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No Fleshly Incentives

by Bill Hall

The use of fleshly incentives to draw people to worship services is becoming more and more common. One church offers free cokes, doughnuts, and balloons to its bus riders. Another offers a prize to the child who brings the most visitors. Still another uses some sports figure or entertainer to attract a crowd. Dinners and socials; elaborate church buildings; "Friendliest church in town" or "Fastest-growing church in town" advertising; the list of gimmicks is almost endless.

A study of I Corinthians, chapters 1 and 2, suggests that the people of our generation are not the first to demand fleshly incentives. The Jews and Greeks of Paul's day demanded them. "For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom" (I Corinthians 1:22). Paul could have produced both, but he refused to do so: "But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumblingblock and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (I Corinthians 1:23-24).

Paul recognized the fact that some people are just not "convertible": "For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called" (I Corinthians 1:26). Why are such infrequently called? Because the majority place their trust in the flesh rather than in God. They are fleshly-minded. And Paul was not about to coax fleshly-minded, "unconvertible" people "into the church" by the use of signs, wisdom, excellency of speech, enticing words, or any other fleshly incentive. To do so would result in getting their names on a "church roll," but not in bringing them to Christ to the saving of their souls.

If Paul refused to use signs and wisdom as fleshly incentives, what would have been his reaction to the use of cokes and doughnuts? If he came "not with excellence of speech or of wisdom" (I Corinthians 2:1), what would he have said concerning attempts to attract crowds through the use of sports figures and entertainers? If Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, followed a "no fleshly incentive" policy, should that not be our policy? And should we not always be able to say with Paul, "For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2)?