As a church plant, we don’t do gas buy-downs, block parties, or candy-bar handouts. These attractional events are common fare in planting, so I realize we are going against the stream in not doing these things. We are a missional-incarnational church; however, this is not an attractional vs. incarnational post. Jesus did a lot of things that were attractional and incarnational. What I am concerned with is the kind of attractional events that we engage in as a church. How do we determine what attractional events we choose, like whether or not to participate in a gas buy-down or as someone recently suggested a coffee buy-down?
As I see it, there are theological and missiological principles that guide our discernment in what kind of attractional events to engage in. For instance, the gas buy-down is theologically and philosophically problematic for us for four main reasons:
1) Stewardship: we want to use our resources in a way that doesnt reinforce poor budgeting, consumerism, or indifference to the environment. Paying for people’s gas that they can otherwise afford is not the best stewardship. This rationale would also apply to buying a bunch of give-away stuff like XBoxes and Gift Cards for a block party. Instead, we would advocate using that money in more strategic attractional events like buying food for the homeless or paying for a baby shower or planting trees in our city.
2) Anti-Consumerism/Counter Empire: we want to avoid buying a bunch of superfluous stuff and giving it away because we don’t want to reinforce the consumeristic impulse. We want to deconstruct the unspoken notion that “you are what you buy.”
3) Love: We want our attractional events to be people-enriching and city-renewing. So we are up for paying to showcase a starving artist but not down with giving away Xboxes. Attractional events should pass the test of stewardship, anti-consumerism, and love.
4) God: Are attracting people to God or to our church? We want our attractional events to ultimately attract people to God, to his character, not to coming to a church service. However, we certainly hope that in attracting people to God, that they are attracted to Jesus in us–the church.
1) Contextualized: Gas-buy downs tend to be sub-urban events; we are an urban church. Buying bus tickets or something would be better.
2) Cynical City Culture: Urbanites can smell a buy-off a mile away. This is theological and missiological issue. The last thing we want to communicate to our fellow citizens is that they can be bought off or that we want to buy them off. Instead, we want to serve them and the city, not promote our church or cheapen them.
*Ironically, our country is approaching a gas crisis, in which case a gas buy down could become a city-renewing, people-loving thing to do, especially if gas prices shoot up more.