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Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Should We "Trick" People Into Church?

Well my recent blog posts have all been rather serious (and had the potential to start WW3 if read by the wrong people.) So I decided a more random update was in order (jump to the second half for the serious stuff.)

The first item on the agenda is my netbook computer, I guarantee that by the end of this section you will be screaming “JUST BUY A NEW ONE.” I bought this Samsung Netbook 150 Plus for my journey on the Logos Hope in 2011. It has been great and has had a loooooooooooot of use. I began getting problems with the power cable a few months ago, but pushing the cord in a bit more usually did the trick. After a while I had to arrange the cord in such a way across the keyboard to make the connection work. Then I started noticing that as soon as I took the cable out the computer immediately switched itself off. I think the act of pulling the cord out was triggering an internal mechanism or something as I could hear a click.  Obviously that meant that I could no longer use the computer on battery power as it wasn’t holding its charge and would only function when plugged in. Slightly annoying but I don’t take it out of the house much anyway.

However, about a week ago I noticed that the slider that switches the computer on wasn’t always working straight away and that it sometimes took a few slides for the lights to start flashing and the machine to power up. After a few days it wasn’t working at all so I ripped the button out and tried to look inside the very small hole. I couldn’t see anything so I got a piece of thin metal and started poking around in the mechanism until the lights came on…This worked at first but for the last few days I have had to work harder and harder to get the thing to even switch on by applying pressure to the metal object. Couple this with the original wire problem which basically means that if the wire (across the top of the keyboard) is touched or moved at all the machine shuts off with a click….frustrated yet? Me too. I was hoping I could make it last until I go home next year but that’s definitely seeming unlikely now. Have I backed up my files (including my new book that I already have a contract for and really shouldn't lose) no but it's on my list...

Changing the subject completely, our cat Chiqui recently went missing for about a week. Neighbourhood gossip suggested that he might have been “adopted” by other residents nearby. We have had him for a while now having grabbed him from the street last year when he was a stray kitten. We all felt quite sad that he had gone and especially noticed how quiet it was as he tended to be pretty noisy when hungry. He had also taken to fighting the neighbour’s cat on most nights and doing normal cat things like bringing in decapitated birds and chasing rats. Then he vanished. I was keeping an eye out for him as were all my housemates which no doubt confused many ginger cats in the area as we called out to them thinking they might be him. Then a few days ago I saw Chiqui a few streets away as I was walking to church. I knew it was him due to the distinctive collar and the loud meowing when he saw me. The meowing wasn’t that friendly and he was hiding so I made a note of where he was. A few days later myself and one housemate returned to the area to look for him. There were workmen leaning on a cart nearby but no sign of Chiqui. Then I had an idea. Chiqui has always responded loudly to his name being called no matter how many times you call him. So to the astonishment of the men who were now watching us but obviously had no clue what we were doing, I started calling the cat loudly in the area I had last seen him, thinking it was probably a waste of time and public humiliation. But then just as we were leaving I heard a faint “meowing” and it sounded like Chiqui. We located him a few houses away as he continued meowing and my housemate managed to coax him and pick him up. He is now safely home, we don’t know why he left but we think he might just have been lost…

Oh and I received a marriage proposal earlier today. A man I have never met befriended me on Facebook as I keep my profile public for evangelistic purposes (which has actually yielded a potential result in recent months but more about that another time.) Having asked my name, age and which country I was from (all of which is on my profile if he had bothered to look,) and in response to my slightly irritated “Why are you asking all these questions?” He said “Because I love you and want to marry you ok?” I’m still thinking about that one…

Finishing on a more serious note. I went looking for a homeless girl that I have been trying to connect to our church, earlier today. I didn’t find her but I found a large group of other homeless people in the same area. I had some tracts for the Drop-In, so I gave them to the people and asked them to come tomorrow evening. One lady asked “Para saan?” which means “What for…” I was tempted to begin as I normally do with the offer of free food and a shower but I stopped myself and said “Because you will hear an important message from God’s Word.” Of course I then added the other information.

The distinction probably made little difference to the people who were still receiving the same information, as I always also tell them they will hear a Bible message, but the dilemma made me think. Here in the Philippines people are not put off when they are told they will hear a message from the Bible as most people identify themselves as Christian. But what about in other countries (especially the West,) where there is open hostility to Christianity. Should we adapt our message to appeal to the masses? Interestingly at our prayer meeting this evening the speaker (from UK) spoke about hiding our light under a bowl and mentioned the way many churches now try to “entertain” people. He reminded us that we should shine as bright lights for Jesus in any and every situation, taking opportunities that are presented to us and seeking others out. But are we really doing that if we water down our message or confuse our priorities when inviting people to a church event or hide things that we think they might not appreciate and “trick” them into attending in the hope that God will “zap” them whilst they are there!?

The question from the street lady made me think about where I was placing the emphasis when inviting people to the church. Did I want people to attend for the freebies on the off chance that they might listen to the preaching? Or was it better to be totally honest with people to show them where our hearts are and which aspect of our ministry is the priority for us as Christian’s. It can be tempting to loudly offer the freebies and then mumble the rest but is that really honouring to God. What does that communicate to people about our own experiences of God’s saving grace?

My favourite Bible verse is not so well known but it illustrates this point well. At a time when many of Jesus’ followers had just deserted Him. He turns to his twelve remaining disciples and almost dejectedly asks them “You do not want to leave too do you?” Then in John 6 vs 68; Simon Peter answers him, “Lord to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life?” Peter doesn’t say anything about signs, wonders, miracles or freebies but focuses on what is important “words of eternal life,” he knows why he is following Jesus and why he won’t allow other things to distract him or turn him away. Let’s keep our focus where it belongs and trust that we can boldly tell people the reason they should come to our churches; to hear the saving message of hope found only in Jesus.

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