Atheists, Hamburgers, and Jesus’ Public Relations Department

07/16/2012

Atheists, Hamburgers, and Jesus’ Public Relations Department“I’m an athiest, no thanks.”

That’s the response I got when I invited a guy this weekend to enjoy a free burger at one of the block parties our church hosted.  In my mind I quickly began to wonder if all atheists are vegetarians.

“A burger’s a burger.  If you’re hungry go for it.”

The guy looked at me and reminded me that we were a church, and that he was an atheist (not a vegetarian atheist is turned out).  I explained that we were hosting block parties in various neighborhoods not to preach at people, but just to let them know we care.

I told him it was like public relations for Jesus. 

The guy ended up having a burger that night, but the idea still stuck with me.  No-strings-attached kindness is so foreign in our culture that this guy just assumed a church wanted nothing to do with him.  In a society where nothing really is free, let alone from those on the other side of an issue, he was hesitant.  And rightly so.  We all get credit card offers in the mail, we’ve seen infomercials; nothing is really “free.”

Until a few years ago when some churches started doing this whole loving people thing.  When they stopped asking for something and started giving something.  When churches began to undo the years of misrepresentation that Jesus has had, but being His hands and feet.  Churches began a new PR campaign for Jesus.

What does your church do to love people without expecting anything in return?

4 responses to Atheists, Hamburgers, and Jesus’ Public Relations Department

  1. What I find is that some some people believe that the church is not necessarily asking for something in the moment like at the block parties but rather are trying to lure you in and will then pounce once you fall into the trap. I have this discussion with clients frequently who say that they see offers like this as merely a way to convince you that you are accepted but then once you start attending you will find out all the expectations to truly be accepted. Therefore accepting the burger is the first step of the “brainwashing” as one client called it. While I don’t disagree this may happen in some churches and was standard practice for many years ago I think that churches and hopefully the Christians attending are learning that it isn’t what you are “selling” but rather the genuine heart with which you are serving that people respond to. In counseling I never have the goal to convince someone to attend church, become a Christian etc. but find that through genuine caring and loving them it often happens. Because they do not believe I have an agenda for them they are more open to receiving. I absolutely believe there will be many skeptics who believe the church has an agenda offering these parties but most who attend can’t help but feel the genuine heart of the people that are our church.

  2. I couldn’t help but think of 1 Cor 10 when I read this… the whole don’t eat meat sacrificed to idols thing.

    When we were in Baltimore we repainted the local school, at no cost to the school. We also leveraged that to get other community groups access to the school in order to better the services provided there. At first, we had a hard time convincing some of our partner churches (the ones providing missions teams) that we were NOT there to preach, or give out “I love Jesus” pencils, but we were there to intentionally love that school, its students, and staff (we actually had some churches not come because we weren’t evangelistic enough).

    The relationship that was formed from that act between our church, the school, and the community around us was something that we could NEVER have developed had we handed out the pencils… and has led to far more meaningful relationships, and spiritual conversations than we ever would have had were we to go in transactionally.

  3. It’s sad, isn’t it? You have to wonder what experiences he has had to lead him to this reaction.

  4. I think it’s great that your church can do something for people without expecting something in return. It seems like there are a lot of church-sponsored organizations that are happy to help – as long as you come to church on Sunday, or get baptized, or, well… something.

    I’ve had too many experiences on both sides of these kinds of deals to want to have anything to do with a church anymore… so I can relate to where this guy was coming from. It’s not just the world we live in. It’s a lot of the church groups standard operating procedure.

    Good luck with your outreach – if you can get past the cynical nature so many of us have then I’m sure you will reap rewards far greater than those who try to bribe others to be good!