Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Back to Church Sunday

If you've ever needed a real life example of how screwed up our concept of what the church actually is, here it is for you.  You probably didn't know it, but "National Back to Church Sunday" is scheduled for September 16.  What is "National Back to Church Sunday" (NBTCS)?  It's a date when supposedly all Christians are supposed to invite all of their friends and family members "back to church."  They've even made a cheesy rap song to try and make it cool and "relevant."  The site declares that NBTCS is "the single largest annual community outreach in the nation."  I have a few issues with this.

1. There are two interesting words in the name of this event, the first being "back."  This refers to the calling back of those who have left the church and have sought meaning in life elsewhere.  Calling someone to church - specifically "back" to church makes me wonder why they were ever there in the first place.  It can't be that they used to go because they were genuinely converted and then backslid.  No, scripture says that believers congregate with other believers.  Maybe not in the traditional Sunday morning way, but they do have fellowship with other believers.  In fact, they must.  So let's get our ideas straight: we're not calling Christians back to church, we're calling unbelievers to church.  If they had been before but stopped going, they're still unbelievers.  We're not inviting darkness to have fellowship with light, because it can't.  I wonder if the event organizers have thought through this.

The other word that I find to be interesting in the title of this event is "Sunday."  The site states that churches who participated in the event last year saw an average increase of 26% on NBTCS.  Hmm.  I wonder what the attendance was the week after?  Getting people, especially goats, to come to church for one week is nothing to brag about, nor do I think it's a victory.  In fact, church pews are lined with unbelievers every week - why have an annual Sunday for them?  It's not hard to draw a crowd for a Sunday.  It's much harder, and requires much more prayer and dedication to preach the unpopular message of the gospel over and over again, sometimes seeing no results, calling all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel.

2. The church needs to rethink the concept of outreach.  The website claims that this week is the single biggest national outreach event in the country.  When did inviting people to come in to church become outreach?  Shouldn't "outreach" have a decidedly outward moving feel to it?  I would think outreach would be more like taking the gospel to the streets, rather than taking the people to a show disguised as a church.

3. This event is nothing more than a marketing gimmick, and since when does the church rely on gimmicks (OK, the modern church relies on them quite a bit, to its shame)?  In commenting on this event on his Facebook page, Voddie Baucham said this is really nothing more than "Cheesy marketing of the Church of the Living God."  He's right on, and his emphasis is on the nose.  We serve the living God, whose glorious deeds are recorded in scripture, not to mention who sent his Son as a sacrifice for the salvation of all who would believe through repentance and faith.  But apparently that's not enough.  That's not enticing enough to draw the crowds.  And it really isn't.  In fact, the Bible says the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing.  Why do we expect them to fill our churches?  Moreover, if the perishing are filling our churches, then we might want to step back and reexamine what we're doing.  Because what are they drawn to?  It certainly isn't the gospel (Romans 3.10-11, 1 Corinthians 1.18).

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