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The Bait & Switch Church? – Hit the Mark — 38 Comments

  1. Thanks Curtis.
    It must be our daily activity doing good among our self and especially the new members who join the church.
    We have to keep them alive and make the love the church and make other people in their surrondings like their New faith and eager to follow their ways to accept Christ and join the church too.
    We do mistakes on nurturing the new believers by letting them without any follow up on their development,no body care on their growth and their problems.

    May God help us to come foward and assist each other and our most energy to the new members.

  2. The "bait and switch" idea reminds me of Jacob working seven years for Rachel, and being given Leah. (Jacob, the deceiver/supplanter, suffered his first big deception!)

    Also, of Jesus speaking about a child that asks his father for bread or a fish. Jesus asks His listeners, "What man is there of you... that will give him a stone... or a serpent?" Are there parents today that receive requests from their young children, and give them some hurtful substitute, simply to quieten them? Unfortunately this is sometimes knowingly, deliberately, done.

    Sometimes [in the church] we give an assurance that we can deliver/provide a certain thing, but when it comes down to it, we are not able to deliver on our word. We don't mean to give rocks [or gravel] to people to eat, [in place of bread] but there are times when we simply cannot deliver the thing that we intended. The church that sees itself as rich and increased with goods, often has little, in reality, to give.

    • Hi Stewart, we nor anyone else should over promise and under deliver. That's a sure recipe for failure.
      I believe that the church, even in a Laodicean condition, still has a lot to offer and perhaps being more engaged in service will be a part of changing from lukewarm to hot.

  3. this is the missing link the church has, it reminds me of a lesson we had sometime back which pointed out that the back door of the church is poorly managed.

    there are some churches that are good at providing the needs of people than our church but has no truth. what would happened of such people when it comes to the final judgement?

    the other is that leads the church not good at reaching out to new converts by providing their needs (nurturing) is the thought that they should now stand on their own. the other factor is where caring for them is taken as the task of church leaders only not the entire church.

  4. A lot of so-called weight reduction diets work in the short term but are unsustainable in the long term. Those who understand these things know that the way to lose weight and retain that loss requires a complete change of lifestyle, not just a six week crash course! It is a lifetime commitment.

    It is the same with spiritual health. Salvation is not just mental assent at the end of a six week crash course and a baptism. It is a commitment to living a saved life. It is essentially the commencement of a journey. In our interaction with others we need to understand that it is not just a case of getting them across the line but a commitment to journey with them for the rest of their lives.

    The emphasis that we have on numbers baptised sometimes means that we have a short term view that limits our mission. Here is a sobering thought. It is estimated that there are about 20 million Seventh-day Adventists and about 40 million ex-Seventh-day Adventists. That is something we should think about very hard during this series of lessons.

    • Maurice, I like the image you shared of not just getting them across the line. Very good.
      The statistics you stated are very sobering. My guess is that this reality is not isolated to Seventh-day Adventists as all major denominations are facing this. I hear this discussed over and over through the years. The question is always what are we going to do about the back door. My belief is keep doing what got them into the front door - intentional interests in their well-being.

    • I see your concern Jan, but keep in mind, when the demons started yelling "We know who you are, the son of God" Jesus told them to be quiet. Why? Because of the prejudices against God. Satan had been painting a very stern and unmerciful picture of God to the human race, and Jesus wanted to disarm their prejudices by letting them get to know Him before He told them He was God. So today, there are many prejudices against Seventh-day Adventists, so we need to let them get to know us before we announce who we are, just like Jesus wanted the people to get to know Him before He announced who He was.

      • William, I really agree with you about letting them get to know us first. I'm hoping you mean not just during a series of meetings but outside of that.
        In my experiences I don't find that there is much prejudice against our church. I find mostly that people have no clue who we are. If they have heard of us they generally just think we are the people that go to church on Saturday 🙂

        • Thanks Curtis, Yes I mean outside of that as well. As far as prejudices, yes there are not a lot these days, but you still run into them. While doing Bible work in a small town in Texas, some pastors took our flyers, showed them to their congregation and told them the meetings are Adventist and do not go. Sad.

