Good News Gone Bad in the 21st Century

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It is now the 31st day of the Easter Season!

Not all 31 days have been a party for me but on the bad days the Easter hope rang out all the clearer.

As I have been celebrating the resurrection this last month I have been leading my congregation through some of the Easter sermons from the book of Acts.  As I have been celebrating the Resurrection and praying my way through Acts I cannot get away from this idea of evangelism.  We are obligated so preach the good news at all times to all creation
and to do so at great personal expense.  Therefore, I have had to revisit my lifelong internal debate about how we proclaim the good news.  Do we use logical arguments?  Do we use catchy but cheesy props?  Do we take the 66 books of Scripture and reduce them to 3 point gospel tracts?  Or do we just love and hope everything works out okay.

I don’t have any easy answers to this but such renewed questions has piqued my mental sensors to pick up on other evangelisms, other proclamations of “good news” that happen in our society.

Here are three that I have noticed and am thinking about:

1. Cell phone commercials: I now have Hulu, which means I have to watch commercials again.  And Hulu shows the same 5 commercials thirty-eight times.  (Pro tip: when my wife gets tired of them she clicks that they are offensive in the upper right corner and then she gets new ones.)  One of the commercials Hulu shows is Verizon insulting all the other cell phone networks.  They now have Ricky Gervais doing it!  The good news of Verizon is that you can trade in your old phone from your old network and take advantage of their incredibly broad and strong network that covers all the country in lightning fast internet speeds.  The problem, of course, is that the cell phone market is now saturated.  That means the only way you grow your business is by insulting someone else’s business.  You aren’t going to sign new people up to cell phones.  Everyone all ready has one.  So they have to insult themselves to more customers.  The thing about church, though, is that our market is not saturated.  Is the best way to grow our congregation to steal Christians away from other congregations?  Is that really good news?

2.  Mormon Game Nights: I live in Utah.  My city is 60% Mormon and every neighborhood has a Mormon ward or two.  You probably are aware that Mormons are incredibly good at “evangelizing.”  It is not so much that they are effective, but they are incredibly persistent and that pays off.  So when someone put a flier in my door jam that advertised a “neighborhood game night” I definitely assumed the Mormons were putting it on.  However, I was naive enough to think it was happening at a

Trust us, we’re not a church or anything.  We just meet at a church, you know, for Jesus’ sake.

neighbor’s house.  After all, the flier said nothing about church or religion or anything.  It just gave a generic address for the location.  So I typed the address into Google Maps (which is what anybody in the internet age would do) and was a bit dismayed when the little icon landed on top of the Mormon ward.  They had lied to me.  But don’t get me wrong, I am not pointing any fingers at the Mormons because Christians do this all the time.  We plan these great church events in our church buildings and invite people to them but are so ashamed of our religion that we lie in our advertising, refusing to admit it is a Christian event.  I wonder how many people type our vague addresses into Google Maps, find out it is a church, feel betrayed and dismayed and hate us all that much more.

3. Pyramid Schemes: A few times in my life I have been duped into sitting in business presentations for pyramid schemes.  It always happens in similar ways.  You find a job posted on an internet job board that promises a starting salary of $50,000/yr and up.  Or you see a flier around town.  Or you meet a new friend who is absolutely in love with this new business model he recently discovered.  He wants you to invest or be a partner or be an employee and so you agree to go out to dinner.  Then he proclaims the good news.  He pulls out flip charts and fliers and gives an hour long presentation about “market strategies” and “business models” and “what everyone else is doing wrong.”  Then at the very end he explains that if you buy a product and convince three other people to buy it who in turn convince three people each to buy it, you can make a lot of money and not have to do any work, just make three of your poor friends sit through the agonizing presentation you just sat through.  The last time I sat through one of these, I suddenly realized that the church was advocating a similar model for discipleship.  “If you will just convince three people to become Christians and teach them to convince three who in turn convince three we can plant churches everywhere!”  No wonder we are accused of being no more than gospel peddlers.

As I said above, I don’t have any easy answers to the questions posed by the mandate to preach the good news.  I do know that we live in a world of cutthroat commercials, lies and scams and I don’t want to be associated with any of it.  If all I am doing is ripping apart the other Christians, or lying about where our event is taking place or inviting you to participate in a pyramid scheme, well then my news isn’t all that good to begin with.

 

 

 

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