The Common Good

On Door Prizes, Pony Rides, and a Gazillion Eggs When the Gospel Ought To Be Enough

No doubt that Resurrection Sunday (or otherwise known to the masses as Easter) is one of the most significant events and Sundays for the Church. While it wouldn’t be wise to reduce the totality of God’s narrative to one event, the death and resurrection of Christ is undoubtedly, crucial. Our faith and the credibility of the Gospel hinges upon the historicity and veracity of the resurrection of Christ.

Tablet illustration, M.Stasy / Shutterstock.com
Tablet illustration, M.Stasy / Shutterstock.com

Related Reading

Take Action on This Issue

Circle of Protection for a Moral Budget

A pledge by church leaders from diverse theological and political beliefs who have come together to form a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world.

The Apostle Paul articulates this truth succinctly and powerfully:

“And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.” – 1 Corinthians 15:14

For this reason, Easter is often referred to as the Super Bowl for Christian churches.

As expected, a great amount of time, energy, ideas, and resources are invested into this weekend. And I get it. And I agree with it – in part.

It’s important, and it’s understandable that churches are emphasizing this weekend and investing additional resources. At Quest, we host two services for Good Friday and three services for Easter Sunday. Typically, we’ve rented an off-site facility to have our usual only joint church service.

But I digress.

I love the events of Holy Week ...

because we need to reflect on the final week of Christ and ask ourselves: “What would we do if we only had one week to live?”

During the last week of his life,Jesus chose to borrow a donkey, do some “spring cleaning,” wash dirty feet and get crucified. Before we move on to the good news of the Resurrection, we have to engage in the the uncomfortable reflections of Good Friday.

But yes, oh yes, oh yes. Christ has risen. He has risen indeed. This is truly good news and worthy of celebration.

But in recent years, there seems to be an increasing trend of using stuff to lure people to church on Easter weekend. Now, seriously:

Who doesn’t want visitors, guests, and the unchurched/dechurched to come to church – especially on Easter Sunday? We all do. We all pray for such.

Door prizes & gimmicks?

But what makes me feel uncomfortable is the increasing tactics of using door prizes a la iPads, gadgets, TV sets, Xbox 360s, Nintendos, ferris wheels, pony rides, helicopter egg drops, and other stuff to “entice” or “entertain” people to church.

Don’t believe me?

Couple years ago, a church in Texas hosted what I labeled the momma of all Easter egg hunts” that included more than $1 million in prizes. In fact, it actually included stuff totaling over $4 million dollars in prizes. Another church was giving away flat-screen televisions, skateboards, Fender guitars, furniture, and 15 cars — yes, cars — at its Easter services.

This year, I’ve seen several churches advertise “We’re giving away several iPad 3s!!!” to go along with the usual suspects of door prizes, helicopter egg drops, XBoxes, Nintendos, gift cards, and super celebrity guests.

Am I just jealous since we’re not giving any doors prizes and thus, I’m not #winning anything? No, that’s not it … I don’t think. And it’s not just random criticism. I really hope that readers don’t interpret this post as haterade, cynicism, or useless criticism.

There are three main reasons why the concept of “door prizes” to attract people concern me:

1. What you use to attract, you must use to keep people.

It works. It’s true.

It’s also dangerous …

Partly because we forget or don’t want to acknowledge that what we use to “bring” people to church is what we then feel pressured or tempted to use to keep them to stay. Consumption breeds more consumption.

Translation: We’re using consumer tendencies to entice people and thus, we have to create unrealistic or dare I say, “unholy” consumeristic ways to keep people.

If we’re not careful, it keeps going and going.

  • What’s better than toys? More toys!
  • What’s better than a million eggs? A gazillion eggs!
  • What’s better than cool lights? Much more cooler lights!
  • What’s better than really cool and hip guest Christian bands? More cooler and hipper Christians bands!

2. Our church promos are better than your church’s promos!

Let’s be honest. Churches – while institutions – are no different than you and me. We’re observing, comparing, and keeping track with the trends and happenings of other churches. Breaking News: Churches can be competitive, too.

So, it makes sense that when other churches are giving away iPads, gadgets, gizmos, cars, and dropping 30,000 egg, you want to do “better,” “more,” and “make a bigger splash.” Why? Because we all have the “Keep up with the Joneses” syndrome or “Did you hear that First Baptist Church or so and so are dropping 50,000 eggs? We’ve got to do better!”

And if we’re not careful, that’s what drives us … even if we’ll never acknowledge it in public.

3. The Gospel is enough.

And that’s really the heart of what I’m trying to say, and I’m positive that all other pastors and church leaders feel this way.

But we need to do more than feel this way. We need to believe this and practice this. The events surround Crucifixion Friday and Resurrection Sunday are haunting and amazing. While many clamored for signs (then and now), I wonder if we’re giving in to our personal desire and the desires of a culture of entitlement that clamor for prizes, perks, and stuff.

Easter is beautiful and it’s significant.

Let’s love people.
Let’s welcome people.
Let’s practice deep hospitality.
Let’s pray for our guest and visitors and treat them in the same way we treat those who come to our churches every single week.

And let’s communicate to them – as best as we can by God’s grace – the unrelenting love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. The good news is truly Good News:

God loves us and gave us the His Son, Christ, so that we might not languish in separation but be reconciled with our God – our Father. Not only are we reconciled but God now invites us to be agents of reconciliation in a world that is in need of mending, healing, and reconciliation.

That’s good news. Glorious news. Gospel news.

Go to a church…

If you’re going to a church that’s giving away prizes, gadgets, iPads, and such … more power to you. I hope many visitors and guests come and many return and are drawn to relationships and community. I sincerely mean this.

But if you’re not going to a church and you’re asking me for advice about what kind of church you should go to, it’s possible that churches giving away prizes are incredibly deep, missional, and substantive. This isn’t a criticism against them, but if you’re looking for a church:

Go to a church that believes just going to church isn’t church.

Go to a church that believes in Christ Crucified and Christ risen – every single day. Every single week. This is what they believe, teach, and live out. This is the good news they share to welcome people, encourage people, disciple people and release people.

That’s the gospel worth living for.

Eugene Cho, a second-generation Korean-American, is the founder and lead pastor of Quest Church in Seattle and the executive director of Q Cafe, an innovative nonprofit neighborhood café and music venue. You can stalk him at his blogTwitter or his Facebook Page. Eugene and his wife are also the founders of a movement of people, stories, and actions to alleviate extreme global poverty. This post originally appeared on Eugene Cho's blog.

Image: Tablet illustration, M.Stasy / Shutterstock.com

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Related Stories

Resources

Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)