Category Archives: Church Marketing

Word Up, Timmy

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1 Tim 4:13, ESV)

The public reading of scripture was of such importance to Paul that he told Timothy to devote himself to it. It’s clear from the context that Paul was telling Timothy to read large sections of scripture and teach and plead with the people on what was being read. Paul was not telling Timothy to decide what he wanted to give a sermon on and then choose 3 or 4 scriptures to back up what he was teaching on.

My oldest daughter is taking a comparative religions class in college and as part of her assignments has had to attend a Jewish synagogue and a Catholic church service. This morning was the day she needed to attend the Catholic service, so her and I attended a service at the Catholic church in downtown Fort Worth, Texas. We had never attended a Catholic service. I’ve spent most of my life in a couple of Pentecostal denominations and have pretty much raised my kids likewise.

As probably most people are aware, a Catholic service contains a lot of rituals, common prayers, and the like. In other words, the service is more formal than anything I’ve ever been a part of. We saw a lot of different things this morning. Much of it I was expecting, like the huge backlit Virgin Mary statue hovering over the platform…..at least 3 times the size of the Jesus below her.

The one thing we say that I wasn’t expecting, however, was the large amount of scripture being read. There were large portions from Acts, 1 Timothy, and 1 John. For lack of better words, the priest read and explained at length the entire chapter of 1 John 1.

I spent eight out of the last ten years in one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the world. A denomination that prides itself in the inerrancy of scripture. As well, I spent a great part of the last two years searching for a new church home. We tried all kinds of churches in our journey. The one thing that stood out in our church search was the almost complete lack of exactly what Paul instructed Timothy to do….the public reading of scripture.

Now I know if any of those pastors of the churches we’ve attended were asked, they would be certain that they were devoting themselves to the public reading of scripture and teaching. But they weren’t. Sadly, neither are very many in the U.S. churches of today. A 45 minute sermon where a few scriptures are used to explain or back up what you are teaching is not teaching through scripture.

Obviously, I’m not advocating the beliefs of the Catholic church. Their beliefs regarding salvation, the Pope’s earthly role, the forgiveness of sins, among others are just plain unbiblical. However, I listened intently to the priest’s teaching on 1 John, chapter 1, and it was pretty spot on.

It’s a pretty sad testament to the state of the American church when I heard more scripture being read and explained verse-by-verse in a Catholic church than can be heard in the overwhelming majority of Evangelical churches in America today. How can we expect anything else other than unbiblical nonsense when the shepherds of God’s flock won’t allow almost as much of God’s written word to flow from their mouths as their own words?

If Paul said not to neglect the public reading of scripture, then why is your pastor or church doing it?

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Just for your entertainment pleasure, below is a typical example of a sermon outline used in churches that have been trained by Saddleback Church, pastored by Rick Warren in Southern California. This sermon delivery method is designed to be focused on the felt needs of the congregation rather than the true biblical Gospel. Notice how little of the Word of God is used. Remember, this is basically a 45-minute sermon that is used to teach a subject of the pastor’s choosing with Bible verses used to back up his teaching.

Typical Seeker Sensative Sermon Outline

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Not That Kind of Rock

I ran across this article here about a church in Mill Creek, Washington that is coming under fire from its neighbors in the surrounding housing about the volume of its music during worship services. In yet another distorted witness to the world about the true character of Jesus, this church is choosing to demand their rights rather that take the high ground and make some modifications to the volume levels.

Over a year ago, I had written a blog post here about this same “church”, Gold Creek Community Church. The stunt they were using back then was to tattoo a person on stage as a means of some sort of sermon illustration.

Over the years, this church, using man-centered techniques to draw a largely young hip crowd, has grown significantly. The growth has been so large that during Sunday morning worship services the police are required to direct traffic. Strangely enough, the neighbors have no complaint about the traffic, just the loud music.

All the church has to do is turn down the bass, said neighbor Lou DeFranza. The bass is so loud and pulsing it rattles and vibrates their homes.

The neighbors aren’t complaining about such things as increased traffic from the church. It’s mostly the bass, not even the actual music, he said.

