Eugene Cho

Door prizes, iPads, pony rides, and gazillion eggs for Easter when the Gospel ought to be enough.

No doubt that Resurrection Sunday (or otherwise known to the masses as Easter) is one of the most significant event  and Sunday for the Church. While it wouldn’t be wise to reduce the totality of God’s narrative to one event…the death and resurrection of Christ is undoubtedly, crucial. Our faith and the credibility of the gospel hinges upon the historicity and veracity of the resurrection of Christ.

The Apostle Paul articulates this truth succinctly and powerfully:

“And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.” – 1 Corinthians 15:14

For this reason, Easter is often referred to as the Super Bowl for Christian churches.

As expected, a great amount of time, energy, ideas, and resources are invested into this weekend. And I get it. And I agree with it – in part.

It’s important and it’s understandable that churches are emphasizing this weekend and investing additional resources. At Quest, we host two services for Good Friday and three services for Easter on Sunday. Typically, we’ve rented an off-site facility to have our usual only joint church service.

But I digress.

I love the events of Holy Week…

because we need to reflect on the final week of Christ and ask ourselves, “What would we do if we only had one week to live?”

During the last week of his life, Jesus chose to borrow a donkey, do some “spring cleaning”, wash dirty feet and get crucified. Before we move on to the good news of the Resurrection, we have to engage in the the uncomfortable reflections of Good Friday.

But yes, oh yes, oh yes. Christ has risen. He has risen indeed. This is truly good news and worthy of celebration.

But in recent years, there seems to be an increasing trend of using stuff to lure people to church on Easter weekend.  Now, seriously:

Who doesn’t want visitors, guests, and the unchurched/dischurched to come to church – especially on Easter Sunday? We all do. We all pray for such.

Door Prizes & Gimmicks?

But what makes me feel uncomfortable is the increasing tactics of using door prizes a la iPads, gadgets, TV sets, Xbox 360s, Nintendos, ferris wheels,  pony rides, helicopter egg drops, and other stuff to “entice” or “entertain” people to church.

Don’t believe me?

Couple years ago, a church in Texas hosted what I labeled “the momma of all Easter egg hunts” that included more than $1 million in prizes. In fact, it actually included stuff totaling over $4 million dollars in prizes. Another church was giving away

flat flat-screen televisions, skateboards, Fender guitars, furniture and 15 cars — yes, cars — at its Easter services.

This year, I’ve seen several churches advertise “We’re giving away several iPad Air!!!” to go along with the usual suspects of door prizes, helicopter egg drops, XBoxes, Nintendos, gift cards, and super celebrity guests.

Am I just jealous since we’re not giving any doors prizes and thus, I’m not #winning anything? No, that’s not it…I don’t think. And it’s not just random criticism. I really hope that readers don’t interpret this post as haterade, cynicism, or useless criticism.

There’s three main reasons why the concept of “door prizes” to attract people concern me:

What you use to attract, you must use to keep people

It works. It’s true.

It’s also dangerous…

Partly because we forget or don’t want to acknowledge that what we use to “bring” people to church is what we then feel pressured or tempted to use to keep them to stay. Consumption breeds more consumption.

Translation: We’re using consumer tendencies to entice people and thus, we have to create unrealistic or dare I say, “unholy” consumeristic ways to keep people.

If we’re not careful, it keeps going and going.

  • What’s better than toys? More toys!
  • What’s better than a million eggs? A gazillion eggs!
  • What’s better than cool lights? Much more cooler lights!
  • What’s better than really cool and hip guest Christian bands? More cooler and hipper Christians bands!

Our church promos are better than your church’s promos!

Let’s be honest. Churches – while institutions – are no different than you and me. We’re observing, comparing, and keeping track with the trends and happenings of other churches. Breaking News: Churches can be competitive, too.

So, it makes sense that when other churches are giving away iPads, gadgets, gizmos, cars, and dropping 30,000 eggs…you want to do “better”, “more”, and “make a bigger splash.” Why? Because we all have the “Keep up with the Joneses” syndrome or “Did you hear that First Baptist Church or so and so are dropping 50,000 eggs? We’ve got to do better!”

And if we’re not careful, that’s what drives us…even if we’ll never acknowledge it in public.

