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Monday, July 07, 2008 

Skipping Jesus To See Jr.’s Car

In a market driven society gimmicks rule. During holiday weekends the promise of free pillows and free delivery are used to close the deal when 12 month same as cash financing just ain’t enough to get you to make that once a decade mattress purchase. Most people realize at some level that the price of the pillows and the delivery are already built into the cost of said mattress. Sadly though some folks don't understand Marketing 101 and if not, P.T. Barnum had a charming little saying that applies.

Churches are certainly not immune to using gimmicks. My own beloved synod seems to chase one fad after another to reach the “unchurched.” The LCMS has spent millions of dollars to have marketing consultants tell pastors how to make their church appealing enough for those who say they don’t even like church to begin with. Breaking down denominational walls based on real theological differences to become relevant and seeker sensitive is the order of the day as we try to grow God’s kingdom apart from the purely preached Word and administered sacraments.

Sadly it seems we are content to follow the herd of Americanized Christianity. But every now and then the herd follows us and does it better.

Not too long ago the Southeastern district highlighted St. John's in Farmville VA in a newsletter. The congregation received a firetruck and repurposed it to be a witness tool in the community. They dedicated it for mission on Sunday, June 29 in a show of support for the LCMS’s Ablaze! evangelism program. Said Pastor Joel Giese:

"The idea is simple. People, children especially, like fire trucks. They will come to see the truck and we have the opportunity to speak about Jesus. As the vehicle moves to and from events, it acts like a rolling billboard. I believe it will spark interest. The best part is that it is easy and fun, who knew that easy and fun could be used to describe Evangelism!"

Yep, I think it’s in the 29th chapter of Matthew where Jesus tells the disciples to use whatever gimmick they can to reach the lost.

I’m gonna guess that the megachurch C3 caught wind of this and was determined not to be outdone by a bunch a staunchy Lutherans. So what technique did they come up with to get folks in the door? A replica of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s racecar.

From the News and Observer;

But the prime attraction was Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s revered race car, an 800-horsepower NASCAR speedster sponsored by the National Guard. Some skipped their regular service just to glimpse Dale Junior's racing machine.


"Dale Junior represents a lot of blue-collar hard-working people, and that's the majority that comes to church," said Keith Boykin, a plumber from Clayton. "He represents pretty much what's good about America. He comes from solid country roots."

And this tidbit;

But the prime attraction was Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s revered race car, an 800-horsepower NASCAR speedster sponsored by the National Guard. Some skipped their regular service just to glimpse Dale Junior's racing machine.

"Dale Junior represents a lot of blue-collar hard-working people, and that's the majority that comes to church," said Keith Boykin, a plumber from Clayton. "He represents pretty much what's good about America. He comes from solid country roots."

When I go to church I like my prime attraction to be, oh I don’t know, Jesus. And just in case anyone thinks I just being hyper critical, here’s another quote from the story in the News and Observer:

The minister's stage appearance was preceded by a 10-member rock group. He punctuated his sermon with frequent jokes and informal expressions: "cool," "hang out" and "awesome!"

As Fry paced the stage and sermonized, he occasionally sipped from a can of Amp energy drink, raising the can in a salute to the audience. His image and movements were shown on four big screens.

His sermon was dedicated to the theme of courage, and it was enlivened with NASCAR references instantly recognizable here.

"You might be a NASCAR fan if you say, 'But officer, I wasn't tailgating -- I was drafting,' " Fry quipped from the stage.


When churches have to resort to gimmicks whether it be a fire truck or racecar to get people in the door; what really is the message? When the message of salvation from sin, death and the devil can’t stand on its own and needs the help of a replica of a race car or a slick Madison Avenue style brochure; what does that say about your view of the message? When you skip your regular church service that should focus on Christ and His gifts to see a replica of a car, what does that say about you?

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Remember how YOU were disturbed a few weeks ago by the "pony post"? Now I know how you feel.

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  • I'm Frank Gillespie
  • From The Haut South
  • Confessional Lutheran
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