It’s that time again, time for churches to have Christmas plays and programs. It is the time of year to proclaim the birth of mankind’s only hope. The birth of Jesus. As followers of the Christ, our hope is we can deliver a message to the masses.
Driving down the road, I’m always impressed with the special event signage beside church meetings. ‘Come to our Christmas program!’ ‘Special Easter Service!” ‘Purchase Tickets online by going to www….’ Selling tickets. Those words always bother me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-fund raising. I love a good church BBQ event. The church needs funds sometimes, and there’s little Biblically challenging about church folk raising money. But selling tickets to an evangelical event? Why not free?
Here are a few thoughts on the matter and why church meetings who sell tickets to hear the message of Jesus is a misguided idea.
The Capitalistic Church
It costs money to put on a production. Therefore, the church meeting has to recoup those costs. What better way to do it, than the commerce exchange of money for goods and services provided. Our American culture is used to paying for stuff eh? We even do it with on thumb at lightning speeds on our phones. So it’s just normal for people to expect a cost for something.
The church meeting and money is referenced throughout the Bible. Here are a few examples, both in the New Testament. This is not an exhaustive list.
Example 1: In Acts 4:32, we find the New Testament Church established and each ‘member’ of the local church meeting brought items to the church so no one would go without, the needs being met.
Example 2: In John 2, we are reminded that Jesus drove out the money changers who had contaminated the temple with greed. People were paying for access. And while the temple practices were established prior to Jesus being born, the misappropriation of money was one reason Jesus drove the money changers out.
When Jesus taught on the mountainside, what was the reaction of the disciples?
Mathew 14:15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
So the disciples, human solution for the problem was to send the people away to buy food. Jesus instead, used this to provide a miracle for people. What didn’t happen was for the disciples charge admission to cover the cost of the meeting. Consequently charging for access to hearing Jesus’ message. We don’t find even Judas as the mountain gate taking up money for access to Jesus’ message.
Selling access to the message of Jesus, What are the consequences of selling tickets:
- One thing it does is limit who can come. Money can be challenging for families, especially those who may have more than financial challenges. Purchasing a ticket can be prohibitive, attending the program at church then becomes a luxury cost for folks. So if it comes down to basic monthly costs for a family, some families will see it as a tall order to attend. And I’m sure most churches would waive the ticket cost if a family asked. But would they ask, or would they look at their budget, and choose not to come.
- Selling tickets also screens out those who have to take an extra step to call or purchase online. Instead of just showing up as those who did with Jesus during his public ministry. Do people driving by vinyl signs really grasp the steps to buy tickets? I sure don’t.
- Selling tickets also gives the community the wrong impression, one that the local church is in the business of selling faith. Churches already have a social reputation of being for profit. In Christendom, there have been plenty of faith actors that constantly ask for money, some even offering a blessing if you purchase their book. Shameful. And while a local church may have good intent for a Christmas play, selling access to Jesus is a community reputation we should fight against.
What is to be said then when planning large church programs? How does the church seek to cover costs by charging admission? What does that do? One line of thought is, if the church, the core church, can’t or won’t support an special program, then maybe the program isn’t necessary. Or maybe the core church can come up with the funds internally to provide for the program. But selling tickets to support a program begs the question, ‘is that program needed.’ And if so, why look outside the church? Good question.
We have to consider the example in Acts. The ‘flock’ invested in the local church so needs could be provided for. It may be very challenging to translate that into selling community access to a program about Jesus.
About the author: Steven Davis is a musician, Bible school dropout, media producer, well-done preachers kid, and recovering social worker.