The Gospel is enough.

And that’s really the heart of what I’m trying to say and I’m positive that all other pastors and church leaders feel this way.

But we need to do more than feel this way. We need to believe this and practice this. The events surround Crucifixion Friday and Resurrection Sunday are haunting and amazing. While many clamored for signs (then and now), I wonder if we’re giving in to our personal desire and the desires of a culture of entitlement that clamor for prizes, perks, and stuff.

Easter is beautiful and it’s significant.

Let’s love people.
Let’s welcome people.
Let’s practice deep hospitality.
Let’s pray for our guest and visitors and treat them in the same way we treat those who come to our churches every single week.

And let’s communicate to them – as best as we can by God’s grace – the unrelenting love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. The good news is truly Good News:

God loves us and gave us the His Son, Christ, so that we might not languish in separation but be reconciled with our God – our Father. Not only are we reconciled but God now invites us to be agents of reconciliation in a world that is in need of mending, healing, and reconciliation.

That’s good news. Glorious news. Gospel news.

Go to a church…

If you’re going to a church that’s giving away prizes, gadgets, iPads, and such…more power to you. I hope many visitors and guests come and many return and are drawn to relationships and community. I sincerely mean this.

But if you’re not going to a church and you’re asking me for advice about what kind of church you should go to, it’s possible that churches giving away prizes are incredibly deep, missional, and substantive. This isn’t a criticism against them but if you’re looking for a church:

Go to a church that believes just going to church isn’t church.

Go to a church that believes in Christ Crucified and Christ risen – every single day. Every single week. This is what they believe, teach, and live out. This is the good news they share to welcome people, encourage people, disciple people and release people.

That’s the gospel worth living for.

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48 Responses

  1. Cliff Tam says:

    It’s hard to preach the gospel of humility, forgiveness and grace, when we have a gospel of consumerism and material goods to attract others….

  2. Rosemary says:

    Your post shocked me! ipads, tvs, cars?????? That makes me beyond uncomfortable. The Good News is all we need, but to many it is a stumbling block, too simple, not flashy enough, or maybe too stark and scary. Praying that the Holy Spirit would be free to woo souls to Christ this weekend, all across the globe. We sure do need Him more than “stuff” that won’t last til next Easter.

  3. Janet says:

    To be fair, Eugene, all churches including your church probably “offer” something to attract people to church. And that’s OK. The Easter promotions are simply an extension of what churches already do. Hope this makes sense.

  4. Nancy Howerton says:

    Love your posts–have a blessed Easter. Sounds like your church is loving people in the best possible way! Keep it up!

  5. Kelsey says:

    Dear goodness. I promise there are reasonable Easter services going on in Texas this weekend…

    • Eugene Cho says:

      :)

      Seriously, I hope this post didn’t come out as anti-Texas in anyway. It just happened that the church inviting Tebow is from Texas.

      I learned some time ago: “Don’t mess with Texas.”

      • Wayne Park says:

        I’m in TX and we ain’t given anything away – cept a free BBQ but that’s because we’re havin our baptisms outdoors and well… when in Texas, might as well have a barbecue…

        Seriously tho. What you’ve described re: monster egg drops and such is quite endemic here. The god of the south may not be conservatism or a certain brand of politics, but more so than anything I observe, it is consumerism. Makes for a unique mission field for this pastor.

  6. Right on.
    Praying great things for Quest Church this Easter!

    • Eugene Cho says:

      Thanks Sean.

      Honestly, if you say one prayer for us…say it for one of the other 51 Wednesdays or one of the other 361 days.

      All churches are rejuvenated by “Easter Energy” and Quest is no different.

      It’s the other 361 days of living out our faith we need prayers and courage for.

  7. Justin says:

    Having grown up in an entertainment church, I wouldn’t have so much hope in the possibility of the trinkets existing alongside a strong gospel proclamation – but may God be pleased to prove me wrong. Happy Resurrection Day! The gospel is enough:-)

  8. KC says:

    I think it’s okay to specifically try to reach people or get people in the door – but the things you use to get people in the door should be congruent with your purpose in general. Have a coffeeshop in your church? Concerts? Giving kids prizes for Sunday School attendance or stickers for learning verses? I’m accustomed to these (although people have had kittens about that sort of thing not belonging in churches…). I think the important part is that the accessories must not distract from or confuse your message. Door prizes are over that line for me, but free donuts aren’t, usually. Is it part of who you are and contributing to who you are (some forms of eating together: community), or is it a totally artificial layer plastered on?