In a classical “Gawd Bless America” response from the church leadership their freedom of speech rights are held up rather the servant heart of Jesus Christ:

“Gold Creek is a Christian Church and we believe our First Amendment right is freedom of religion,” Ehoff wrote to Ronglien. “You have said ‘just turn it down,’ but I want to worship in the way I want to worship and I don’t want someone else to tell me how I can do it.”

According to the article, however, I guess Mr. Ehoff has a very loose definition of just what worship is:

On Sunday, Ehoff, dressed in black jeans, T-shirt and a hoodie, sang “Rope,” a rock hit by the Foo Fighters, and Kellogg based his sermon on hanging onto God as the ultimate rope. As he spoke, images of rock climbers played on the screen behind him.

I couldn’t sleep the other night so I got out of bed and went into the living room to watch some TV. As is always my habit on the mornings I can’t sleep, I first turn to the “christian” TV channels to see the “heretics on parade” at that time of the morning. I never watch it for long because it actually turns my stomach, but at 4:00 AM it’s a good time to watch the televangelists that are really “out there” beyond even the fringe of sound biblical teaching.

This particular morning there was a show on with Juanita Bynum, the self-proclaimed “prophetess”. She was screaming and prancing before a jam-packed stadium of some sort. It looked like it was as large as a football stadium. Juanita was screaming in tongues, prancing in a stance just like a prairie chicken, and wearing long white robes.

I watched as Juanita made a complete mockery of God for around 10 minutes or so without ever a bit of biblical teaching coming from her mouth. During this entire time, there were literally thousands thronging the stage, hands in the air. I was amazed that this woman could pack this huge stadium just like a rock star………then it hit me.

They weren’t worshipping Jesus. They were worshipping her and her image. They weren’t drawn together around the unity of the Holy Spirit, they were drawn to her showmanship.

I didn’t start this post out to go off on Juanita Bynum. That morning I was watching her I realized something, though

If she could draw 50,000 or 60,000 people to one event and there are literally hundreds just like her all across the world doing the same thing, and there are literally thousands of churches of just like Gold Creek CC in Mill Creek, WA playing their games without any understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ at all, this great apostasy the Bible speaks of is already here. America is already under a great delusion.

On any given Sunday there are millions in America thronging to watch a carefully orchestrated show put on by pastors who are under the delusion that they are somehow able to “convince” someone to follow Jesus Christ with their personal skills and talents rather than the Gospel. It’s a lie from the pit of Hell, and it’s here. It’s infiltrated and infected the overwhelming majority of churches in America, which is the media outlet to the rest of the world. This in turn is how the rest of the world is becoming infected. In other words, If satan can deceive America, the rest of the world follows suit.

We are at a time where we all need to understand the Gospel like never before. It’s not accepting Jesus into your heart. It’s not speaking in tongues. It’s not helping the poor or feeding the hungry. It’s the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the repentance and forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. It’s God’s sovereignty in all things.

Search the scriptures. Put the latest Christian authors down and turn off  TBN. We each need to get back to the basics of the faith and what the first apostles taught. We need to hear it every Sunday.

I can assure you no staged tattoo session, guitar solo, or chicken dance ever ushered anyone into heaven. Only through the desperate realization of our sinfulness before a holy God through the preaching of the Gospel has anyone ever entered the Kingdom.

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This Is Such A Good Donut, I Guess I’ll Repent

After reading these articles here and here, I was reminded about a time in our former church where we realized we had grown to inwardly focused and our pastor wanted us to reach out to our community.

We cooked up this plan to “share the love of Christ” by buying a bunch of bottled water with custom labels of our church logo on them. We went out to the park and handed out these bottles of water and “shared the Gospel” with people. The truth is, however, there wasn’t really any true gospel shared with anyone. It went off more like a clever marketing technique.

Another time, we went around and found people during the week whose lawn needed a good mowing and on Saturday, teams of mowers would go around and mow these lawns. We even had a “public relations” guy who contacted the local paper and we even took a video crew along with some of the mowers. We did ask most of these people if they needed prayer for anything before we left, but again very little gospel was shared.

Although I was a new Christian at the time, I remember being confused about these “outreaches”. They seemed to me like we were more into tooting our own horn than sharing the gospel. In all honesty, even though I didn’t understand why at the time, I was a little sick to my stomach about both events.

