The Gimmick of Christianity
Okay, so this is a side-note on my crusade against Christian tracts. I've realized something - I'm not against tracts as much as I am against the whole notion that they are a good idea. But I am against tricking people into the Kingdom. Sure, God can use even the smallest (or biggest?) mistake, but that doesn't make the mistake okay. It just makes God that cool. Soooo, God just needs a really cool gimmick to get people into the Kingdom of God, right?
For example, I think a tract that has good theology (rarity), good motives (rarer still), and good people handing them out who don't just want to give you paper and move on (rarest ever!) can obviously be a good vehicle for sharing Christ's love. Just as a door - not as an end.
But I've discovered another reason I don't like tracts. They often involve gimmicks. You know what a gimmick is, right? Its the politician's political advertisement on one side and the football schedule of your favorite team on the other. Gimmicks are novel. The novelty is often what draws us to them, and when the novelty is gone - the gimmick gets thrown in the trash.
I'm not sure I like the idea of attaching Jesus to gimmicks. The best advertising is word-of-mouth.
Of course, there are some folks who feel tricky tracts (the ones that look like money, but not as a joke, just as a means for getting you to pick it up) are appropriate. These defenses are common:
1.) It is of greatest importance. If even one person finds their way to Christ through this, its worth it. This kind of model for ministry is killing our churches. I might as well move to Maui with all the churches money and in defense say, "Well, if only one person in Maui experiences Jesus through my actions, its worth it." Nonsense - I think God wants us to be good stewards of our resources. That means if a ministry saves only one person, its a piss-poor ministry. Hear me out, I'm not saying that person is worthless or that we should regret said ministry - but we shouldn't do anything that aims at saving only one person. Certainly we can shoot for a bigger success rate than that? Which would you rather have - a ministry that "takes" 30% of the time or 0.0005% of the time? Because thats the kind of difference I would think you'd see between Christians witnessing by being Christians and the "success" of tracts. And besides, that one saved person is probably God's doing anyway.
2.) It is of smallest importance. Tracts fit into God's agenda. We need to reach every possible person in the name of Christ. Thats great. Because its really hard for people who don't speak English to understand that tract you are holding in your hand. Whats that? You aren't planning on giving them out in the deepest jungles of Brazil? Why not? Thats where all the people are who have never heard of Jesus. Last I checked, America, while not the practicing Christian nation it once was, at least has a pretty good saturation rate with the whole Christian/Jesus thing. Most people downtown (or wherever you plan on placing your tracts) have heard of Jesus already, thank you very much. What they need is not more information, they need reason to believe your information. And the Gospel is best shared by fulfilling people's needs.
By turning the Gospel into a gimmick, we rob it of anything worth holding onto. Yes, I know authentic Christianity is hard to come by - maybe this is why we are apt to let someone else do our ministry for us. But this is why the Church is missional (right Dan?) because once we get it right, this is too good to hold on to. It has to be shared so we can continue to experience the goodness of God.
Christianity is no gimmick. There are no shortcuts. Also too, the Gospel doesn't try to play on the same level of the rest of the world. Sure, novelty might be nice, but it doesn't last. There needs to be something to last.