A Striped-Candy Easter

Bay Area Fellowship (BAF) of Corpus Christi, TX gave away $2 million dollars in gifts on Easter Sunday (HT: Tim Challies).  The church has seven locations and is the largest church in the city.  According to their website, “the ultimate giveaway” continues this coming week.  You’ll find the CNN interview on YouTube below.

Head Pastor of BAF, Bil Cornelius says, “We’re doing this cause we want to reach people, bring them in, and tell them how much God loves them.”

He continues, “Think about it, most churches back in the day and even still today  do Easter egg hunts to draw kids in so they can tell them about the love of God.  I just can’t find any Easter eggs large enough to put one of our cars in.”

Ummm.  Thinking . . .

Even CNN’s T.J. Holmes, the interviewer said, “Come on, now . . .”

Cornelius again, “[the ultimate giveaway] is a giant illustration of pointing to the ultimate gift, which is the gift of heaven”

Later in the interview Holmes asks, “What do you think this says about us these days.  This day and time, that it takes something like this [the give-aways] to bring certain people into church.  Just what does this say about us all, as a society as a whole.” 

Cornelius replies, “I think it says that, frankly, we’re not heavenly minded.  And so, it’s funny how we’ve been giving heaven out for free for thousands of years in churches all around the word and suddenly one church adds a car and a bike to it and the whole world goes crazy.”

Interestingly, The Crossing, a large church in Elk River, did something similar.  They gave away three cars this weekend.

Easter Weekend at The Crossing!

First-time guests (age 18+) at The Crossing’s Easter weekend services will be entered into a drawing for one of THREE free cars! One finalist will be drawn from each service, and a winner will be selected from the Elk River Saturday services; the Elk River Sunday services; and the Zimmerman Sunday services.

Undoubtedly there have been rumblings about some of the edgy outreach The Crossings has done in the past (not unjustifiably either; they have and continue to push the envelope) so the lead pastor of the church, Eric Dykstra, put this out on his blog,

Ignore the criticism.  Whenever our church does something crazy like give away some cars, some church people get all uptight.  Ignore them. Bless them. Don’t return the fire.  We are on a mission to change our city and our world and we don’t have time to listen to or respond to the haters. Jesus is going to get honor this weekend.  Lives are going to be changed.  PRAY AND STAY ABOVE THE FRAY!

I have not met Eric but I will say this.  He was the only area pastor to call and welcome us when we were launching our ministry.  I have a favorable personal perception of him because of this.  I do not doubt his good intentions, or the noble motives of these men.  But there are unintended consequences to such an approach.

Incidentally, Rick Warren had the Jonas Brothers out for their Easter services, marking Saddleback’s 30th anniversary.   

Motives and intentions alone do not justify noble activities.  A shocking example of this is Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:6-7; cf. Numbers 4:15).  It certainly stunned King David that Uzzah’s noble intentions were not enough to justify his action that brought a fatal, unintended consequence.  In fact, it made him angry (2 Samuel 6:8).

But really, what does the pastor of young, small congregation (we run in the 50s or 60s on a Sunday) have to say about this?  Bay Area Fellowship, The Crossing, and Saddleback are ministries running in the thousands with multi-campus ministries.  If it’s about the number of campuses and people, I have nothing to say. 

But it’s not all about numbers.

Don’t get me wrong.  I admire aggressive ministry outreach.  Perhaps our ministry is not being aggressive enough.  But to turn to the “striped candy” approach is not aggressive outreach, it is ecclesiastical bribery.

My title employs the phrase, “striped candy,” coined by A.W. Tozer.  I’ll allow the words of Tozer, who saw this coming, to close this post.  I could not provide a better analysis or concluding words about this year’s striped-candy Easter.

It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction.  It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend meeting where the only attraction is God.  One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movie, games and refreshment.

This has influenced the whole pattern of church life, and even brought into being a new type of church architecture designed to house the golden calf.

So we have the strange anomaly of orthodoxy in creed and heterodoxy in practice.  The striped-candy technique has been so fully integrated into our present religious thinking that it is simply taken for granted.  Its victims never dream that it is not a part of the teachings of Christ and His apostles.

Any objection to the carrying-on of our present golden calf is met with the triumphant reply, “But we are winning them!”  And winning them to what?  To true discipleship?  To cross-carrying?  To self-denial?  To separation from the world?  To crucifixion of the flesh?  To holy living?  To nobility of character?  To a despising of the world’s treasures?  To hard self-discipline?  To love for God?  To total commitment to Christ?  Of course, the answer to all these questions is, “no” (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 136 in Tozer in Mohler, He is not Silent, 25-6).    


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