Breaking Baseball Bats for Jesus

powerI had a few twitter friends tweet about this church event.

A seeker-church headquartered in Florida planned an outreach event in which dare-devil guys were gonna do some stunts, including one that involved explosions. I’m guessing they set themselves on fire and jumped motorcycles over a tank full of sharks.

At any rate, if you really want to talk spectacular, embarrassing stunts for Jesus, no one did it like the Power Team. 

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, when TBN was one of the first comedy channels on the growing cable networks, John Jacobs and his Power Team were the thing to watch on Saturday evenings. The Power Team consisted of John Jacobs, who was the main spokesman, and a number of large, weightlifting beefy armed guys named Nitro or Thunder, or any other number of pro-wrestling, American Gladiator style names.

They’d play big mega churches or crusade venues and do all sorts of amazing feats of strength like tearing phone books in two, breaking out of handcuffs, breaking baseball bats over their knees or heads, and karate chopping towers of cinder blocks. Jacobs would then come up and do some speech about breaking free from a number of teen related vices like drugs, immorality, and rock music, talk about how Jesus was the ultimate strong man who whipped the devil, and then would give an invitation.

Then Jacobs divorced his wife in 2000 and the group pretty much broke apart. He resigned a few years later and the remaining team members reformed the new Power Team and it is now spearheaded by long term member, Todd Keene. And they are still active, if you’d like to catch this promo-video

 

With that said, let’s back up to our daredevils.

Now this may come as a shock to some of my readers, but I don’t necessarily have a big problem with a church planning an event involving daredevils. It’s not something I would particularly do at my church if I were a pastor, but I am not going to automatically pass judgment upon them and condemn them of participating in the evangelical downgrade. My concern would be the folks adhering to two principles:

A) There remains a sharp distinction between their church service and the event. If it is designed to be merely a fun outreach to the community, I think it could be good. It’s when Sunday worship is replaced by such antics that it becomes a severe problem.

and B) A clear gospel message is either presented or is present at the event. Meaning, the people either hear the gospel given, or they leave the event knowing what the church is truly about, which is; that along with having fun in the community, the church has a heart for the salvation of sinners.

Before folks begin hurling railing accusations and booing me until their throats are raw, let me give you a “for instance.”

During the fall, a number churches in my area will host a festival of sorts on Halloween evening. One particular Baptist church has perfected the Halloween festival and it is the festival to end all festivals. They have bouncy houses, cake walks, dunk tanks filled with associate pastors, a “trunk-or-treat” out in the parking lot, a guy walking around dressed like Martin Luther. And, to top it all off, you can buy Chic-Fil-A sandwiches. Always a win.

ballbatNow perhaps maybe there are some discernment bloggers out there who may look sternly with grim faces at the idea of a big mega-Baptist church hosting a festival on Halloween evening that includes a “pastor of marriage and families” being knocked into a dunk tank, but honestly, it truly is a good time for parents and their kids. Certainly a much better, wholesome time than the zombie themed blood and gore haunted houses put on at various locations around my otherwise fine township.  I applaud the members at this church for the energy and effort they put into the event. (BTW, I know of no church doing a “hell house,” so I don’t include them in the mix).

As much fun as my family has attending the Halloween festival, people leave the evening knowing what the church is about. Members walk around engaging folks, they pass out literature that includes a gospel message, and they invite people to come visit their church.

Contrast that with another mega-seeker church in my town who also puts on a Halloween themed festival. This past year, the big Baptist church didn’t do their festival because of some construction going on at their campus, so me and the kids were routed to the seeker church.

They had pretty much the same deal except they ratcheted up the fun by including live jousting, a convoy of food trucks, and professional trapeze-acrobats. They also had a promo-video staring Kristy Swanson, the original Buffy the Vampire slayer, counting down the top 10 movie vampires as well as plugging some upcoming series about loving the personal vampires that suck the life out of you. [you can actually watch the series here if you are so inclined].

When I left that church, nothing told me it was a church. Nothing told me that it was Christians who were doing it. One of my boys even said, “Oh. That was a church?” If we were some family just walking up, we would have no idea we were attending a church sponsored event.  I’d conclude it was some secular community center event.

As one who has a high view of God’s sovereignty in salvation and the power of the preached Word of God as being the sole means by which men are saved, I still believe the occasional fun church event that may feature daredevils can be a useful way to have a positive influence in the community. But those events shouldn’t be the focus of what a church is about. Christians should strive to inform those watching flaming daredevils jumping motorcycles over shark tanks about their church, about the gospel. They should exhort people in the Word.

The last thing a church wants to have happen is becoming only known as the special events “church” that has really, really cool and awesome shows.  Even worst is when those events become so frequent and common place they replace any true evangelism and outreach and the big crowds are perceived as God being at work. That is when real evangelical downgrade has begun.

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3 thoughts on “Breaking Baseball Bats for Jesus

  1. I think that’s an important distinction to remember: what is the church service versus an event. It seems when the line is blurred you get the silliness of the things you see in alittleleaven.com

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