Jesus Did not Wear a "Kick Me" Sign

Yesterday evening I checked my mailbox. Junk mail. As usual.

But this time, one of the advertisements caught my eye. It was a postcard from a church in my area—an invitation to their special Easter services. The front of the advertisement read: “We’re nearly as harmless as, well…a bunny.” Followed by a picture of one of those marshmallow “peeps.” I kid you not. I flipped the card over and read:

Does the thought of going to church make you uneasy, even a little queasy? Maybe you’re worried about what to wear or what others will think. At ______, we’ve worked really hard to make your experience non-threatening, beneficial, and even fun. We have a no-pressure, laid-back style and everyone is welcome! Stop by one of our ten Easter Services… it will be more than you expected and everything you’ve been looking for. Wear whatever you want, just be yourself. We’ll have the coffee ready for you.

Now, I’m not aware of a single church that wants to come across as threatening, miserable, and a waste of time. I have no problem with churches that work hard on being welcoming. And I really appreciate good coffee. But something about their whole presentation seemed, frankly … a bit pathetic: “Don’t be scared of us! We’re not that bad! We’re ‘harmless’! We’re nicer and more comfortable than all those other stiff, meanie churches.”

I know there are many “Christians” who have done horrible things in the name of Jesus. I know there are countless individuals who have been hurt by churches. Those situations are sad and should not be swept under the rug. But still…it seems to me that some churches spend way too much time apologizing and trying to “fit in.” Like the kid in high school who will do anything to get friends—only to find out those “friends” mock him behind his back for being so insecure.

Last week I came across the website of a church in Ann Arbor. Their “About Us” page reads:

Church: a word that has been around for thousands of years, with so many meanings to different people. You do not need to throw out your definition of church, but try ours on for size. At ______, church is about people. It’s about you. So we accept you just as you are: church background or not, student, single, married, single again, with or without kids, rich, poor, young, old, whatever, we are about real relationships, relevant speakers, real life stories and rockin’ music.

I resonate with some of that statement. I’m all about churches being welcoming and relevant. Nothing is more relevant than the gospel! But again, it comes across as a bit pathetic: “Try ours on for size”?!?

It reminds me of an observation by William Murchison I read at Kevin DeYoung’s blog the other day:

“Oh, please, approve of me”—the usual message of modern Christian churches—makes a feeble substitute for “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” The trouble with Christianity is not flamboyance of conviction. The trouble is paucity of conviction, flaccidity, the turned cheek replaced by a “Kick Me” sign. (William Murchison, Mortal Follies, p. 206)

My purpose is not to sit here and point fingers at other ministries. We will all give account of our own ministries before our Master (Rom. 14:4, 12). But the two examples I referenced (and many others) make me think about our own church and how we ought to represent the convergence of grace and truth that Christ displayed. The spirit of our age seems to be: “If it sounds harsh, it’s not loving.” However, the Jesus who said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28, NIV) is the same Jesus who also said,

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matt. 10:34-39)

And:

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: “No servant is greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. (John 15:18-20)

Here’s the point: let’s represent Christ well. We must certainly do that by welcoming visitors in love. In fact, we must go beyond that and seek the lost! But we do not represent Christ well by portraying him as milquetoast and insecure. A true encounter with him will radically change you forever. He is not “harmless.”


Mike Moses is a passionate follower of Jesus Christ. He married Bethany on December 19, 2009! Mike serves as Director of Ministries at Harvest Bible Chapel in Canton, MI and is in his final semester of the M.Div. program at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. Mike blogs at The Convergence.

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There are 15 Comments

allenjs's picture

"Kick me" is not the best analogy. The "I kiss on the first date" t-shirts are a better analogy:

The t-shirts with the fat kid are most evocative, though completely inappropriate for Church. Reading Aaron Blumer arguing that the Pope should allow priests to marry to make the Church more "popular", reminds me exactly of that fat kid and his t-shirt about what he's willing to do on the first date.

Edited to remove link to google image search, which included images we would not encourage readers to view.

rogercarlson's picture

MIke,
I loved the article.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

allenjs wrote:
Reading Aaron Blumer arguing that the Pope should allow priests to marry to make the Church more "popular"

I didn't argue that the Pope should do anything. We were talking about likely results.
http://sharperiron.org/article/pope-between-rock-and-hard-place#comment-...

This article illustrates what I was talking about in the pope thread. If churches start to think in terms of "How can we make ourselves more appealing to larger numbers of people?" they find that they are able to draw bigger crowds, but that doesn't make it right.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Thanks for sharing it with us, Mike. I was writing up an ad for our church today (for some events later in April), and your piece prompted some further reflection on how we're coming across.

Mike Moses's picture

I just come across a church whose slogan is: [URL=http://www.graceplacechurch.com/ "You won't hate us! We promise!"[/URL ] Seriously. Wow.