For a couple of years now, my former church has had a program of distributing half price food. In other words, people pre-order $20 boxes of food and receive approximately $40 of groceries. The food certainly will sustain life, but it’s low quality processed food that goes a long way toward contributing to a whole list of health problems. During these distributions, not one mention of the gospel.

This is one area where I struggle to understand what our role, as Christians, is in the area of “humanitarian aid”. There’s a host of organizations, the Peace Corps for example, that provide humanitarian aid without one ounce of gospel. In other words, is handing someone a bottle of water “the gospel”?

It seems to me like so many, if not most, of our Christian outreach programs resemble something more of a secular “bait and hook” marketing technique or even worse, something that placates our consciences to ease our guilt for not actually confronting the lost with the true gospel.

I’m aware the Bible tells us to care for the felt needs of our fellow-man. But what’s the limit? As the articles linked above state, what good does it do for someone to head into Hell with a nice set of clothes and a full stomach?

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Six one, Half Dozen the Other

Almost since the Church began in the first century there’s been those that would taint the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and add their own twist to it. Some add to it for monetary gain. Others add to it in order to feel comfortable about themselves. Still more add to it to gather a bunch of followers for yet a multitude of other reasons…..ego or whatever.

One of the latest distortions of the true gospel has been the Emergent Church movement. It attempts to make the gospel relevent, cool, and hip in order to reach a younger crowd; the twenty-somethings that are falling away from churches and have no interest any longer in Christianity or those who merely think church is boring. It’s believed by these Emergent Church folks that if they can only “do church” a certain way, that more people will want to come to church and therefore make a decision to follow Jesus Christ.

One of the leaders of this Emergent Church movement is a man named Rob Bell. He’s written a book that, from my understanding, questions the Biblical view of Hell and whether a loving God would truly send people there.  This view is known as “Universalism” and basically means that everybody gets to go to heaven, no matter what, because that’s really the reason Jesus died on the cross, so everyone can go.

Although Rob Bell is the one taking a lot of the heat right now, he’s not the only one. There are others like a man named Jay Bakker, son of the former televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. It’s my understanding that Jay Bakker is a man that believes that those that are practicing the sin of homosexuality will also go to heaven. And still there are others like this church here in Southern California that recently ordained two female lesbian priests. This church believes not only homosexuals can be church leaders but they too embrace an “everybody gets to go to heaven” sort of theology.

As I began to think about what seems like tsunami of liberalism bearing down on the true Church (those that have repented and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ and have died themselves and are now slaves of Christ) I began to think that there’s even a more subtly dangerous form of liberalism that’s already invaded our churches.

The ordination of homosexual pastors, the preaching of Universalism theology, the teaching that Muslims, Hindus, new-agers, and others who are not followers of Jesus Christ will go to heaven, along with other non-biblical beliefs are all things that no doubt are wrong. But what about this list of things that I’ve personally witnessed in church myself ?

For instance:

  • An unmarried young lady getting pregnant out of wedlock and being allowed, along with her new boyfriend, to become youth leaders in the youth group.
  • A man who has never attended a Sunday morning church service in two years of “coming to church” being allowed to serve as a leader in the boy’s ministry on Wednesday night.
  • A young couple, currently going through marital troubles due to the husband’s use of pornography, being allowed to be leaders of a home group ministry.
  • A man, whose temper is notorious and whose outbursts of profanity during church softball games are well-known throughout the church, being allowed to serve as a deacon.
  • A couple who openly embrace theology similar to the Universalism theology I spoke of earlier, leading the evangelism and outreach ministry of the church.
  • Another individual, who has attended the church for approximately 9 years, but hasn’t attended an actual church service for over four years, being allowed to not only be a voting member, but being a leader in a boys ministry on Wednesday night.

A church may hold a traditional, orthodox view of scripture in its beliefs such as the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and His atonement for sin and even occasionally teach these things from the pulpit. But what if, in the interest of being afraid of losing members, unrepentant sin becomes almost a normal form of behavior in the church.? What if the congregation of a church goes nearly a year in between presentations of the Gospel message while in between, the messages consist mainly of “your best life now” sermons? What if all forms of discipleship are cut off such as bible studies and Sunday school so the hearing of the truth becomes a rarity?

