Thursday, June 24, 2010

How Ted Haggard Taught Me Not to Be Exciting and Relevant

Yes, I've heard the news. But years ago Ted Haggard taught me not to be exciting or relevant. Let me explain.

Haggard published a book in 1995 entitled Primary Purpose. In it he drew a contrast between "comparative advertising" and "proactive advertising" for a local church. Haggard writes:
Comparative advertising encourages Christians to go from one church to the other.

Proactive advertising brings the gospel to unsaved people.

A pastor friend told me that his church promotional material were already proactive. "Well, let's look at them," I said.

He spent his entire promotional budget on Christian radio and television. His television ads said that his church offered "exciting services with practical, relevant Bible teaching."

Since he placed these ads on Christian television, he was really saying, "My church is more exciting than the one you go to," which is an encouragement to leave your church and begin attending his. If he placed these ads on secular radio, he would have to explain what "exciting services" means since most non-Christians can't even imagine what they view as "exciting" going on inside a church.

He also said that the church offered "practical, relevant Bible teaching" without realizing that this implies that the teaching of other churches is inferior.

Haggard, Ted. Primary Purpose: Making it Hard for People to Go to Hell From Your City. (USA: Creation House, 1995), 69.
Ted Haggard has a point and I've seen this attitude—wittingly or unwittingly—crop up on church websites. I remember coming across one sister Church of God's website years ago (not from my state). It made me uneasy; it gave me an unfavorable impression of the church. Why? Because it seemed they were trying so hard to look "cool" in the world's eyes by contrasting themselves from other churches—other congregations not as "cool" as themselves, of course. It seemed pitiful and it sickened me.

If one church tries to look impressive in the world's eyes at the expense of other churches then there is a huge problem. If one church feels the need to belittle other churches for "ratings" then that local body of believers isn't getting it: we are not in competition; there will always be plenty of sinners to go around!

The local church isn't supposed to be entrapped in culture. It isn't supposed to be "relevant." Rather, it is to be irrelevant, so to speak, that is, timeless, and counter-cultural as the prophetic voice of conscience and the Word of God.

As a preacher I don't want to be cool, exciting or relevant. I want to be a faithful minister of God's Word. That is radical enough...and I don't have to advertise myself as so. Just preach the Word and live the Gospel in the community. It will speak for itself.