      • Shortly after we were married, my husband and I received a notice about an upcoming Revelation Seminar and we planned to attend. There was no mention of church affiliation, so we were curious about that. On opening night, I was in the hospital receiving treatment for a then-unknown ailment and was not able to attend. I encouraged my husband to go anyway and tell me about it later. When he told me that the "church hall" was in an SDA church, I reacted the way God knew that I would-"That's the church that my aunt went to and her children hated that church. They couldn't do anything after she joined that church. They were miserable and they don't even talk to her now that they are adults!" My husband calmly reported that the meeting was well organized, interesting, and they used the Bible heavily to support what they said. He went to the second meeting by himself and reported the same, but he showed such enthusiasm, that I went with him after that. We have been SDAs for 26 years now and we raised 2 sons and are raising a daughter in the church. If the name of the church had been on the flyer, I would have talked my husband out of going. God knew that and made sure that I was not able to do that! ?

    • Jan, you raise a good question. I have always felt a little uneasy about that practice. I understand not presenting the most controversial topics first when doing evangelism but intentionally never saying who we are seems to take it to another level.
      I'm interested to know if there is some particular spiritual guidance on this. Thanks for your question!

      • I share your views on this, Curtis. I know that when I receive a religious flyer, almost the first thing I look for, is, who has sent the advertising? / which group does it represent? Personally, I would that others be treated the same way that I would like to be treated in this area. And so if someone were to decide not to attend our meetings, simply because of our lack of transparency, I could not blame them. (I suspect that we actually miss a certain class of people because of our habit of anonimity.)

        In terms of spiritual guidance, I would offer a couple of things from the Spirit of Prophecy.

        "Everything that Christians do should be as transparent as the sunlight." (Mount of Blessings p.68) In another place the same thought about transparency is paralleled with "clear water". In my view, anything that suggests that our work is "non-denominational"; anything that suggests that we are evading the truth in this matter, is, as a general rule, not good. (Bearing "false witness" includes more than telling outright lies.)

        However, in reading about the Waldenses, I also accept that "to have made known the object of their mission would have insured its defeat; therefore they carefully concealed their real character..." (Great Controversy p.71.) But in their case there was real, deadly, risk associated with their mission, and they necessarily concealed their true intent and affiliation.

        • I too have grown concerned with the spirit of non-demominationalism that is sweeping amongst us Seventh Day Adventist. I suspect that some of us have been greatly impressed by the popular non-denominational mega-church pastors out there. Not only have I seen our name hidden in some of our "evangelistic" efforts, but I have seen our distinct teachings hidden as well. And I don't mean simply not putting what Ellen White calls our most objectionable doctrines at the start of the meeting until we are known as believers of Jesus. But, I have seen some of our efforts not even go into any of our distinct teachings at all, including the gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead I've seen what can be termed "soft prosperity gospel" coupled with motivational speaking that is big on helping a man get through this life but does nothing to prepare him for the next. I'm not really sure what to make of these trends except to say that I'm disturbed and concerned with them.

          • Bensheh, I'm sorry that you live in an area where the local Seventh-day Adventist Church no longer teaches biblical truth as we understand it. I do trust that that situation is not too wide-spread.

            However, the point of Curtis's post was not about non-denominationalism. It was about "baiting" people to join us in baptism by acting in a Christ-like manner towards them and then switching to ignoring them once they are baptized.

            The point is that being Christ-like should be who we are, not something we turn on to bait people then switch off when they are baptized.

            Perhaps we should all do some heart-searching to determine whether we are truly becoming more and more like Jesus. When people are baptized and join a church filled with loving and lovable Christians who love *them,* they are likely to stay. People in the world are dying for lack of love - the kind of love we can demonstrate because we allow Jesus to love them through us.

            I must admit that I am truly puzzled by this part of your statement,

            I have seen some of our efforts not even go into any of our distinct teachings at all, including the gospel of Jesus Christ.

            Maybe you can share what you see as "the gospel of Jesus Christ," because that is a little more on-topic. (I think Curtis suggested that the gospel should be evident in our lives all the time.)

          • Bansheh,you're not alone in noticing this "Spiritual Formation/Emergent Church" movement creeping into the Seventh-day Adventist church. Please don't feel you are alone with your concerns because there are others deeply concerned as well.

            The best advice is what EGW suggested in Selected Messages vol. 1 and that is to "Meet It", however we're not to get into debate or discussion with those who are bringing in spurious doctrines because they will twist your own words against you. I know that it is risky even with this post of mine here, but it is my experience that she was right, she gave very good advice.

            I hope that Inge is right that it's not church wide but it does appear some under current is swelling. Time will tell.

            Best regards to all my siblings in Christ.

        • Stewart, whether or not to use divulge our full church name on our evangelistic flyers should be a local decision. It depends entirely on how the church is known in the community. It so happens that the church I attend in favorably known in the community, and an evangelist who was supposed to have meetings in our town was adamant that the name of the church not be revealed. He was also disrespectful in his way of speaking about people, so we decided *not* to have him hold meetings in our town.