 People in a church congregation such as this could go years without ever feeling a twinge of quilt over their sin. 

This church may hold a traditional, orthodox, Evangelical view of scripture, but through practice aren’t they essentially the same as a church that’s openly preaching a liberal view of theology? In a way they’re even more deceiving.

I spent nearly 8 years in a church similar to this. We held a traditional Pentecostal view of theology. If you were to personally ask the pastor a theological question, he would give you a well thought out answer straight from scripture. But you would never hear it from the pulpit. Every sermon, every Sunday was the same old “Rick Warren with a twist of Joel Osteen thrown in for good measure” (except for Easter, that’s the one time of year a psudo-gospel presentation was made).

People came, were members for years, and because they may miss the one gospel presentation of the year, may have never heard a call to repentance. The first couple of years we came, there was at least Sunday School and Wednesday Bible studies, but that was discarded as too “old-fashioned”. The problem is, it was never replaced with anything else where scripture was studied.

It comes down to this: If the true gospel isn’t being preached and teaching straight from major sections of scripture isn’t the norm, then what’s the major difference between Rob Bell’s or Jay Bakker’s church and your “traditional Evangelical” church where the Gospel isn’t being preached every Sunday morning? If people aren’t squirming in their seats a little every Sunday morning yet feel comfortable openly engaging in unrepentant sin, then what’s the difference?

I’m sorry, I don’t see any difference myself.

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Tell You a Story ’bout a Man Named Jed

Jesus used parables to teach. I’ve read commentaries where people thought He did it to help it stick in people’s minds more. Some said it was to confuse the spiritually blind, and still others say it was due to the cultural methods of storytelling of His day. I’m not sure as to His reasons, but a good story does help bring to light things you might not otherwise consider.

I’m not sure what classifies a parable from any other type of story. I guess I could look it up, but I really don’t want to. I mean, what exactly is the length of a parable. When does it become a  story? A fable? A tale?

I’m going to attempt to tell in parable form something I’ve been contemplating for a while now. On Sunday morning, while singing hymns in our new church, I got the idea to tell it in a story, so here it is.

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In a small suburb of Dallas, Texas there lived a man named Jed.

Jed, along with his wife and two children, attended a local congregation  of a popular worldwide pentecostal (charismatic) denomination. Jed had a good job at a local engineering firm and his local church was alive and growing. Jed had what many feel was a pretty good life.

Jed’s local church had just built a new building and experienced growth as a result. Along with that growth brought many new faces and lots of new talents. As a result the worship team had grown significantly in skills and abilities. Additionally, people came who were skilled in computer graphics and the skills and abilities of these people began to be utilized during the worship (singing) part of the Sunday morning services. To come into a Sunday morning service with this great worship band and the sound, lights, and computer graphics was quite an experience.

Now back to Jed.

Jed’s boss also attended the same church as Jed. In fact, it was Jed who had invited his boss and shortly thereafter Jed’s boss raised his hand during a salvation invitation and “accepted Christ”. Although there was significant change in Jed’s boss, overall he was still the same difficult boss to deal with he had always been.

Overall his boss was good to Jed, but he would make crazy decisions and implement difficult policies at work. He would seemingly discipline co-workers for no reason and was just a difficult to understand type of boss; very difficult for Jed to grow close to. In general, Jed didn’t really like or understand his boss. He thought that if he was boss he could do a much better job.

Jed found it difficult to obey his boss’s seemingly strange commands and pointless policies. At every opportunity Jed did it his own way and covered it up to where his boss didn’t know.

Jed was a pretty smart guy, though. Because he attended church with his boss and because the engineering firm he worked for was a pretty tight-knit community, Jed was careful not to talk ugly about his boss openly, but he held his contempt for his boss in his heart. In fact Jed always spoke highly of his boss.

On Sunday mornings He would greet his boss with a hearty handshake. At the company Christmas parties he would say glowing things about the direction his boss was leading the company. Whenever Jed’s wife complained about Jed working late or how Jed’s boss was treating him, Jed defended his boss with “Well, he has a difficult job and is under a lot of stress”. 