    This may be related to the question of “honest” advertising. There are okay advertising practices (communicating accurately with people; letting them know things they didn’t know before so they can make a more informed decision) and then there are Very Not Okay advertising practices (manipulation; exploitation)… and there’s a bunch of stuff kind of in the middle (photoshopping out spinach-in-the-teeth? probably fine; photoshopping worship leaders to be skinnier; probably not?).

    It may also be related to the old question of ornate churches vs. plain churches. Both can bring glory to God; sometimes that’s not the reason behind the style, though. (and both sides of the question often get judgy: “people who go to plain churches don’t think God deserves the best of everything!” – “people who go to ornate churches are just distracting their minds with shiny stuff and worshipping gold over God”)

    The bringing-glory-to-God part and bringing-people-to-God parts are the important parts; I sincerely doubt lotteries of luxury items successfully accomplish either, but that may actually just be cultural bias. I don’t know.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      KC: You’re right. Everything is permissible and honestly, I admire the courage, energy, and creativity behind many of these events.

      The body of Christ is diverse…and that’s good.

      I’m not trying to judge and criticize but ask the hard questions. Sometimes, we can go overboard with relevance. There are times we need to be “counter-culture.”

      • KC says:

        Sorry, this came out long; I’m very muddled on the issue of appropriate means to accomplish goals; I may be approaching the question upside down or something.

        I think the “but”s in the “everything is permissible” verse are really, really important and probably apply in at least some of these sort of cases (just speaking statistically, we all screw up a bunch). :-) I think pulling the focus back to the gospel rather than numbers/fame/influence is definitely helpful for each individual/church to keep things on the right side of that line, but it’s true that what’s best to do in a material/action sense is going to be different in different situations/churches/mission fields.

        Honestly, the title of this piece did not seem to leave much space for anything but a solid “THEY should not be doing this”, so I don’t quite see how that portion is hard-questions instead of criticism (criticism is hopefully not always a bad thing? and if a piece leads to the conclusion indicated by the title, even though it’s left mostly unstated in the body of the text, then it’s probably partly criticism?).

        I think part of the title and post (especially the last half!) is totally true and a very good reminder; the Gospel ought to be enough, and IS enough. That isn’t necessarily in opposition to other churches’ (jaw-dropping) attempts to bring in people to church – and the gospel being enough isn’t always in line with all our less-material or less-splashy techniques either, honestly. (from multiple “insider” church experiences: even really good, grounded pastors/Christians sometimes lift their eyes up unto the metrics and the strategies).

        From other (great!) things that you’ve written, I’m pretty confident that you already know that trying to convince people to click through/subscribe (which are not bad things) also has some of the same sort of pull and weird grey areas and hazards as wanting to draw bigger crowds to church, although the “gimmicks” used in social media tend to be less commercial than Easter egg drops (but can often be unity-harming or truth-obscuring or otherwise in opposition to, rather than harmonizing with, “the Gospel is enough”). Yet it is good to bring people in – yet there are potentially show-stopping problems with some ways of trying to bring people in?

        I totally agree with the vast majority of this piece; but think that small bits of it felt oddly “off” – it felt almost like “we’re better because we don’t use gimmicks”? But it’s good to not have commercialized gimmicks, I think! But it’s bad to use not-having-commercialized-gimmicks like a gimmick, I think? And I was oddly uncomfortable with the “we have a dinner for homeless people, while some churches spend their money on egg drops, so we’re a better-credentialed church” implication, although that’s probably not what you were attempting to say, and I think hosting dinners is fantastic and awesome and churches should totally do that rather than egg drops, so why did that even make me at all uncomfortable? It feels like it’s good or useful for people to know what the priorities of a church are – but it’s hazardous for churches or individuals to use the fruits of those priorities as credentials/points? Maybe?

        Eh, I’m confused.

  9. Al Doyle says:

    Well said, Eugene.

    Better yet, well practiced.

    We attended your Good Friday service yesterday. Powerful and moving.

