Here’s a bit of what’s up in my life. After a fabulous 6 years serving in Southern Minnesota my family has moved to the Fargo/Moorhead area to begin a new season of ministry.
As I began, I recognized that one of my first priorities aside from understanding the various ministry roles that I get to have is to get to know people. And that task is a bit overwhelming because I’m serving in a multi-campus context with a large number of students.
Now, before I tell you what I’ve done, let me get you to think about buying a car and going to the car dealership to buy a car. If you’re like me, before you’ve even walked in the door of the dealership you’ve done some research online. Perhaps you went to Consumer Reports website or you looked at a copy of “Car And Driver” with a hope to educate yourself.
And then as you widdle through the options you begin to see certain models that impress you or fit into your budget. And eventually you come to a place where you’ve done as much homework as you can and you’re ready to hit the dealership showroom.
So you make your way over to the showroom and deep down there is a hope inside of you that it might be possible to simply walk the showroom floor without a salesman coming over to pressure you into buying a car.
And then you find the car that you looked at online. It’s around the same price as what you saw and has many of the same features.
And then it happens. Mr. Car Salesman hunts you down and he starts making small talk. Deep down you remain guarded and wishing he wasn’t there.
And then the salesman asks if you want to take the car for a test drive. There’s a part of you that wants to… and there is a part of you that wants to run out the door.
But you agree and soon you’re behind the wheel headed down the highway. And that’s when things switch into another gear. As you’re driving the salesman starts to tell you about all the features and as soon as he has won you over and he knows that you’re going to seriously consider buying this car… and soon he starts telling you about the upgraded version.
Not only does the upgraded car have a back-up camera… it will even back up for you. It’s got the BOSE stereo system. The warranty is for an extra year and he names how all the reviews give it way more praise then the model you’ve been looking at.
The sales tactic that the salesperson employed is called “bait and switch.” And the premise is to simply put something shiny in front of a prospective buyer, to real them in like a fish on a hook, and then to get them to buy something more than what they intended to buy.
Why did I take you through all that?
Because as I started to build relationships with some of the students in our new church, it is exactly what I for a few moments thought I was doing.
I wrote a number of parents and students who all went to the same school and told them I would be at their lunch hour with cupcakes. And just as I had hoped a dozen Jr. Highers came, said hi, chatted and got cupcakes and then 45 minutes later another dozen high school students came, grabbed cupcakes and a number even ate their lunch with me.
But, a part of me felt like I pulled off a “bait and switch” on those students. Maybe I did and maybe I didn’t but deep down I hope that they know that I sincerely simply just wanted to get to know them and that I look forward to serving them at our church.
Well, let’s kick this conversation up a notch. Have you ever planned an event and cleverly found a way to insert some sort of message into that event?
My answer – Yes I have. But over a decade ago after reading Doug Fields “Purpose Driven Youth Ministry” I got inspired to reevaluate my event planning. As I did I came to see that some events are good for simply building community, some to teach service, some to give opportunities to worship and some as outreach events aimed at sharing the gospel.
But a few years back I hosted a Super bowl Party and I billed it as an event for friends to hang out, watch the game, and eat food and things like that. After the event a well intentioned student told me that he had hoped I would have used the event to share the gospel with those there but I told him that I wanted the event to be that which was advertised and not something that it wasn’t.
While I want to teach and model the gospel repeatedly I have come to a place where I just don’t want to be a car salesman doing the good old “bait and switch.”
The gospel is not a gimmick and at this point in my life while I want anyone that I come into contact with to know Jesus, I want it to happen as a result of either dialoguing with that person or because they willing fully sat under some sort of teaching/preaching time.
As you process this here are some questions for your consideration:
- Have you ever used a “bait and switch” approach?
- As you read this post, how does its premise strike you?
- If you disagree with my premise, would you be willing to contact me and to share how you’ve come to your conclusions?
Let me leave you with this final thought. As I was thinking about all of this, I couldn’t help but think about how Paul writes so many churches in the New Testament and as he does, he does so out of an authentic desire to care for them. As well, he is honest and up front.
My point – There was no bait and switch.
If this gets you thinking or re-thinking about your methodology, then I am glad to have written this.
If you’re willing to share any feedback with me, please call me at 218-233-4048 or at mark@Ttriumphlbc.org