Once again: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: “No servant is greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also."
- Jesus (John 15:18-20)

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

At our church website we do have something that almost approaches the whole inferiority complex attitude... a page about how Baptist church worship might not be as weird as you think. It's a bit tongue in cheek, though. And no apologies for being what we really are.

ssutter's picture

it's tricky because the Bible doesn't assume a prior knowledge about Christianity. Clearly Paul wasn't writing to non-Christians who had a lot of inaccurate information about Christians. I think that if Paul was writing maybe he'd write stuff like.

"Don't hate us for marrying our siblings!" or "We don't really drink human blood, and eat human flesh!"

Would Paul write something like the above? -Maybe? - There's obviously nothing wrong with being hated for being a Christian - but Paul wants to make sure that the CROSS is the stumbling block. I don't mind making sure that people don't hate us for the wrong reasons as long as the real stumbling block is upfront and center!

_______________
www.SutterSaga.com

Mike Moses's picture

Good point, Sam, and I agree. But clarification about our churches being harmless should be a footnote. Christ is the main point. And that's not the sense I get when I visit these churches' websites. I'm not opposing the ministry of these churches at all, I just wish they would realize that they come across as really insecure. If Christ is lifted up, He will draw people to Himself. (See my [URL=http://theconvergenceblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/jesus-christ-admirable-co... follow-up post[/URL ].)

ssutter's picture

...that it's always wrong or a sign of insecurity to begin an attack by disarming the weapons of an enemy. If the problem in some cases is bad information or experiences in churches, why not start there?

_______________
www.SutterSaga.com

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Starting there, maybe. But how many of these groups ever get past there? We don't really know, I guess. I'd rather start with the part that Paul described as the power of God for salvation to the Jew first and also to the Greek. But Paul didn't exactly "start there" at Athens and even Stephen's sermon (that got him killed so... not a model of good marketing Wink ) has quite a long intro before he gets to Jesus Christ.
So the case can certainly be argued both ways.

Mike Moses's picture

Perhaps the ministries I've referenced have discerned that the main reason people in their area don't attend church is because of past hurts. I suppose disarming that objection up-front is their way of "exegeting the culture," and I don't doubt that they've put a lot of thought into it.

However, what you win people with is what you win them to. Perhaps the "hurt" some have felt in their past experiences with church was nothing more than taking offense at unapologetic preaching of the Word. Perhaps it was a legitimate church discipline situation in which they were at fault. Perhaps they were just plain too sensitive and forgot that others in church are sinners in need of patience as well. By advertising your church with "We promise you won't hate us, we're harmless," you open the door to all kind of false expectations in those kinds of people. They'll expect you to never preach a confrontational message, never address sin through church discipline, and never make the slightest mistake in dealing with people.

As I wrote in the article, "I know there are many 'Christians' who have done horrible things in the name of Jesus. I know there are countless individuals who have been [unnecessarily ] hurt by churches. Those situations are sad and should not be swept under the rug." Of course we should make every effort to love and care for people as shepherds.

But....make sure Christ is the main point. Always. Win them with Christ, and they'll be won to Christ.

Mike Moses's picture

Aaron, even though Paul (Acts 17) and Stephen (Acts 7) didn't start with Christ, they both started with God. First vertical, then horizontal. Have churches represented God wrongly? Yes. So what should we do in response? Represent Him rightly. It's always about Him. The best way to love people is to bring them to God (1 Jn 4:7-12).

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I appreciate the strength of your conviction on this point (even though I may personally lean a tiny bit more toward the flexibility Sutter alluded to).
It's refreshing.

Quote:
However, what you win people with is what you win them to.

Well said! Deserves a whole article/essay (maybe a whole book).
Care to submit one (article, not book!) for the [URL=http://sharperiron.org/article/2010-sharperiron-writing-contest ]contest[/URL ]?

Mike Moses's picture

Thanks for the invite, Aaron - I'll have to evaluate whether my schedule will allow me to submit an essay. I would like to.

I've probably been coming across as ultra-traditional/conservative. Actually, in many ways I'm not. I'm all for flexibility, creativity, and progressiveness - in certain areas and to a certain extent. However, I wholeheartedly reject the "seeker" church philosophy of ministry, and that philosophy is rampant in our area. It seems to me that the latest "fad" among seeker churches is to apologize for what some churches have done over the years. I've noticed at least a half-dozen examples of that in my area alone. That's why the Murchison quote I referenced really struck me:

Quote:
“Oh, please, approve of me”—the usual message of modern Christian churches—makes a feeble substitute for “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” The trouble with Christianity is not flamboyance of conviction. The trouble is paucity of conviction, flaccidity, the turned cheek replaced by a “Kick Me” sign. (William Murchison, Mortal Follies, p. 206)

My conscience is bound to Paul's straighforward philosophy of ministry as seen in Second Corinthians 2-6:

Quote:
For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. (2:17)

We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. (4:2)

We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (5:20)

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