Saturday, June 27, 2009

Parade of Churches

The Kaposia Days parade was held this past Friday in South St. Paul. The parade is always a fun event at our house, because the parade line just happens to go directly by my house. We always have fun, and we usually have friends and family over for the parade too.

Each year there are always several churches who have acquired a spot in the parade, most of which have some sort of live band on a float playing worship music, accompanied by people on foot, handing out little fliers for their church. Ten or fifteen years ago, a live band on a parade float may have gotten some attention from observers, and may have even been enough for onlookers to further investigate the church advertised on the flier they received. Times have changed though. Again, in the past, when live bands were fewer and farther between, the general public may have been inclined to check it out - church band or otherwise. These days, however, live bands - especially church bands - are a fairly common occurrence. People just don't care about live music anymore. It doesn't grab their attention. It doesn't cause them to do a double take. It's not even enough for them to go out of their way to check it out or listen. Why? I think it's because live music is so common nowadays.

I first realized this about a month ago when the band that I play in held an outside concert during the West St. Paul days parade. We weren't on a float, but were instead about a block away from where it was. We made sure that we were loud enough that people on the street would be able to hear us and come check us out. We also offered free hotdogs and drinks. Guess what? About two people came to check out the band. Lots of people walked by on the street, but barely anyone came to hear the music. All that to say that live music just doesn't cut it anymore. It's too common.

But that's not even what I was intending to write about in this blog. Of the half-dozen churches that were represented in the Kaposia Days parade, I received a flier from each, telling me about some ministry they had coming up. Needless to say, I was rather put off by each of the fliers I received, and if I were a Christian in search of a church to attend, I most likely wouldn't even darken the doorways of these churches.

Probably the most ridiculous of the fliers is from a United Church of Christ. It's an envelope that is filled with wild flower seeds (a "sunny perennial mix). On the front of the envelope is a large green label that reads in large print, "Lights, Camera, Go Green." The subtitle says, "A music video experience that explores what it means to care for our environment." Further investigation reveals that this is an advertisement for the church's upcoming Vacation Bible School program. That's right: it's all about teaching kids to go green. The rest of the description reads: "Remember the song, 'Big Yellow Taxi'? Even though the song was written in the 1970's, its message is still important today, and it is the inspiration for this year's Vacation Bible School. Come sing along with our band, "The Messengers," as we create a music video of 'Big Yellow Tax." There will be singing, learning, crafts, and snacks centered around the them of going green. On the last night we will videotape everyone singing this song at our Night to Unite event."

Notice anything missing from this description of the church's Vacation BIBLE School? How about THE BIBLE!? How about ANY kind of mention of the GOSPEL!? What a joke. Not only is it sad that there's no mention of the Bible or the gospel, or Jesus, but I think it's pretty disgusting that a church would come down on one side or the other of such a hotly debated political issue.

A flier for the local United Methodist church reads at the top, "Looking for some change?" A penny is taped to the upper left hand corner of the paper. Below that it reads, "See what kind of change God has in store for you. Come visit us this Sunday for a worship service and BBQ lunch." In other words: "We don't want to offend you, and we want to do anything we can to show you how cool and normal you are. We won't do anything to make you feel uncomfortable." Again, there's nothing about scripture, God, or anything spiritual. It's completely man centered.

A lot of churches probably consider getting a float in the local parade, having a live band, and handing out invitation fliers to be "outreach." But is outreach really nothing more than inviting people to a comfortable, non-threatening BBQ? Is it trying to get people to be a part of your fad environmental program? Or is it actually preaching the gospel? What are these churches trying to do in their "outreach?" If it's just getting people to come to their church, then they'll probably be successful. But if outreach is actually preaching the gospel, then their efforts surely fell short of the mark.

I guess I'm not sure what I'm trying to say. Maybe that there's a lot of supposed "outreach" going on that is not actually outreach at all. Maybe we need to reexamine what our purposes and intentions are and then adjust our methods accordingly. If we're going to preach the gospel, let's preach it. Let's not just get people to come to a BBQ.

So no, I'm not going to have our church band play in a parade any time soon, and I'm not going to do any "environmental outreach" and think that I'm fulfilling the Great Commission.

I don't know. The churches in the parade just left a bad taste in my mouth.

No comments: