Today, driving through Shillito Park, I saw one of those huge inflatable slides, and a huge inflatable “moon walk” bounce building. There were people standing at the edge of the street with large signs inviting me to come for free BBQ, free cotton candy, free games, egg hunts, face painting, and various other appealing things. The event was being put on by something called Life Bridge. I had no idea what this was, but, hey, free party.
So, after picking up Sarah, we went back to the park and went to the party.
Turns out that Life Bridge is a church. I was thinking realtor, or perhaps an insurance company, trying to drum up business. But, no, it was a church trying to drum up business.
I’m not sure I buy into the notion that a church needs to put on an advertising campaign to drum up business. I presume that they call this evangelism, but this seems very odd to me.
So I was thinking about advertising. You know the basic idea of an advertisement – you try to make it seem like your product will help you have sex more often. Beer commercials feature scantily clad women. Jeans commercials, car commercials, chewing gum commercials, feature scantily clad women. Clearly, if I purchase this product, I will be surrounded with scantily clad women.
In other words, the primary purpose of advertising is to lie to the customer in order to get them to find your product attractive.
So … if you throw a party in the park, give people free food, free live music, free cotton candy, and an amusement park atmosphere, then maybe people will attend your church? Well, maybe, but that’s only half of the story. When they get to church, the next thing that you do is to tell them not-quite-true things about God, in order to make them stay.
It’s kinda like the conversation we were having on IRC the other day about The Message. The Message is a “translation” of the Bible that takes out all the bits that are inconvenient. It makes everything beautiful and happy. Kinda like the Pricess Bride version of the Bible. Because, as you know, the Bible has lots of rough edges and pointy bits that you can get hurt on. And if you have to think about something, that invariably leads to people coming up with differing conclusions, and, hence, controversy and division. So take out those bits. Problem solved.
Ok, I do readily admit that I’m being truly unfair to Life Bridge. I don’t know anything about them. And after reading their web site, I don’t know anything more about them. They appear to believe mostly good things. And they did seem like *very* nice people. But I have to wonder at their motivation in spending a couple thousand dollars to put on a party in the park, give out tshirts and frisbees, and then invite people to church, while not saying one word about what the church is about. This seems like standard advertising to me, not evangelism. Why would I got to this church? Because they throw really great parties. That is the extent of what I know about them. And this seems rather shallow to me.
I am inclined, however, to go there some week, just to see if my prejudices have any basis in fact.