          Yet there are other places where it might not be wise to lead with the name of the church, but to lead with what interests the people. "Deadly risk" is not the only reason not to reveal the name of a church. Prejudice of the local people is another excellent reason. We want people to get to know what we really teach before rejecting the messages because of a "funny name."

          We simply cannot make across-the-board decisions or judge others because their decisions are not what we would make. I submit, though, that an evangelist who does not respect the local church members and their views should probably not hold meetings for that church. For that matter, no meetings should be held until the local church members have worked with people so that they are prepared to make an intelligent decision. Then the evangelistic meetings are "reaping" meetings, because evangelists are usually better at leading people to a decision than we lay members are.

          • Hello Inge! I'm well aware of what brother Hall's original topic was. I was replying to Jan's comment in the thread about churches not being open about who they are during evangelism, and Stewart's comment about the danger of appearing non-denominational. My comment was in the context of this conversation and was essentially saying "if you've seen that guess what I've seen." Personally I'm not too bothered by churches emphasizing what we teach over what our name is. It's when I see not only our name but our teachings being swept under the rug that I get concerned. However, I am reminded of counsel like this: The name, Seventh-day Adventist, carries the true features of our faith in front, and will convict the inquiring mind. Like an arrow from the Lord’s quiver, it will wound the transgressors of God’s law, and will lead to repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. – {4bSG 55.1}

            As far as my "puzzling" comment on some going silent on even the gospel of Jesus, I'll take it that you've yet to experience preachers who've been influenced by Rick Warren/Joel Osteen/T.D. Jakes etc. That's a good thing because it means my observations of certain trends are perhaps more localized than what appears. I apologize if my reply to you and others isn't "on topic", I'll try to do better next time.

            • I addressed the topic regarding leading with our denominational name in evangelism or not doing so. Thus I won't repeat myself. 😉 Regarding the quotation you mentioned, there are balancing quotations that counsel us to begin our interactions with others by conversing on teachings we hold in common. 🙂

              Ah ... I see you explain the "puzzling comment." I'm familiar with the names and the teachings, but I do believe your observations are somewhat localized. That said, there are some conferences that have a reputation in line with your observations, but it is definitely not a denomination-wide thing.

              But back to Curtis's topic - if we all act like Adventist Christians all the time, the Lord could abundantly bless and the whole world would soon know that Jesus is coming again soon.

          • Curtis included the following thought in his opening post -
            "The church was organized for service. Serving our fellow man, both spiritually and physically is a major part of why we are banded together in church fellowship."

            I'm sure that we can all agree/acknowledge that these are statements of fact. But Christian service, in itself, will never be enough to bring an end, will it? Christian service "is a major part" of the reason for our existence as a church, but we were raised up for another reason as well. I suggest that our message, once we have got it right, will be the primary catalyst that will start the proverbial 'fire in the stubble'.

            Like John the Baptist, we have also been 'assigned' the task of preparing the way for the Lord's 'public appearing', and I believe that once our messages are presented, things will happen quickly... quicker, perhaps, than we anticipate.

            I'm sorry if I've been a "master of the obvious" in saying what I've just said, but I would like to close by expressing this view -- namely, that our denominational name actually does a "work", and by concealing our name/identity we can do a social and spiritual dis-service to the very people we are hoping to help.

  5. After long bad experience, being like sheep amidst wolves, we do need survival strategy if we are to continue with work. MT 10:16 "Be as wise as serpent but harmless as doves." My question is are we harming people at the end? If not, then let's focus on the end, not the means.

    • Hi Angelo, I'm not quite sure what you mean by focusing on the end and not the means. The means matters. "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds" 2 Corinthians 10:4
      Let me know what you think.

  6. Hi brother Curtis,enjoyed your blog. It is so true, I think when we witness to people,we often keep them believing in us rather than pointing them to Jesus who is the faithful and true witness. They began to see to much of our inconsistencies and become discouraged and leave. We must learn how to point them to Jesus who has all the resources they need and at the same time continue to encourage and help them were we can.Teach them how to call on the name of the Lord! May God continue to bless your ministry.

    • Michael, what you said is so true! Upon reflection I realized that many times I tried to win people to join my church (my local congregation). It wasn't that I didn't have their best interests in mind. Rather, it was that I lost sight of introducing people to Jesus first. Congregations come and go. Jesus is forever.
      Thanks for your comment!

