Hot air, bright colors & hype … is there more?

Loud, hot, colorful, bright, impressive – but just gas and flash.

By Scott Linscott

“What you win them with, you win them to.”

The flame heats up the air, the air fills the balloon, the balloon lifts the basket of passengers into the sky.

I’m attending a conference online. It’s giving me things to consider: things to think about.

It’s about starting new churches. Some appear to be cloning existing churches, some are trying very hard to be different and some just seem to be what I can best describe as “organic.” All want to help people discover life, purpose and meaning in Christ.

A rabbit trail between sessions led me to the quote above, “what you win them with, you win them to.”

Marketing hype, worship “experiences” and production are key now. Door hangers promise “the biggest,” lawn signs tell of helicopters dropping eggs and others advertise prizes and gas cards for those who visit. We can buy 10 second countdowns to add to our PowerPoint slides to build anticipation for the band’s big opener.

Every time the balloon pilot pulls on the gas valve, out comes a loud burst of flame and heat. It’s impressive. The show is spectacular.

When the gas is gone and the balloon deflates, a crew of workers roll it up and pack it away for the next event. The crowds head home wowwed and anxious to return for the next experience until the experience no longer gives them goose bumps.

I think of the depth of worship I’ve witnessed in third world settings. The carefully manufacted “experience” is lacking, the sound is usually bad and the musicians untrained. The buildings are bare and the acoustics are terrible. Plastic chairs, wooden benches and stumps have no holders for designer coffees in eco-friendly, recyclable cups.

Without fail, I leave feeling like our American churches are missing something. We come to get our experience tingles and pep talks. They come to meet with God and worship him. We leave trying to decide on a restaurant. They leave praying for enough to feed their children.

I don’t want a programmed, manufacted experience. I don’t want to be calling for more hot air for our most impressive balloon in town.

I want organic, natural encounters with the gospel that saves … sometimes loudly, sometimes in stillness, sometimes in plenty and sometimes in scarcity.

I long for organic. I long for the unproduced and raw. Messy is okay with me.

I don’t want to be a hot air balloon captain. I want to be a friend, a shepherd, a mentor, a coach and an encourager. I want to be a team member and partner in sharing life and living the gospel. I want to teach and I want to learn from others.

I enjoy the attraction of the large, brightly-colored, floating air balloon as much as the next guy but, in life and ministry, the hype and hot air of manufactured experiences eventually cools off and fades or lasts only until the next truck pulls in with bigger and more impressive balloons to inflate.
“Worship has to do with real life. It’s not just a mythical interlude in a week of reality.” John Piper

Amos 5:21-24

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