I Corinthians 14:40, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
Some weeks ago, I picked up a church bulletin in which was a poem, written by one of the ladies of that church. She was lauding the bus ministry of the church with a contemporary version of the poem, “The Night Before Christmas.” I believe it started, “Twas the night before Sunday.” In any event where the original poem read, “visions of sugar plums danced in their heads,” her poem read, “visions of bubble gum danced in their heads.” My first thought was “how cute!,” but as I dwelt upon the truth within this poem and the shame within this truth; my spirit was moved and I have been determined ever since to speak out. “Visions of bubble gum” indeed! Have we reduced childrens’ opinions of churchgoing to this?
Please do not imagine that I am critical of this lady’s enthusiasm. I wish more people were excited about the activities of their church. I am critical of the cheap tactics of show business, lotteries, etc., that are being implemented in the bus ministry today. I am extremely concerned that Baptist churches have reduced the forgotten child’s opinion of church attendance to “Visions of bubble gum.” It might be noted that most of these shenanigans I shall mention have been used to increase Sunday School attendance in general. I believe they have produced and shall increasingly produce bad effects in the minds of children and adults alike. I have no doubt that they grieve the Spirit of God. I fear that already many people unconsciously determine which church they will attend, by seeing which one will give away the “biggest wadof bubble gum.” And meanwhile, sound doctrine occupies second place, or no place at all. This is contrary to the instruction of I Timothy 4:15 and 16. “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine: continue in them; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” According to scripture, sound doctrine should be the acid test and guideline to all our actions. Regardless how noble or productive a method may seem, if that method or its user disregards doctrine, it is finally both in spirit and in effect, ungodly. The common denominator that I seem to see in all fervent users of cheap tactics is that they rate doctrine after “results,” and sometimes belittle doctrine altogether. I am not taking a standagainst the bus ministry, nor am I being critical of any church or pastor simply because of his emphasis upon th ebus ministry, but I do see eveils and problems, some of which I should like to deal with. I will not deal with the unfaced and unanswered inconsistencies of no bus service on Sunday night and Wednesday night or the drawing of children from a neighborhood church of the same faith, for one service per week instead of two or three; but will confine my complaint to the gimmicks, prizes, contests, trickery, lotteries and blasphemous entertainments that accompany the modern “bus ministry.”
SOME MODERN BUS PROMOTIONS TACTICS
The list is endless and would exhaust your imagination, but suffer me to name a few that I have read and heard of.
1st. There is the “cheap gift tactic:” You simply entice the children to come to God’s house with candy, bubble gum,pennies, dimes, kite strings, kites, flags, paper hats, straw hats and onward and upward to “success.” These things cost relatively little. Even the small church can afford this kind of promotion; for the nickels, dimes and quarters the children drop in the plate will help to pay the bill. Even though this is cheap, it will give you an edge over any other church who gives away nothing but the gospel. If the church is more prosperous, hamburgers or malts will “sweeten the pot” and increase the edge. You can easily undermine any neighborhood church who has no bus ministry, or who gives nothing away.
2nd. There are those enterprising masters of chance, who simply put a five dollar bill under some seat in the bus.The child who sits in this seat wins the five. Now this is not? really? gambling?, because instead of putting a quarter into a five dollar football pot, the child only invests three hours on his time, going to this five dollar church instead of that old two dollar one down the street. This is a new kind of crap game where you just sit and the bus does the rolling.
3rd. There is the giving of the larger prize for the contest winner. It can be a Bible, a bicycle, a pony, a chickenthat lays golden eggs, a rabbit that glows on Easter and quotes I Cor. 15, a trip to Six Flags, or a ski trip to the slopes of Colorado. As far as I know, Las Vegas and Bourbon street have not been included yet. This also is relatively easy to finance because instead of all the “enterprising converts,” I mean “contestants,” sharing in the loot, it’s a winner take alltype of lottery. Once again, all the contestants invest is their time, unless you include the danger of flirting with spiritualthings and thus the danger of a subverted soul. Back to the finance problem now. Since the prize is larger, junior can be counted upon to call Aunt Across-town and Uncle Loafalot and cry until they leave their Sunday School and come over with their six children out of another Sunday School. Though they may not ride the bus, they can count for the contest. So where you only had 303 last week, this week you had 909. “Boy, that church surely is growing!” What undiscerning church member would not dig down and give a little more to finance such a noble cause as this. “Boy, next time we’ll give away a boat and a bikini and some skis and we’ll have ten-o-ten and can’t we crow then?”
4th. There is the “fun thing” tactic. This resource is boundless. Money is seldom the object here. You are limited only by your imagination and your modesty. I could never mention all these sacred endeavors but to name a few: There is the “flood the bus Sunday.” Here the children reverence God’s property and His servants by squirting the bus captain and the bus minister with water pistols. Of course, this is done with water pistols furnished by church “mission money?,” and it is done after church. During church, it would get a little slick, but I’m sure the children can hardly wait until the invitation is over and the last broken hearted sinner has been saved so that they can get on with the feature of the day. Then there is the egg Sunday. On this day the shining examples of youthful triumph get to throw eggs at the bus minister or captain. If they miss, he is standing against the bus so all is not lost. I’ve heard also of one grand prize for success where the pastor’s wife was honeyed and feathered. I’ve often wondered about what she wore for this glorious occasion and what the mode of honey application was. Was it immersion, pouring, sprinkling or rubbing? Consider I Corinthians
11:17: “Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.” Verse 17 refers to those things which Paul is to criticize in verses 20 through 22: “When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.” There was revelling in the churchin the stead of sacred things. Paul said because of this, that their assembling was neither beneficial to the participators nor glorifying to God, but was the opposite; “not for the better, but for the worse.” This, to say the least, would teach usthat it is error to teach that you should “get them there” any way, and by any motive you can, so long as they hear the gospel, after they come. It does make a difference why they come and with what spirit they assemble.