  7. I cant recall a more relevant term used regarding our churches today that the bait and switch church. I see this especially when we have evangelistic campaigns. We obtain the services of a dynamic evangelist, charismatic ministers of music, instruments and players. When members leave their charismatic churches and join ours, after the crusade they find that they are walking into a tomb.

    I am wondering how many people go through the back door, not because someone was unfriendly to them but because our style of worship is not what they signed up for. All the energy and warmth evaporated as soon as the evangelist leaves. This, to me, is the classic church bait and switch scheme.

    • Grace, I must admit that it made me laugh when you described walking into a tomb 🙂
      You really make some valid points. Sometimes we believe that we can't win souls without someone who is a "gifted" evangelist. When the disciples asked Jesus how could the 5000 be fed His reply was YOU give them something. It was a lesson that by receiving from Him we can do what we never imagined we would be capable of doing.

    • Then perhaps we should take a look at the way we "do church" and put some imagination and energy into it? (It's not the fault of the evangelistic campaign that the people involved are more enthusiastic.)

  8. Thanks for sharing brother Curtis, I always believed going into the field telling others about Jesus and assisting with whatever needs,I focused on that need at the same time,and not to bait them in coming to my church, and if they do come i tried by the grace of God to treat them the way I would like to be treated. Something we have to understand, not because we are going Church every Sabbath that means all of us are converted. What I am trying to say, the only way we can share sincere love is if when we allow Christ to live within us. You can only give what's inside of you.

    • So true Loretta. I truly believe that the more we love Him, the more natural it will be to share that love with others. After all, as you said, we should treat others like we want to be treated.

  9. One other element I have seen, which I believe can be destructive, is to give a "newbie" offices to "get them involved." When most marry, there is a delay in having children to allow the young couple to become accustomed to each other. The becoming accustomed to another person can be a challenge without kids. I have seen the same with giving a newbie an office before they are fully settled in their new lifestyle.

    • Terry, I understand your point but I think getting people involved right away is important to them developing a sense of community and family. I'm not suggesting that we have them give the worship message or lead a Bible class as soon as they join. I do however believe that people want to feel valued and needed and they would be more vested in their new life by feeling productive. And we need all the help we can get.
      Thanks for your comment.

    • Terry, I understand that the phrase, "do not lay hands on anyone hastily" (1Tim 5:22) applies to that very situation.

      I agree that formal church offices should not be offered as "encouragements" for new people.

    • One of the changes that we should make to our thinking about church is that belonging means being involved. It is all to easy to think of church as your weekly religious fix! If our church experience is limited to a couple of hours on Sabbath morning then we are severely limiting our spiritual experience. Too much of what we do is pulpit-centric.

      We need to open our eyes to creative, engaging worshipful experiences, rather than just doing the same as we have always done.

      • Maurice, I agree. If we simply do more of what "we have always done", this will not hasten, but rather, delay, the Lord's return.

        Heaven is waiting, and indeed... "the whole creation is on tip-toe [waiting] to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own". (Rom 8:19 J.B.Phillips)

  10. Lately I've grown more skeptical of the whole notion that we have to give people soup, a sandwich, and a T-shirt first before we ever start talking to them about our message. The whole "felt-needs" movement seems to reduce acts of love for the sake of it to a mechanical means to and end. Of course we're assured that this is exactly how Jesus worked, meeting needs first in order to make His message more palatable. But, then I see text like this: "And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief." Mark 6:5-6
    Or quotes like this: Again as they listened to His words the Nazarenes were moved by the Divine Spirit. But even now they would not admit that this Man, who had been brought up among them, was other or greater than themselves...Hence though they questioned, “Whence hath this Man this wisdom, and these mighty works?” they would not receive Him as the Christ of God. Because of their unbelief, the Saviour could not work many miracles among them. {DA 241.2}

    But, according to modern ministry Christ had it all backwards. He should have met their felt-needs by performing miracles and then they would have believed Him. Of course this is not the case. Christ didn't run a bait and switch ministry. He didn't perform miracles to make people love Him, He performed miracles because He loved them. Many times He told people "your faith has made you whole", meaning His miracles weren't performed to create faith, they were performed as a result of a faith that was already present. What this means for us is that we should make sure that our acts of love for others are for its own sake, but always in the context of sharing the news of a soon coming Savior who can not only feed the body but save the soul. Any humanist group can hand out soup and a sandwich with a smile, but not many on earth can prepare people for the crisis soon to break upon the world. "Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life..." John 6:27


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