Easter equals winning?
NorthRidge church thinks using Charlie Sheen’s “winning” phrase makes them relevant and hip; I think they are merely pouring old wine into new wineskins.
The nondenominational NorthRidge Church has several billboards that read “NorthRidge + Easter = ‘winning!’” One church member says, if the ad campaign ”gets people’s attention and …draws them to Christ, then they worked,” according to a local news story.
The church’s Senior Pastor, Brad Powell, goes further. He blogged, “I think it’s absolutely essential that those of us who know Christ, the only valid path to ‘winning’, share Him with people who want it so badly but have lost their way…Yes, it sounds crazy. And, some people will probably be offended…(something that happened to Jesus a lot.)”
Generally speaking, when you compare yourself to Jesus, you are probably on the wrong path. Also, when you use an addict who has admitted to assaulting his wife as a come-on to your Easter service, you might want to re-think things.
Easter is about transformation, about dying to one way of life and beginning a new path. Had Mr. Sheen experienced such a transformation, he might be a good candidate for an Easter message. Since he is still on tour, bragging about his hard-partying lifestyle, he serves as only the “before” example. And aren’t there plenty of us who know the “before” already? We need the “after.”
Quoting a phrase from pop culture does not make a church relevant. Speaking to the issues of today, helping people find meaning and purpose in the confusion of the 21st century–finding a way to live into the “after”–that makes a church relevant.
Pastor Powell probably believes that he is doing that; he blogs, “Church can and should be authentic – a place where people can genuinely get to know God and His truth, move past their failures and experience the hope and promises of God.” But the “truth” that he teaches is the same old harmful message that we humans are inherently sinful, and the only thing we can/must do is believe in Jesus–and if our life is not going right, we are not believing strongly enough. In my understanding, this is *not* “winning.”
Especially at Easter time, I want to hear a message of transformation. I need validation that modern life is difficult; I need to be challenged to risk being changed; I need a community that will seek transformation together; and I need some proof that positive change can and does occur, all around us.
When lives are actually being changed–inside and outside the church walls–then cutting-edge ad campaigns are not necessary. If we are offering real experiences of “the hope and promise of God” (however you translate that), our spiritually famished human cousins will find us. Easter is not about advertising; it is not about “winning.” Easter is about awakening to the potential within us and embodying that hope as deeply and as frequently as possible.
So may we be.