The Religion Racket
by Norman H. Wells
Former Pastor, Central Baptist Church, Cincinnati
Now With The Lord
© 2005 James H. Dearmore/Gospelweb.net

The Late Dr. Norman H. Wells

[GospelWeb.net Globe]

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Chapter 7

Celestial Competition

There is a fierce competition among the different churches and denominations for new members. All these efforts to secure new members come loosely under the title of evangelism. This evangelism takes many forms. One of the most popular is called proselyting. This is the effort put forth to win an individual over from another church or religion. It is generally done privately because publicly it is denounced. It is not officially in the church program but unofficially it occupies a prominent place. Proselyting is practiced in many different ways.

Anywhere a pastor finds a member of his denomination not attending church he strongly emphasizes that the individual should attend his church ... no matter how far he has to travel. After all, if you are a member of a denomination, you should attend a church of that denomination. However, if a Pastor finds a member of another denomination who lives closer to his church he will emphasize the convenience of attending a church that is close . . . even if it is another denomination. This matter of convenience is a strong argument and results in a lot of folks changing their religion.

To be able to get across to an individual of another religion the advantages of your religion and the disadvantages of his without giving an impression of proselyting is a fine art that is developed by most church workers.

Successful church workers are at a premium and the competition for them is really rugged. Generally the church that offers the most prominent position will win these members. The idea is to emphasize the great need there is in the church for the talent possessed by the sought after church member. After all, he wouldn't even be missed in the church he now attends and is so desperately needed by the church that is trying to entice him away. Small churches are very successful in raiding larger churches with this type of evangelism.

To keep up a successful program of proselyting it is necessary to keep the members of all the other local churches informed as to the mistakes and shortcomings of their individual churches. They have a right to know how bad their church is and when they get the information it might prompt them to want to change churches. This necessitates each Pastor keeping informed about any church trouble or fights that occur in all the other churches because this presents a fine opportunity for evangelism. The group that loses in a church fight are nearly always ready to leave and join another church. The Pastor must be careful to court both groups so that no matter who loses he will be looked upon as a friend to whom they can turn.

A church that is going to evangelize successfully must give great emphasis to their "extras." These are the denominational decoys that are set out to attract new members. Generally it 'is best to find out what you have that the other churches in the area lack and then go all out in pushing it.

Well staffed and well equipped nurseries where parents can leave their children are a big extra that most churches find necessary to have. After all, who wants to go to church with children? Air conditioning is a fine extra and so are cushioned pews. Free transportation is always good. Big parking lots are a must.

The church with the shortest services has a big edge over all other churches. This is a big extra. A successful church must never have services that lap over into prime television time.

A youth program with fun and games is always attractive.

All these "extras" must be highly advertised along with the guest stars, gospel celebrities, and singing groups who might be appearing.

Evangelism also means the effort that is put forth to win over the unchurched. People not in church are generally harder to enlist. They are not trained in the interpretation of what is really meant by the language that is used in the churches. To the unchurched there is no apparent difference between themselves and those in the church ... so why bother? What's to be gained?

The unchurched listens as everyone praises a Bible that no one is reading and he gets confused. Church people all around him say they love to go to church and yet use every foolish excuse not to attend and he begins to wonder. He can't understand that prayer is supposed to be the greatest privilege of man yet he never hears anyone around him praying. He gets confused at the effort that is put forth in seeking out highly trained preachers to whom no one pays any attention.

When the unchurched does go to church he finds it full of people who don't want to be there and are glad when it's over so they can go do something they are not supposed to enjoy. The only time he ever hears his churchgoing friends talk about their church is when they are criticizing and belittling.

To say the least, the unchurched is a little confused by this and he is difficult to win. The evangelistic effort generally centers around convincing him that he ought to, accept religion even if it does seem to be a phoney.

All churches are supposed to be evangelistic. Their commission is to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Most of the church members carry out at least part of this commission every weekend . . . they go into all the world. They go to the parks, the beaches, the mountains, camping, boating, etc. Some churches become so evangelistic in the summer that they have to shut down ... everybody's gone!

This competition between churches in seeking out new members can make the problem of picking a church to join quite complicated. Most people seem to find it necessary to do a great deal of seeking, or as it might be called, shopping around, before they decide on a church. There are so many things that must be checked. In driving by a church in the summer time for instance, one can easily see if all the windows are closed. If they are, the building is sure to be air conditioned. This, of course, is a must.

It is better not to join a church that is in a building program or any other kind of expansion as this always means they will be needing money. The average church member has no desire to be caught up in this kind of thing. It is far better to find a church that someone has paid for and that is already finished.

The first time a family attends church it must be noticed how the people dress. One must never join a church where the people do not dress as well or dress better than you.

Another thing of extreme importance that must always be checked out before a church is joined is the matter of sin. It is embarrassing to join a church and then find out they condemn the sin you are practicing.

It is always good to check the social standing of the church in the neighborhood. Does it have prestige? Is it where the "right" people attend? Is it accepted by the better class of the neighborhood?

If there is a baby in the family, the church nursery is of vital importance. This is where all those "church diseases" are transmitted. Does it have a registered nurse in attendance? Does it have those little lights that disinfect? They are nice.

Big roomy parking lots are important. One must be able to arrive late and get away early. Cushioned pews are not an absolute necessity but they are nice.

A family will always want to check on the average length of the church services. It is such an annoying thing when services do not stay within a regular time limit. It can disrupt all the other really important plans for the day.

One must always check to be sure the church provides the preferred type of musical entertainment. This is important ... particularly to the rock and roll enthusiast.

It is always good, if there are teenagers in the family, to check out the young people's program. Do they have regularly scheduled dances? Do they have a good recreation program? Do they show good movies? Do they have parties?

One must be very careful about the pastor of a church. Of course he must be well-educated, well dressed, experienced, and a good mixer. He must be a young 35. (Preachers find it necessary to be a young 35 all their life. This is a little difficult.) This is the age when he is supposedly able to still appeal to the young people and also reach the older folks,

It must be determined before one joins a church that the preacher is not one who is going to be expecting a lot out of anyone who belongs to his church. Some preachers expect their members really to get involved in the things of religion and this can be a real drag. The preacher must not be a crusader, that is, one of those fellows who is always taking a stand on some issue and calling upon everyone else to do likewise. This can be embarrassing.

A lot of folks find it good not to join a church close to their home. If they live a good distance from the church they feel they can't be expected to participate in too many different activities at the church.

Usually it is preferred that a church not be too zealous. After all, who wants their children growing up to be religious fanatics and going off to Africa as a missionary?

If a family has an eligible daughter it is well to check to see if there are any eligible young men. Church is a fine place to do a little match making. If you have a boy, of course, you check out the girls.

Of course some folks never join a church. Every Sunday they just visit a church. They are sort of perpetual visitors. This has its advantages as it enables one to reap all the benefits of church going without having to pay any of the cost or assume any of the responsibilities. Like a parasite ... a parish parasite!

New members always receive a lot of attention and everyone goes out of his way to please and greet them. A lot of folks like this so much they just stay new members. Every time the newness wears off they join another church and they are new again. They just tramp from one church to another, that's it ... church tramps!

Of course what the church believes, what it teaches, and its spirituality are important but the average church goer feels these things can be fitted in if everything else checks out.

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