishness to the lost. The lost don't think that a snocone and a kite and a rodeo and a carnival and a trip to the zoo and a bag of candy and a McDonald's hamburger are foolishness. When it isn't foolishness, it also isn't something that needs to operate by faith. You can do that by sight just fine.
There is a lot more that I would want to say, but you get what I'm talking about. This world is dumbing down love and churches are helping the world do it. People think they have a superior love, but it really is nothing more than sentimentalism. It makes the people doing it feel like its love and the people receiving it that they are being loved. But they are not. Love takes the hit. And since God is love, His attribute is diminished in people's minds as well. Love rejoices in the truth.