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In a time when churches are losing members by the hundreds, the chosen way to keep them coming is by creating an attraction.  I remember going to an amusement park that was split up into two parts, the rides and the petting zoo.  The sign at the fork in the amusement park road on one side said Zoo, on the other side it said “This way to the attractions.”  You know what attractions are don’t you?  They are the rides that shuttle people in through winding walking trails and cause us to want to almost tempt death itself by riding them.  But, we still want to ride them for the thrill.  Sometimes people will wait for 2 hours just to get on a 20 second ride, and if the line isn’t too long they will go again and again.  They even offer “fast track” to get back on the attraction faster because we think it is so cool.  Those attractions will lure us into spending $50-$100.00 for tickets to walk around in the heat in a mass of people just to get a chance to ride something that is heart stirring and exciting.  Oh everything is real good until somebody gets hurt.  I remember going to Silver Dollar City as an eighth grader (yes, they had electricity back then) and riding the “Runaway Mine Train.”  It was so good about half way through the ride I would think “Is this thing really going to run away?”  I would ride that ride probably 20 times every time we went to the park and could have ridden it more if they would  have stayed open a little longer.  Word got back to us a couple of years later that the “Runaway Mine Train” had malfunctioned and went to a holding area for the cars when there were people on the ride.  The only problem with it going to the holding area was there was low hanging pipe that was not designed for people to be able to clear it.  You guessed it.  A guy on the back train car got  his head cut off with that pipe.  The news was disastrous for me.  I never rode the “Runaway Mine Train” again. Why?  Because I thought it could malfunction when I was on it and I didn’t want to take any chances.  The attraction became a distraction for me and anyone else wanting to ride the ride.  In visiting people for the Lord I will come upon a person every now and then that voices their opinion about certain things going on in most churches and I listen and try to offer up some kind of explanation that will help soothe their hurt feelings.  One such man I visited shared about a certain church that he called the Las Vegas Church.   He went on to tell me that in that church he felt like he was watching a “floor show” and that the pastor’s message was more of a massage for those who were wanting to hear words that would make his members feel better.  He used the words “pretty weak.”  Of course, his observation was from a very slanted perspective, so I brushed off what he said as pure conjecture.  But was it?  The attraction that made that church who they were became a distraction.  No heads cut off, but hearts not stirred by God’s Word.  He said he would never go back.  Somewhere along the line the church leadership decided that preaching user friendly messages and putting on a floor show, complete with dancers, was a better approach to reaching people than lifting up the name of the Lord and preaching His Word as it is.  The result was a larger number of people attending, but not much  spiritual depth or life change in those attendees.  A rule of thumb is this “What you use to get people there is what you will have to continue to use to keep them there!”  The writer of Proverbs said it this way in Proverbs 14:12  “There’s way that looks harmless enough; look again- it leads straight to hell.  Sure, those people appear to be having a good time, but all that laughter will end in heartbreak (The Message)”  I guess that last statement is the pipe in the holding area that no one can escape because they are locked in to the attraction itself. Disney is a nice place to visit, but I don’t want to put any roots there.  It is an attraction and very shallow at best.  That’s why we go for the children because it is for the immature and childish.  Paul spoke about growing to maturity this way in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I used to talk as a  child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.”  It’s time to think in a much more mature way when it comes to church and all we should be as the church.  Be real, but be Biblical.

Sadly enough churches have taken on this “attractions” mentality to do whatever they can to  attract people to come and visit.  I will say that even the best of attraction churches don’t have people lined up at the door waiting to get in (except maybe Hillsong NYC).  The thrill of those wanting to see an attraction isn’t enough to get the masses to come and try it out, so we try to give things away….Wow.  That was a big step in the wrong direction.  We end up feeding the very thing we preach and teach against in our attempt to get the people in the door.   Oh I believe in creativity when reaching people and I also believe we should use tools that are available to be current and relevant.  Sometimes it can get just a little out of hand though.  I love Disney World and would go there often if the funds were available.  I would walk through the park built around make believe characters and make believe stories that capture our kids imagination.  I have done that by the way.  They are the marketing capitals of the world and I bet their upper management planning meetings are laced with all kinds of ways to get us hooked on the latest, greatest thing.  They are experts in marketing and controlling the masses through manipulation and that marketing surely works as we go back again and again. So, is that what it takes to get people in to church.  I heard one guy say, “I will do whatever it takes to get people in the church doors!!”  It sounds noble, but maybe very lacking when it comes to the reality of what people need in their lives.  To compromise the message means something has to give somewhere.   When I was a kid my brother in law introduced me to “trolling.”  You know, fishing from the back of the boat as it moves forward and takes your lure at slow speed past unsuspecting fish in the lake.  I remember Ralph telling me, “Don’t troll too deep or you will get hung up on the bottom.”  That was a good lesson for all of us in church life today.  Don’t dip our ways of reaching people too deep in the pool of mediocrity and worldliness because we may get hung up on something that will break our line and stop the fishing altogether.  Jesus said in Matthew 4:19 “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  He wasn’t talking about getting them to come to a “kickin floor show.”  He was talking about sharing the message one on one with everyone they met because the message was from God and it had all the attraction one would need. So, what is our greatest attraction.  How bout the Holy Spirit in our lives?  When you accept Jesus Christ you receive the Holy Spirit and that is your greatest attraction to a lost and dying world.  John 14: 25 “I have told you this while I am with you  The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name- he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”  In our attempt to be relevant and reach the masses may we never forget Jesus and His power.  Without that power we are nothing anyway, so we should use the pure source and not a borrowed one to attract people to Him.  Because contrary to the Disney Song  “It’s a BIG world after all….” The Pilgrimage continues….. David Warren

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