As history has progressed, the Christian church has used various schemes to get people to go to church. Damnation. Cured ailments. Trendy praise bands. Free Wi-Fi and a coffee bar.
One church in Ohio, however, is cutting straight to the chase. For the second year in a row, Lindenwald Baptist Church will hand out $1,000 in hopes of boosting its Easter service attendance.
According to an article on UPI.com, the congregation plans to randomly draw the names of both a congregation member and a guest and award them $500 each.
Last year, the church frankly admitted it was using the money as a simple enticement for larger attendance. It had 1,137 attendees last Easter Sunday, while its average attendance hovers around 500.
This year, however, the church claims it is doing it to help out in hard times.
“With the economy as bad as it’s been, we felt this was a way we can be a blessing in the financial realm as well as the spiritual,” Pastor Randy Moore said.
The church stresses that the $1,000 is not a gimmick. But considering it was candid about its intentions last year, I find this hard to believe.
“It’s not about increasing membership,” Moore continued. “It’s about spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
But how seriously can people be focused on the true “gospel of Jesus Christ” if they spend the entire Easter service eagerly awaiting the money giveaway? The last thing on their minds will be the resurrection of Christ.
What happens when 99 percent of the congregation leaves feeling disappointed because it didn’t win this cash prize? What about the inevitable feelings of animosity toward those who win? I fear the pastor is simply setting up his congregation for considerable awkwardness and hostility.
Yes, it’s true 8212; we are experiencing hard times. It’s certainly a wonderful gesture that Moore wishes to help out his congregation 8212; if that is, in fact, the honest intent behind offering the cash prize. But I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a better way to help everyone.
Whatever happened to the classic church potluck? It’s an infallible way to create community and fill hungry bellies. Or what if each member found a way to offer a service to another member? A teen could offer to watch a single mother’s children while the mother picks up extra hours at her job. A successful businessman could help an unemployed friend write a rÃÂ©sumÃÂ© and apply for jobs.
Sure, these acts seem mundane compared to a dazzling $1,000. But they symbolize what church is supposed to be about 8212; charity and community. Not materialism, envy and anger.
No matter what, of course, the church will continue to claim it simply wants to help the congregation. But if Lindenwald Baptist is going to go through with its promised $1,000 giveaway, it should at least be honest and call it what it is 8212; a gimmick.
Emily Atteberry is a freshman journalism and Spanish double major from Olathe, Kan.