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Unfortunately, the joy of the Easter Season was muffled due to the numerous bribes being offered by evangelical churches for folks to turn out for Easter Sunday morning worship. My concern with these churches and various other churches is that by offering bribes they unintentionally communicate that they are ashamed of Christ, God, the Holy Spirit, and the gospel. Bribing people to attend church is the equivalent of giving crack cocaine to a drug addict while telling him to quit drugs. Sure, the addict may quit, but it will be in spite of what we have done instead of because of what we have done.
One example can be found here where a church gave away 10 cars on Easter Sunday, plus many other prizes.
Another example can be found here where a church blatantly says that they’re bribing people with “crap in order to meet Christ.”
We cannot give people that have shown themselves to be world-lovers instead of God-lovers, another reason to love the world more than God while claiming to “love them in a Christ-like manner.” We cannot tell them that God is more valuable than stuff while using stuff to bribe them to hear about God’s saving grace; for, we are telling them God is more valuable while showing them that stuff is more valuable. In order to bribe them to come to church to worship God, we must silently tell them that He is not valuable enough in and of Himself to be worshipped. We can say “We want God to be glorified, etc., etc.” all we want, but what we do communicates our heart as much as what we say. Just like someone that gives a cocaine addict cocaine while saying, “I want to help you quit,” the church that bribes people to attend worship encourages their audience to not value God above all things while saying, “You should value God above all things.” If a person does not value God above all things, they do not belong to God.
Let’s take a look at Jesus’ example to see if He used bribery in His evangelism:
Luke 9:57-62 – ” 57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (ESV).
In this passage Jesus clearly reveals the various idols in these men’s lives. Unless we forsake all things, we cannot trust in Christ. Bribing people to listen to God/Christ communicates that neither God, nor Christ are valuable enough to be heard. How can someone forsake all things when we just used something else other than Christ to get them to listen to Christ?
Luke 14:25-33 – ” 25Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
Jesus here argues that even the blessings of God must be forsaken in order to come to Christ. So, these people that we are bribing must climb over our bribes (money, cars, etc.) in order to accept the gospel. We thus are placing another obstacle between them and Christ.
Mark 10:17-23 – 17And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” 20And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enterthe kingdom of God!”
Here Jesus warns His disciples and us how dangerous it is to be rich in this world. When we bribe individuals to come to worship, we however try to capitalize on our culture’s ungodly desire to be rich. After all, why are these churches full of people that want to win these prizes? There may be exceptions to this; but, if these hearers are not there to worship God, they are there for a wicked reason, period.
To those reading that believe God is glorified through bribing people to hear His gospel, I honestly want to know where you get the authority to bribe people to hear the gospel. There isn’t one example in Scripture of anyone bribing people to hear the gospel. This is amazing considering that Jesus, His disciples, and others in the New Testament could perform miracles. Talk about a perfect way to bribe people! So, why did these miracle-workers not use miracles to bribe hearers to listen to the gospel? The answer is that they believed the Author of the gospel was valuable enough to be heard. Those that bribe however reveal their doubt of this truth because they believe they must bribe people to hear the gospel. We must understand that our methodology communicates that we are ashamed of the gospel if we seek to hide the gospel behind temporary toys, even though we may vehemently deny this. What we do communicates truth, or hides it. I believe bribery hides the truth; or communicates lies about the truth.
Furthermore, in case any of us are thinking at this point, “But, people are being saved,” the problem is that we’ve been commanded to make disciples, not to merely get people saved. Our methodology matters! God cares just as much about how we reach people, as about how many people we are reaching. It is impossible to produce disciples when we teach that God is not valuable enough to be heard without bribery (Although God has been known to raise up godly people in spite of their leaders). Furthermore, those who bribe do not know the future. These people who may be trusting in Christ would have possibly come to Christ within a few days, weeks, or years without being bribed to listen. In other words, bribers could have produced a disciple that loved the Word of God because it is the Word of God, if they used the Word of God to get them to listen to Christ.
Finally, the end does not justify the means. Yes, God can save through His gospel in the craziest circumstances. This fact however does not mean that we should seek to create crazy circumstances. Just because God spoke through a donkey one time does not mean that we should bring a donkey on stage to preach; just because Martin Luther was saved as a Catholic Monk does not mean we should encourage sinners to go join a monastery in hopes that God will change them with the gospel; just because Dwight Moody was originally raised in a Unitarian Church does not mean that their teachings eventually drive hearers to the true gospel; etc. In other words, bribers do not have a biblical leg to stand on; and their pragmatism is blatantly ungodly even if some people are trusting in Christ. Also, bribers do not know how many people that they’ve encouraged to devalue God, Christ, God’s Word, and the gospel because they’ve taught through their methodlogy that He is not worthy to be heard because of Who He is. Bribers, if you are not ashamed of the gospel, God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, or Scripture, then use methodology that reveals this truth. The gospel is good news! Quit hiding it by garnishing it with things that your hearers must forsake in order to believe the gospel. We must realize that if your bribery proves that you really love Jesus and people, then you love Jesus and people more than Jesus, the prophets, apostles, or any other biblical example; for they were not willing to bribe people to listen to the gospel.
Because of the biblical examples we have in Scripture, including Christ, we must ask why they were unwilling to bribe people to listen to the gospel? Why do you think Jesus Christ, the One who could work so many miracles that all men would be bribed to hear His gospel, did not perform many miracles and selectively healed only some individuals in a sea of hurting people (John 5:3-9)? Jesus could have ended world hunger, disease, sickness, poverty, etc., but He instead chose to reveal to the world that He is the conquerer of the Fall. The reason why there is hunger, sickness, death, etc. is because we’re not in the Garden of Eden anymore; and yet, Jesus revealed through His sinless life, miracles (ending disease, sickness, birth defects, hunger, death, etc.), and His truth that the Fall had no hold on Him. He ultimately proved this by rising from the dead. He did all of these things to reveal to a Fallen world that if they come to Him, they too have conquered the results of the Fall, including death, in Him. So, instead of Jesus bribing people, He simply revealed Himself to sinners, encouraging their repentance and faith in Him. Bribers, are you cheapening this? How can we get people to look to Christ as the Second Adam, the restorer of what Adam destroyed, by enticing them with forbidden fruit? It is wicked to come to a worship service for selfish reasons; and yet, bribers are intentionally encouraging people to come to their worship services for selfish reasons. When we do this, we are encouraging people to sin while trying to get them to run to the sinless savior? This is the opposite of what Jesus did.
So, let us examine our methods to see if they communicate what we say we believe. Does bribing people to listen to the gospel communicate the infinite value of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the gospel? I think it communicates the opposite; but, what do you think?
If I am wrong on this; I want to know it. So, if you believe you have a solid biblical reason to bribe people to hear the gospel, I want to hear it.