EFFECTS OF SUCH METHODS
The sad victims of this hypocritical exploitation are the children. They have been neglected in the home spiritually, and many times told that church is of no importance. They need someone to come and tell them that Jesus Christ is their only hope and that in church they can learn about Him. They need to be told He is to have glory and reverence in the church and that their presence and conduct there may affect the destiny of their souls. Or, will “visions of bubble gum” do just as well? Is it the child these people are interested in, or just a larger number?
Let’s examine our motives and the side effects of our methods. To illustrate what my heart longs to say, let mecite for you the account of four children from one family who started riding one of our buses to church some years ago. Within a few weeks, two of them had made professions of faith. Their level of learning ability was low and they were in desperate need of teaching. Then they were lured away by another church, which was giving away kites. Soon after this, the mother called and asked us to send our bus by once again. Cold as she was, she could see a great difference in what they were getting in the two churches. We started picking them up once again, but alas, another church soon had another “shindig” and away they were hauled. Once again they returned, but another church with different flavors of bubble gum soon liberated them from a church with Bible without baloney. Each of these times these children were led away, not by difference in doctrine, but with “visions of bubble gum.” Now the children are disillusioned and the parents are disgusted, partly with their undecided children and partly by the proselyting churches. So they won’t let them go anywhere “until we start going.”
Another bad effect is proselyting. Preachers who never would practice it themselves, allow it to be done on theirbus ministry work, day after day. It seems that this unworthy practice goes hand in hand with the give-away competition,not in bus work alone but throughout the Sunday School.
Another side effect is the irreverence for God’s house and His messenger. A child’s motive in going to church should be a high one. I do not suggest that we should wait until we can generate high motives before we encourage the neglected child to come. We should, however, take care that in our witnessing zeal, we do not contribute to the degeneration of those motives. If we do, we shall reduce the possibility (humanly speaking) of getting that child saved. Anyone who can be brought to a knowledge of Christ by cheap, worldly, carnival like tactics, can be brought without those methods, through patient witnessing and prayer. Galatians 6:9: “And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” When you “convert” a child (or an adult) by the process of cheap methods, you do not convert him to Christ, but to a circus, or at best to a movement. This type of convert will return to his “wallowing in the mire” as soon as the circus tent is taken away. Most of you can think of “great churches” that have split and splintered and splattered, just because their entertainer went astray, or went away, or was called to another pulpit. If we, by pure gospel, convert them to Christ they will serve Him when the circus has left the town.
Some will answer: “I’ll do anything to win men to Christ.” Shame on you! You have no such commission fromGod. We are told to preach the gospel everywhere. Matthew 28:19: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” And we are promised that it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” If God had ordained give-away tactics, they would be taught, or at least implemented in the Bible.
I’ve heard and read such statements as, “Christ motivated with earthly rewards.” That simply is not so. Every such thesis I have read is either a deliberate or an ignorant perversion of the scripture. A classic example is Matthew 10:42: “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” It is said, that here Jesus motivated with reward. That is Satanic perversion of scripture. He spoke of giving a cup of cold water, not in the name of reward, but in the name of a disciple. Can you not look back to verse 40 (“He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.”) and easily see that it was love, respect and acceptance of Jesus Christ, that was to motivate this, and not reward.
Jesus did set before men both heavenly and earthly rewards but in no place are the rewards held forth as motives. Love for God is the only worthy or Godly motive; and service done for reward, has no reward. Consider I Corinthians 3:12-15:
“Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” The thing condemned is the wrong foundation and carnality. I don’t see how anyone can fail to see that this passage teaches, that wrong motives categorize apparently good work, as wood, hay and stubble.
Consider Matthew 5:43 – Matthew 6:4: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou doest thine alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” These verses would plainly teach us of the danger of doing or leading men (or children) to do good works for the sake of earthly reward or notoriety. There are two main motives that are branded upon the hearts of children through this type of promotion: earthly reward and emulation. To get them to labor for earthly reward is to rob them of reward at the judgment seat, I Corinthians 3:13: “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” Emulation is clearly categorized as a “work of the flesh.” Galatians 5:19-20: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies.” The Bible plainly teaches that our motive for labor is to be love and that alone, but these cheap tactics distort and destroy this godly motive.
I am furthermore persuaded that these tactics never actually increase the number of converts. I know that many powerful preachers using these tactics have great numbers of converts. I believe though, that these men would have greatnumbers of converts without the cheap methods. I think also that if these men could compute the increase of number they“win” by these tactics they would know the number of false professions they will accumulate during their life.
WHERE THERE IS NO VISION: Scripture states that where there is no vision the people perish. I believe this with all my heart, and I believe there is a constant need for continual increase in the vision of every Christian. I need this andsincerely ask that every Christian who reads this tract, pray for me, that my vision may be increased. I believe though just as strongly that where the vision is wrong the people perish. May God get our eyes off visions of bubble gum, balloon dancers, bicycles, and other sundry garbage. Then give us a vision of the day when attendance to God’s house is coupled with godly fear and true visitation of the Holy Spirit.
It seems that churches everywhere
are doing things today
To try to bring their attendance up
by giving things away.
They’re running busses all over town
in a way they think is dandy
Giving all the boys and girls that ride
some bubble gum or candy.
And maybe they’ll have a contest,
give the winner a free plane ride
Or offer them a ten-speed bike that
would make one swell with pride.
God does not use this kind of plan
to save one from his sin
But uses visitation
to bring the sinner in.
So if you’re using this unscriptural plan
perhaps you had better stop
Or your rewards in heaven
might be just a lollipop.