Jed never missed an opportunity to “suck up” to his boss and sing his praises, just in case Jed might be the next in line to manage the engineering firm. Jed felt like all of the praises would someday result in his boss taking note and heaping a blessing of some sort on Jed. A raise. A promotion. A bonus.

All the while, though, Jed held his mistrust of his boss in his heart and couldn’t wait to one day receive his reward for faithful service to both the engineering firm and his boss.  He could settle in and live a better life. Be the big man. Be the boss and finally get to lead, run, direct things in a manner of his choosing.

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My family and I have been attending a new church now for around six weeks. It’s very traditional. They have Sunday school. The pastor wears a suit and preaches expository sermons from sections of scripture. And they sing hymns from a hymnal. You know, boring stuff. Stuff charismatic Christians hate.

As I sang the hymns this past Sunday I was taken back to our previous pentecostal (charismatic) church that we had dedicated so much a part of our lives to. The worship band was great. The sound and graphics were great. I loved singing and entering into what I knew at the time to be God’s presence. It was during those times of worship that I felt so close to God, so much alive.

People would weep, cry, kneel, and sway. It was always described as an “awesome time in the very presence of the Lord” and was often followed up by a prophecy of how the “sacrifice of praise” was a “sweet smelling aroma” to the Lord.

But then reality would set in. The fleshy lusts were the order of business in the church. An over-indulgence in food, spending, and sports were the order of the day. I can’t believe how many people I knew who were in crushing financial debt and thought it was normal. How many people who were severely overweight and laughed it off. How the church had to hire out the upkeep of the church. How they had to quit having men’s bible studies because of the lack of attendance.

But have a “movie night” or a showing of “the big game” along with pizza, and boy did the men come out of the woodwork.

Sunday school was cancelled. Sunday evening service was cancelled. Wednesday evening turned into a reading of whatever the current fad charismatic curriculum of the day happened to be, and even that became sparsely attended.

But Sunday morning, Oh sunday morning. How people would sing God’s praises for all the wonderful things He was doing. How they would tell God how wonderful, beautiful, awesome He was. Singing, swaying, crying, and raising their hands……..and on,  and on, and on. It would last for nearly half of the Sunday morning service.

Meanwhile, whispered in the background, was the mockery of the “Baptist” type of churches that didn’t “have the Spirit”. The ones that were dry and only sang hymns banged out on a piano. We sure were glad we didn’t attend on of THOSE types of churches. WE were led by the very Spirit of God.

As I sang my old dry hymns this past Sunday morning that were rich in scripture and spiritual truths, I contemplated back to our previous experiences in worship music. How the songs tugged at our hearts but were full of spiritual nonsense. How I would get worked into a frenzy and feel good about my relationship with God. About how people thought they were in the “very presence of God”, but always left unchanged. I thought of Jed and his boss.

You see, Jed was living a lie. He was singing his boss’s praises, but all the while he had no desire to be conformed into the image of his boss. Jed wanted to ultimately do it his way and thought if he sang enough of his boss’s praises and “blew enough smoke” at his boss, he would one day get his boss to take notice.

Ol’ Jed was full of “cow dung”.

Ol’ Jed saw sacrifice as more important than obedience, rather than the other way around. Which is how God sees it.

I can’t help but see this as a parallel to our modern worship services. No reverence. No awe. No desire to see that the words that are rolling out of our lips have true scriptural meaning and that we have a desire to actually do what they say from Monday throughout ALL of the week. Not just during the music show on Sunday morning.

I also can’t help but believe that God isn’t impressed with all of our boisterous “look-at-me-and-how-close-to-God-I-am” type of worship poses on Sunday mornings when our heart isn’t really all that into obeying His every command and feeding our lusts the rest of the time.

God’s not as impressed with “suck-ups” as we might like to think.

P.S.—Within about 30 mins or so of writing this post, I came across one written by Phil Johnson here that  drives home my point much more professionally. Please take a look at it.

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Christianity with my Flapjacks

As I was cooking some of my chocolate chip pancakes for the kids this morning, I opened up the paper and laid it out on the counter and flipped through it in between my flipping of the pancakes on the griddle. As I did this, I came upon the Religion section in my local paper and read the two articles I’ve shown photographs here in this post.

