Top 12 Worst Pastor Gimmicks – From the RNS

So, the RNS posted an article about the top 12 worst pastoral stunts that were done in order to gain publicity, or do “ministry.” My first question was, why aren’t the top five all Ed Young related? The Sherman tank on stage, a live lion as a sermon illustration, or the bed-in, when Ed and his wife spent 24 hours on the roof of their church in bed together, web-casting the whole time, to promote their book on sex. The punch line is that the roof is stark white, it was a sunny Texas day and they had to leave early because of sunburned eyes.

I’ve thought about this a fair amount, because I spent so much time in the attractional church mindset. If the goal is market-share then marketing is part of the gig. If the goal is faithfulness, then there are times when a larger than life illustration can be useful. The stunts on this list are pretty extreme, though. It seems like some of these could be done in a redemptive way. The question is really: to what end? Stunts like this almost always seem to be less about Christ and the kingdom, and more about how cool these people are.

Number 11 stung a little bit because I’ve read A.J. Jacobs stuff and love him, and I really like both Ed Dobson and Rachel Held Evans. They don’t belong on this list at all, first because I don’t think either of them are currently pastoring a church, and second, because what they were doing was kind of helpful. I make a distinction between things that are done for the sake of writing books, and things that are done for the sake of leading a church. Dobsen and Evans are not pastors, they are writers, whereas Ed Young is a pastor (of sorts).

Besides that, burning a Koran like Terry Jones, or claiming the world is ending like Harold Camping has to make the top 12. Maybe even the snake handling pastor who died. What am I missing? I do wish we would think more about preaching and caring for the folks on the margins of our society, and less about growing bigger churches.

Most of all I think these things teach us that faithfulness is not about doing the huge dramatic gesture. Faithfulness is about doing the small things when nobody is looking. Jesus is mostly interested in the ordinary, not the spectacular.

Anyway, here are the 12:

  1. Dress Up Like a Homeless Man and Come to Church to see how your church reacts.
  2. Have Sex with your Spouse Every Day for a Month and talk about it with your congregation.
  3. Congregation Copulation Month (Have your peeps follow your lead on the everyday sex thing… by the way I’m not opposed to people having as much sex as they want, I’m just opposed to issuing a press release about it).
  4. Losing Weight for Jesus, getting your church involved, and yes – writing a book about it.
  5. Living on Food Stamps for a Month – I follow Rich Mullins on this one. Living like poor people doesn’t help the poor. A better practice would be to figure out how many people who are already on food stamps you could befriend and support.
  6. Send Money or Jesus Will Kill Me… really?
  7. Pastor in a Box – Ben Dailey lived in a plexiglass box on the roof of his church for three days because his church met the goal of 4,000 people in attendance the week after Easter.
  8. Rooftop Campout to Raise Money (read this one, it’s kind of funny).
  9. Impromptu Marriages for Couples that are Shacking Up… shouldn’t we do some counselling first, or at least know the names of the people whose ceremonies we are officiating?
  10. Walking Across New York with a Cross and a Bible. I’ve got no patience for these guys.
  11. Living the Bible & Writing a Book About It.
  12. Don’t Try This at Home. If you need an ambulance standing by for your Sunday service, you have derailed.
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  • This might just point to the limits of “Top 12” posts (or Top any number). Of course, maybe they are more about getting us discussing our own list.