    Wish we could be with you more often, but for now, we live across the water.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      Hey Al,

      Yup. I saw you and your wife. So glad you guys were there. We welcome you guys anytime you’re able to join us.

      Humbled that the Holy Spirit disturbed and encouraged so many last night.

  10. gadberry says:

    Thought provoking post. While I’m not opposed to doing some things to interest people who would not normally attend, I do believe in some ways it is getting out of control. Especially if the only motivation is promotion. If however it is for the purpose of reaching the community and benifiting people those types of things don’t bother me.

  11. I went to a 50k egg drop today. Never heard a thing about Jesus.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      Wow. 50,000 eggs? That’s impressive.

      In “their” defense, I don’t think it would be appropriate to ‘evangelize’ at such an event as I assume they’re using it to welcome folks and pass out info for their “real” church service.

      I’m not against these egg hunts. They serve the neighborhood and community in some way, too. I think.

  12. Rob Moss says:

    Great post, thanks. Aside from the valid point of our best gift being that of the gospel, I love the idea of a feast for the homeless community on Saturday.

  13. DY says:

    As I was reading the post this morning, there was a helicopter dropping eggs at the church across the street from me. No kidding.

  14. Yudarvish says:

    I love your tweet “my intent isn’t to judge/criticize” …when that is exactly what you are doing. lol

    • caj says:

      I believe Pastor Cho finishes with, “…but simply to ask important questions.” I am definitely thinking more after reading this post, and maybe that’s all that matters–that we refocus onto why we are celebrating Easter in the first place.

  15. Stevie says:

    This coming from a guy who monetizes his blog with ads. Hypocrisy, anyone?

    • KC says:

      I don’t see any points of similarity between using “the chance to win!” something to bring people into a church and having ads on a blog (which I would guess probably *almost* cover the hosting costs), aside from the fact that they both interact somewhat with money (one presumably costs money unless all the items are donated; the other either earns money or reduces the financial cost of the blog).

      I’m not sure the former is wrong necessarily (although I’m kind of dubious as to whether it can accomplish more positive things than negative things), and I don’t think the latter is wrong as long as the ads don’t mess with priorities (if this blog started to assert that the only truly socially-conscious, Christian toilet paper was Charmin, then… um… that would be different).

      But I really don’t see how saying that the gospel is what should be the center of bringing people into our churches would therefore disallow ads for a seminary on a blog?

    • Eugene Cho says:

      I can’t deny that I am a hypocrite.
      Grateful for God’s grace…

  16. John Ju says:

    E.C. loves to take passive aggressive approach to his positions on various subjects. He doesn’t really want to say that this ____ is wrong, but then again, he does say ____ is wrong. What we all need to do is give to ODW, since that is not what he wants us to do. Please don’t think I am criticizing E.C., I just want all of you to go to a church that believes that Jesus is God.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      E.N. – Your pushback and criticisms are welcome here but i wish you wouldn’t hide behind a fake name and email,

      Having said that, nothing passive aggressive about this: Happy Easter. Christ has risen!

  17. [...] It may have been something modest, or something huge.  A couple of Easters ago, I compiled a list of some of the biggest gimmicks churches have ever come up with.  Looks like I may need to update the list, because Eugene Cho has apparently seen the mother of all Easter egg hunts. [...]

  18. [...] On giving away iPads, pony rides, and gazillion eggs for Easter when the Gospel ought to be enough. …. [...]

  19. DanW says:

    And then there’s the church in South Carolina that mailed out postcards with pictures of rabbit road kill, with the statement “Bunnies stay dead. Jesus didn’t.” I just blogged about it before reading your post, Eugene. As usual, you said it better than I did. The Gospel ought to be the attraction, not the door prize or the shock value.

  20. Episkopos says:

    What a message. I particularly liked the caption ‘The Gospel is enough’. Unfortunately the devil has so blinded our eyes that we are now focused on things and the Very words of Jesus that heal, deliever and save are of no effect in lives. The words of Jesus are beautiful and powerful and many of the things that people are seeking for in the world are blessings that we can have if only we seek the kingdom of God and its righteousness FIRST and then all things will be added. God bless you for this Bold Post. http://www.daghewardmills.org

  21. Karen says:

    We are struggling with this over the last several months as we have looked for a new church home. Our last one, a suburban megachurch, had a three-story McDonald’s Playland-type structure and my kids have begged to back every single week. Just for that darn play structure.

