By Femi Aribisala
The world is sold on worldliness, so how can it be attracted to godliness? Moreover, godliness cannot be marketed.
When Jesus multiplied loaves to feed the multitude, many concluded he was just the pastor they needed. As a result, they went to great lengths to relocate to his “church.” Some got into boats and crossed over from the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum in order to see him. But these people were not hungry for God. They came because they wanted bread. They came bringing their own five loaves and two fishes as offering in order that they might be multiplied.
But Jesus is not one to encourage vain worship: “Jesus answered them and said, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set his seal on him.’” (John 6:26-27).
For good measure, Jesus then preached one of the most spiritual messages in the bible. He told them he is the bread of life and insisted they must eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to obtain eternal life. When he said this, he lost the church. Virtually the whole congregation left. Even many of his disciples concluded he was no longer the type of pastor they were looking for: “From that time many of his disciples went back and walked with him no more.” (John 6:66).
Attracting the crowd
How different Jesus’ position is from that of many pastors today. Rather than discourage those who only see godliness as a means of worldly gain, many pastors are determined to attract such people by even claiming they have a special calling or anointing to make people rich financially.
Why would Jesus preach a message knowing full well many would not understand it and leave? Jesus tells his audience they would have to eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have eternal life. Many found this unacceptable. But instead of simplifying his message, Jesus compounds it by telling them he is going to ascend to heaven. (John 6:61-62). When many of his disciples left in protest, he then turns to his core twelve disciples and invites them to leave also. (John 6:67).
In short, Jesus adamantly refuses to sugar-coat the gospel. It might sometimes be a bitter pill to swallow; nevertheless it has to be swallowed because it is the only way to spiritual healing. The gospel is inevitably offensive to the world. Jesus himself is described by Isaiah as a “rock of offence.” (Isaiah 8:14). But pastors repackage the gospel to make it attractive to the world. They see Jesus himself as a commodity to be marketed. As a result, they end up with a self-serving gospel.
Churches now do telemarketing surveys, asking: “What would you like in a church?” In effect, many churches are made to measure, according to the greatest demand and not according to God’s prescriptions. They even have surveys now asking church-members what kind of messages they would like to hear. This is standard operating procedure in the world of business marketing where you find out what your potential customers want and give it to them. But it is totally inappropriate with regard to the kingdom of God which is based on the will of our Father in heaven.
Churches have become the jack of all trades. They use such non-spiritual activities as gymnastics, rock n roll, comedians, and a host of other gimmicks to entertain their congregation. The church service is often a carefully crafted and choreographed production designed to please and impress man and not God. Many churches put on shows with worldly celebrities to increase their numbers.
Now we see the next logical step in the process of marketing the church to the world: offer a free inducement to get them into your establishment. Put on a show, offer a free trial, give away something of value, and entice them with things to get them in the door. Today it is a regular practice for churches to offer some sort of inducement for newcomers.
In one American church, they offered to pay for a portion of the visitor’s petrol in exchange for visiting the church. Another preacher offered non-members a certain amount of money for just sitting through a Sunday morning service. I suppose you might call this “avant-garde evangelism.”
The worldly church
The modern-day pastor is determined to change man’s perception of God and to make him more desirable and appealing; all in the interest of expeditious church growth. The flesh hates holiness therefore many pastors do all they can to make the church more like the world. Frankly, holiness is hard on the numbers and it has a way of offending the profane.
The choice is now towards promoting a casual, even cavalier, atmosphere in churches so as to make people feel more comfortable and relaxed. The truth, however, is that we cannot entertain men into the kingdom: but we can convict them.
In this regard, the “purpose-driven churches” are true to their names. They are purpose-driven but their purpose is neither Christ nor the gospel. Their purpose is to fill the pews. Their purpose is to collect as much money as possible. Therefore they sacrifice the gospel on the altar of pragmatic purpose. Since they are keen to attract the world, inevitably they become worldly.
As a result, we have today “church for people who don’t like church.” That is like saying “Jesus for the people who don’t like Jesus.” What is the point of a Christ-less church? A lady spelt out the evangelistic objectives of her church. She said: “We want to attract the world but in an unworldly way.” This is a contradiction in terms.
The world is sold on worldliness, so how can it be attracted to godliness? Moreover, godliness cannot be marketed. Once we try to market a church, we go off the rails. Somebody out there needs to spell it out to Pastor Zerubbabel that the building of Christ’s true church is not by power or by might but by my Spirit says the Lord. (Zechariah 4:5).
It is counter-productive to try and attract people to church. The question is for what purpose would we want them to come? God warned Isaiah that no matter what he does, the people would not listen to him. (Isaiah 6:9). Jesus also confirmed this. He says the people will not hear and they will not understand. (Matthew 13:13-15). Indeed, according to his teachings, God is not in the churches but in our hearts. (John 4:21-24).
Therefore, true evangelism should not be embarked upon in order to bring people to church. Churches have been more effective in misleading people by showing them the highway leading to destruction instead of the narrow way leading to salvation. Today, pastors are the blind leaders that Jesus railed against. All they do is lead people into the ditch. (Matthew 15:14).
The objective of true evangelism is to bring people to Christ, and no man can come to Christ unless the Holy Spirit draws him. (John 6:44).