The Bait-n-Switch Church
When I was 17 I was a victim of one of the most classic sales tricks the world has ever seen! I wanted a Sony Walkman like nobodies business (if you just asked yourself, “What is a ‘walkman’?” then you are too young to be reading this post). So, I saw an ad from a local retailer that proclaimed they had just received a shipment of brand new Walkmans and they were on sale for $39, I was stoked!
I showed up to the store with my money in hand and asked for the super-cool Walkman. The massively smiling salesmen didn’t even flinch, he simply said, “Oh, that model is already sold out. But, we do have the next model up for only $30 more.” I was a victim of the bait-n-switch!
On our Sabbatical we spent a day in Rome. Our daughters desperately wanted to see the Sistine Chapel that Michelangelo adorned with gilded images of Biblical history several centuries ago. So, we asked the guide at the Vatican about how long it would take for us to see it. She guaranteed us that it would only take 90 minutes and that it was something we didn’t want to miss.
We bought our tickets and began the “short-tour” of the Vatican Museum that culminated with the chapel. At each intersection we were guided by signs that would tell us what was next followed by “…and Sistine Chapel”. At the end of each area we saw the same sign, almost as if it were taunting us, teasing us that just maybe around the next corner the Sistine Chapel would appear, yet it was always just another section with more artifacts and sculptures. Now, don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed many of them, but after we saw 90 minutes come and go, with no Sistine Chapel in sight we began to get a little annoyed.
Finally, after walking for almost 3 hours, through thousands of people, and dozens of exhibits we saw a sign that simply read “Sistine Chapel”. We walked down several flights of stairs and entered into an overfilled room of eerie silence. It was dark, smelled funny, and the caretakers kept saying in a thick Italian accent, “No talking, no pictures, no video…keep moving!” (fyi, I took video…I’ll post it in a few days so you can see too!)
The artwork by the master was magnificent! However, it was overshadowed by the length of time it took to get there, the incredibly strange ambience, and the rather rude people that were watching us assuming that any moment we might snap a forbidden photo (I of course wouldn’t do that, I was taking the video, Traci took the pictures). We couldn’t really savor the moment, we couldn’t relish in the presence of a master artist’s masterpiece. We were hushed, rushed, and crushed together like sardines.
So, we foolishly thought, now we can get on with our day and see some of the other cool parts of Rome. We made a beeline for the bathrooms and then began to follow the signs marked “Uscita” or exit. But, we didn’t leave the building, it funneled us into a massive gift shop, followed by an exhibition for the Popes, another gift shop, an exhibit for Pope John Paul, who apparently is now a saint, and on, and on. 45 minutes after following our first sign for “Uscita” we finally made it outside! At this point our entire morning had been eaten up, and lost because we had fallen victims to the bait-n-switch church.
Friends, we serve an artist who doesn’t work in oil paint or marble. He shapes eternity, humanity, and all matter to His will and for His glory. Each Sunday as we gather we celebrate His magnificence, we display the artwork of our lives, and we surrender to his continual molding. Our friends, neighbors, and loved-ones show up with a desire to get a glimpse of something wonderful, miraculous, life-changing…they want to see the Master Artist and the truth that only He offers.
If, instead, all they experience is our rules, our traditions, our timetable, and our agendas we have played the most cruel bait-n-switch of all time! We must be ruthless in keeping Christ, His glory, and His truth the central focus in all we do. When we do this, His Word promises that He will do the rest…
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
(John 12:32 ESV)