  22. brettfish says:

    Love, Love, Love this [and pretty much all your tweets on the Twitterer - you put into great words usually what i'm thinking/feeling] and yeah spot on… can’t really add anything but just to say thank you and encourage you to keep on speaking it [maybe even be a little less apology'ing to those that are missing the point...]
    strength in Him
    love brett fish

  23. grace says:

    Being a Church head pastor is tough work…all this stuff is complicated & I can see both sides (thanks for playing fair)….I don’t envy yours & others positions to lead a flock navigating how to do all this. Godspeed with that, for real.

  24. Julie Williams says:

    one well known pastor in florida calls it stinky bait. use bait to entice them even if it stinks. I happen to disagree. our own church has done things like this and i have never seen the fruit of it. these people rarely come back.this year we are doing a neighborhood outreach with the mandatory bounce house etc..I dont agree with this approach, but then again I am not the pastor. So this doesnt rest on my shoulders.

  25. Rain j. says:

    I cant believe what im readin’ at first…y do leaders of d church agreed to entice people by material things…well,put it ths way so u mean jst every easter sunday ur church are alive?by what?by prizes?cars,money,gadgets?meaning ur church is a dead church…the season ryt now it was jst remembering what had God Has done to us…youre jst spoilin d bcksliders in that way…

  26. Harry says:

    Perfect example of a Jesus Juke.

    Why can’t you just support these churches that are doing their best to reach out to their neighbors?

    • Dena G says:

      I guess it’s all in your definition of what is genuinely “their best”. I personally find it difficult to define “best” as iPads, flat screen TVs and cars…none of those things look like the heart of Jesus to me.

  27. Ric Rozsa says:

    “…Go to a church that believes just going to church isn’t church.”… best line of the article. I am so glad I am part of a church that believes in this whole heartedly. This is why we have our Chop Drop…not a gimmick to get people to come to church but an opportunity for our church to get out and “be the church”. We partner with “Hometown Gratitude” who send care packages to our soldiers stationed through out the world. Last year 5000 came, kids had a blast, families brought enough supplies to stock the shelves for 6 months. We woud never have been able to do such a great thing like that by ourselves or waiting for the community to come to us. http://www.postbulletin.com/life/lifestyles/an-egg-cellent-chop-drop—hunt-for-eggs/article_4cf42a9f-2a73-5e6e-867b-54a91d48fa00.html

  28. [...] bunnies and chocolate, how about iPads and flat-screen TVs? This post by Eugene Cho raises the question: Is the Gospel [...]

  29. [...] and bastards of every shaped and form. But at all costs avoid one thing: Success.’” On giving away door prizes, pony rides  and a gazillion eggs for Easter when the Gospel ought to be… “The events surround Crucifixion Friday and Resurrection Sunday are haunting and amazing. [...]

  30. [...] On giving away door prizes, pony rides, and gazillion eggs for Easter when the Gospel ought to be en… This is old but I love what Eugene Cho writes about the consumerism tactics used to get people to church. We visited a local church several years ago that sent us a coffee gift card afterwards for visiting. I was so turned off by their gesture I couldn’t even think about going back. “What you use to attract, you must use to keep people. It works. It’s true. It’s also dangerous… Partly because we forget or don’t want to acknowledge that what we use to “bring” people to church is what we then feel pressured or tempted to use to keep them to stay. Consumption breeds more consumption. Translation: We’re using consumer tendencies to entice people and thus, we have to create unrealistic or dare I say, “unholy” consumeristic ways to keep people.” {excerpt} [...]

  31. [...] This is a post from Eugene Cho from a year ago, but it still a great read. Cho tells us why door prizes and other gimmicks at Easter or any other time of the year is not a good idea. Check out On giving away door prizes, pony rides, and gazillion eggs for Easter when the Gospel ought to be en… [...]

  32. […] On giving away door prizes, pony rides, and gazillion eggs for Easter when the Gospel out to be Enou… by Eugene Cho […]

  33. Carrie says:

    Yes, let’s stop the bait and switch.

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