A couple of years ago an elderly woman at the previous church I attended asked me if I had seen a particular televangelist’s show on a “Christian” network the previous evening.  I told her that I watched very little “Christian” TV because I felt like those pretenders did more to damage Christianity than any of the secular TV shows out there. She said “Well, I don’t know about that!” and walked off in a huff.

I do know about that, though. Whether we want to admit it or not, every time we identify ourselves as a Christian to the world, we are judged by what the world sees on Christian TV.

Through “Christian” television and many of the megachurches that are behaving in similar manner to the televangelists, the world has come to believe we are a bunch of sexually perverted, money-grubbing clowns.

There is literally an entire generation growing up in churches that just doesn’t know what the Gospel is….oh, they proclaim it means the “good news”, but they aren’t preaching just what the good news is.

The church shown in the first photograph above are having what is called “Blue Christmas” services. People can come and light candles, sing hymns, and write their thoughts on a banner that will be the “center of their worship”….Funny, I thought Jesus was to be the center of our worship…not our problems.

The churches in the second photograph aim to draw people to the Christmas services with cool technology. I guess the thought is that if we have the coolest sound, lights, music, and video displays that people will FINALLY bow before their Savior Jesus and repent…..funny thing is, they aren’t being told that repentance is necessary.

The Gospel…that all important message of eternal life is being left out. It hurts me that the lifelong church attending kids that are my daughter Emily’s age around 16 years old have never heard the gospel. Never.

Oh, they’ve heard that Jesus loves them, that Jesus can help them with their problems, that he can help them in school and similar “slogans”…..but never the gospel.

You see, the bible says in Romans 1:16:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

The gospel is what saves. No gospel, no salvation.

All of the other stuff is just fluff designed to inflate the egos of men, for pastors to get “attaboys” from the congregation, and worst of all, to fill the pews for the purposes of having “bragging rights” to your fellow ministers at the local “ministerial alliance” meeting.

I’m afraid the “foxes are watching the henhouse”, folks, and I truly believe it’s time to turn off the Christian television and dust off that bible…..you might just be in for a shock to see what’s really in there.

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“Fighting” For the Faith

The other day, my wife and I received an e-mail from the youth pastor of the previous church we attended inviting our 15-year old daughter to the upcoming youth “food fight”, named “Crud Wars”. It was probably an errant email because we haven’t attended the church since the beginning of the year and to this date there has been no other attempt to contact us anyway. We were probably just still part of an address list.

Neverless, the errant e-mail merely cemented further why we left the church to begin with. It also brought back up why we are still so discouraged in finding another. A couple of posts here and here at Cerulean Sanctum about the state of youth ministry  in the American Church deals a little about we were seeing within the youth group at our previous church.

At far too many churches, youth service has tured into nothing more than play time without any gospel ever being presented. Oh, sure, there are sermons, more like talks, about “rockin your school for Jesus” or “being radical for Jesus” but no presentation on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus….you know…the gospel. Please don’t mis-understand me, I see nothing wrong with having fun in youth service; but at the expense of sound biblical teaching and gospel preaching, “fun” now rules the service.

Now on to the reason for the e-mail from our previous church.

Over the past several months, the pastor has been exhorting the entire congregation to get involved in helping out in the community. The sermon series he’s been presenting has been based on showing the love of Christ by serving others. Last week they had a churchwide event at a local homeless ministry where they go and serve the homeless meals. Most of the people that the homeless ministry serves have nothing. They eat only the food they obtain from the ministry. Our previous church thought it would be a good idea to show the love of Christ by serving food.

Now  the good part…..for the last several weeks, the youth ministry  of our previous church has collected food from the youth of the church. They have asked that canned goods, especially gooey ones like baked beans and pudding and ketchup be brought up to the church for an “outreach” (my term, not theirs) they will be doing. Sounds good so far. Sounds like sacrificial servant leadership. Until you find out that the food is being collected so that around 40 or so youth can get together and throw it at each other in one massive food fight.

So on Friday last week they serve starving homeless people food and by Wednesday they are throwing hundreds of pounds of food at each other in the name of entertainment.

Words fail me at the hypocrisy of a Christian wasting food in that manner in the name of  “being Jesus to the world” while at the same time getting all teary eyed at the thought of a starving homeless person.

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