Ultimate Giveaway - a critique

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This week I received an email from a friend asking what I thought about Bay Area Fellowship’s (a thriving church in Corpus Christi, TX.) Easter promo.  From their website this is the promo for Easter Sunday…


"YOU are the next winner of The Ultimate Giveaway! That's right...With nearly $1 MILLION in prizes and giveaways, this Easter, everyone will win something at Bay Area Fellowship! And, wait...that's not all. Each service we're giving away FREE FLATSCREENS, LAPTOPS...and CARS!!! Be here beginning April 1 (, this is no April Fool's joke). This is the real deal! No tricks, strings or fine print! Show up and let Bay Area Fellowship bless YOU this Easter!"


This church is promising to giveaway a million dollars in prizes and giveaways in conjunction with their new sermon series by the same name.  In an interview the pastor, Bil Cornelius, stated this giveaway is designed to help people see how great the gift of Heaven is.  If you love winning a car or new guitar just imagine how wonderful heaven is!


A part of me (a marketing major in college) loves the creativity and applaud the “out-of-the-box” thinking.  However, this is a situation where I have to draw a line.  So I have prepared the 5 reasons why I disagree with Bay Area Fellowship’s “Ultimate Giveaway.”


1. The gospel needs NO help.  It would be easy for any Christian who loves people and longs to see in a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ to want to sweeten the deal of Salvation.  The problem is any attempt to “sweeten” it actually results in damage to the very Gospel we promote.  The gospel needs NO help.  We must remember that the Word of God is “living and active;” it actually carries power and does not need a “spoon full of sugar” to attract takers.  We must fight hard to preach a complete Gospel.  Especially as we approach Easter we should consider the brutal death of Jesus on the cross not only as securing a place in heaven but as a picture of the life we are to live here.  As Paul writes in Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Yes we “gain” when we die, but THIS life is Christ…the suffering servant…the one who lays does His life for others.  Is this the Gospel we preach?


2. The tail of creativity wagging the dog of mission.  I am a creative guy, I love the out-of-box thinking which is partly why I am intrigued by this campaign.  However, “out-of-box” thinking is not the mandate of the Church.  Jesus, in Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  Creativity must not overshadow the mission we are on.  A good question is, “does this idea make the gospel message more clear or more confusing?” I must say giving away $40,000 cars could send mixed signals.


3. Misleading Salvation.  True, salvation is FREE and given to us by God through Jesus Christ.  However, this salvation we are given is clearly one that includes a life that denies self and even suffers for the cause of Christ. I find it very misleading to link salvation with the material things of this world.  Jesus on more than one occasion spoke of giving away possessions in order to follow Him.  This does not mean material things are sinful but they can easily become the idols of our lives and true believers (at least in America) MUST face the materialism question at some point.  Are we willing to let go of the material things we have simply because we dare not risk idolatry in our hearts?


4. A HUGE missed opportunity. I want to be careful here because I know we can all point fingers on virtually any church’s use of resources.  The easy and frankly hypocritical criticism is “those dollars should be spent differently!”  Every church and for that matter every person cannot stand with this kind of subjective response.  However, I would propose that “The Ultimate Giveaway” missed a possible HUGE opportunity…the poor.  I can only imagine the radical impact that this church could have made if a million dollars were invested in the surrounding communities in need.  Again, our church spends money that could be criticized as well, nevertheless we should all consider opportunities to invest in our immediate needy communities.


5. The message of the Church is Christ. In 1 Corinthians 2:2 Paul writes, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  Although I feel I have made this point clear by now, I must dedicate special attention to it. The church must not emphasize any benefit of salvation, any experience, any feeling or emotion to the exclusion of or in competition with the good news of Christ and Him crucified.  Everything hangs on Jesus.  I pray we all and especially Bay Area Fellowship considers this passage as we head into Easter this weekend.  Call me old-fashioned or traditional or irrelevant (all terms that make me cringe)…when we lift him up HE will draw all men unto himself.


To close…I am not against Bay Area Fellowship – I simply feel this move is over the line.  I hope many people trust Jesus as Lord and Savior this weekend in Corpus Christi.  I hope I’m wrong about “The Ultimate Giveaway” stunt.  I hope I will watch my own life and message closely.  I hope this makes sense.  AS

Posted by Andy Savage at 4:50 PM
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