Why Do Churches Love Gimmicks Rather than the Means of Grace?
First, we must define both of these practices. A gimmick is a non-biblical action to attempt to get people to do something; while the means of grace are biblical actions manifested by God’s Spirit as evidence of spiritual life and growth. So, we are clear: gimmicks are actions, and grace is evidenced.
Second, we must identify both gimmicks and grace actions. A grace action, meaning, an action that demonstrates God is at work, is spiritual. Prayer is a grace action. Reading one’s Bible is a grace action. Taking the elements at the Lord’s Supper is a grace action. Sitting under the Word of God, preached accurately by a man of God, is a grace action.
God is the agent in the means of grace. He gives grace to His people, and this becomes axiomatic. A Christian is a slow growing vessel being changed by grace, and the instruments of grace are themselves indicators of grace.
Gimmicks are man-made stratagems to manipulate people to action. A casino that slogans, “where fun always wins,” is tempting gambling addicts. A grocery store uses a loss leader to lure people in. Advertising is an entire industry built to persuade people to spend money on products and services. A gimmick in the church manipulates people as a lure for them to join the mass gathering, whether that be of the Roman mass or Evangelical mass gathering type.
Invariably, those who identify with the church and manipulate people into an apparent spiritual action (as defined by the gimmick’s objective), scheme a cause to produce a visible effect. Whereas grace is difficult to measure, gimmicks are fabricated for the purpose of statistically registering every tentation imaginable.
Churchmen employ gimmicks for lack of faith in the means of grace. You will know a church by the volume and sophistication of its gimmicks.
Whereas the means of grace requires zero technology, gimmicks tend to demand more and newer technologies. In addition, the means of grace are free, while gimmicks are expensive. Prayer meetings are simple, whereas rock concerts require immense manpower, budgets, organization, a statistical report to follow, etc. Investors in church gimmicks want a return on their money, or they will invest in gimmicks at the gimmick factory down the road, who by advertise-able reputation is nearing mega status.
The objection of those who scheme gimmicks is the dearth of statistical results in the workings of grace. Grace seems to visit humble gatherings: a man and his Bible, a Monday night theology small group, a Wednesday night prayer gathering; a Sunday night church service. The numbers at such simple events are typically not worthy of recording.
Numerically successful gimmicks can be turned into new advertising campaigns or a bigger event next year. If gimmicks gain momentum, then conferences to teach gimmicks are created as a gimmick. Conferences are hotbeds of gimmicky jargon, like: momentum; catalyst; synergy; ignite; movement; quasi-”fest”; etc. Christian conferences now typically range between $300 — $999 as the price of admission. The cost of the gimmick is passed on to the consumer, much like the cost for “fun to win every time” must be absorbed from the gambler.
To be a leader in church gimmickry, one must be a regular at gimmickry leadership conferences. Gimmickry leader wannabes have their custom-made gimmick propaganda tables and booths, replete with take home advertising for free (think: loss leader) or really cool stuff consumers can pay for to help the gimmick master’s advertising campaign.
Our original question was, “Why?” I believe it is captured in the biblical idea that man looks at the outward appearance and God searches the heart. In other words, grace is invisible, while gimmicks are visible.
God is Spirit, and His works are in the realm of the spiritual. Man is visible, and his works are in the realm of the visible. God’s work is not quantifiable, but man’s work deserves a conference, maybe called, “quantum.”
In conclusion, man-made gimmicks, a product of man-centered theology, can only produce gimmickry, which is the copy-cat reproduction of a statistically viable gimmick, made to be exponentially bigger, resulting in a conference with a catchy name like…exponential.
Grace is simple, invisible, free, and can only be produced by God’s work in the church. The identifiable means of grace are biblical, and rarely marketable, unless they have a gimmick attached to them, which usually ruins their viability.
So, the choice of going to the rock concert for Jesus, or the prayer meeting attended by Jesus, is your choice, unless of course, grace prevails.
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 9, 2022