Drew Dondelinger

WRIT 1133 (TR 10-12)

Assignment #1

The Easter church
                                         service is very un-
This was                              strange,
            even as a                            customary
However the audience was not entirely
        made of these once or twice a year aten-
       dants, in fact the majority ...
Multiple exigencies could be identified, including those warm
fuzzy reasons such as spreading the word of God and teaching...
This approach
                        was the perfect strategy for
                   the minister not only to bring in ne...
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  1. 1. Drew Dondelinger WRIT 1133 (TR 10-12) Assignment #1 Celebrating Easter is something the majority of Americans are accustomed to doing per annum, but how that’s done is very diverse. Families with kids dye eggs or go on Easter egg hunts some families get together for a meal cities host events even the White House hosts an event and egg hunt for kids. A correlation I find interesting is the amount of people that participate in Christian holi- days, that don’t regularly associate them- selves as Christians. The majority of the American population still identifies as Christian, 76% as of 2008 according to religioustollerance.org. For Christians part of the Easter holiday often includes going to church.
  2. 2. The Easter church service is very un- ique in comparison to a normal church services. On Easter Sunday, April the 4th 2010, I attended church service at Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette, a church I regularly attend during the year. An Easter church service is very different from most any other service during the year, before the service even commences you can tell the difference. At an average service there are between 800 and 900 people, on Easter Sunday there are over 1,500 people at one service and the church hosts eight services over the weekend. Being a regular attendant it was very obvious that the whole service was geared toward those 600 to 700 people that come to church on Easter and Christmas. From word one Pastor Jim addressed those people who are not “regulars” at the ch- urch, beginning by answ- ering the concerns and questions newcomers had, “NO, church will not be boring. NO, we will not guilt you. NO, we do not have the answers.”
  3. 3. This was strange, even as a customary observer of the unusual strategies and approach Flatirons takes. Were I a leader of the church my specific goal for an Easter service, other than preaching the word of God, praising Jesus and sharing the story of Easter, would be to increase attendance from these once or twice a year attendants. At first the theme of the day seemed weird and maybe misplaced to me, with the re- petition of phrases like IF there is a God, Whether or Not you believe, I can’t help you, and I don’t know. The intent and purpose that I would have been aiming at was the same, but their strategy was different, but effective. This more h- uman to human, low-key, no pressure relationship seemed to energize and grab the attention of the churches rhetor- ical audience. By standing on stage and admitting flaws and using relevant life to relate to God and Jesus’ resu- rrection it seemed to intrigue newcomers. From my initial read on the situation I wouldn’t be surprised if attendance increases, even if only for the few weeks following Easter.
  4. 4. However the audience was not entirely made of these once or twice a year aten- dants, in fact the majority of the audience was likely regulars coming to church on Sun day, nothing out of the ordinary, other than it being a special Sunday, Easter. While at first o- ne might see this sermon as ONLY directed tow- ard those newcomers, the effect may have been just as strong with the regulars. This church is relatively very young, only being opened around four to five years ago, meaning that within rece- nt memory every attendant was a “newcomer.” The sermon was reflective of the church’s over- all strategy, there are no members or nonme- mbers, there has never been a single fee, do- nations baskets are never passed around; no pressure and fully open to anyone a- nd everyone, and the stra- tegy has been astronomically effective. People have been fading away from church not because of lack of fa- ith, but rather the bureaucracy of some of the churches. T- hese “regulars,” which is ambiguous anyway, b- ecause aten- dance has never been taken and those who co- me, do, and those who don’t, don’t. Anyway these “regulars” may forget why they come to church or this church specifica- lly. By going back to the roots and showing regulars why they come was p- owerful on those regulars as well. Religion is alw ays going to be linked to skepticism, no matter how strong your faith is or ho- w much you believe, we are humans and we are fla- wed, skeptic- al creatures. If we can’t physically see or talk or int- eract directly with what it is we believe in there will always be the question in t- he back of our minds, is this real? How do we know? What if? That being said the opposite is also true, for those who don’t believe at all in any all powerful being, the question must exist even if th- ey deny it, what if I’m wrong? What if He does exist? That is one of the main driving forces in our society for people going to church, and in fact one of the driving forces behind any decision people make; fear. Coming to this church can make peo- ple feel safe and protected or at least content with their situation if there is an all powerful being. By preaching the soft sell strategy it reminds regulars that this is a place that gives them a feeling of contentment and safety instead of a church that gives you guilt, and reinforcing and reminding them that this is in fact the church for them and where they want to continue to attend and donate their money.
  5. 5. Multiple exigencies could be identified, including those warm fuzzy reasons such as spreading the word of God and teaching the reason we celebrate Easter. The real exigence behind this specific day though I would characterize as increasing attenda- nce at the church. The only reason there would be debate ov- er whether this was the exigence or not would be the question of whether this cause is really urgent. I would most likely be on the side of the debate arguing that it is probably not the most urgent cause, but the argument can be made from the other side that it is urgent in some people’s eyes (including probably the c- hurch’s) to save every one of God’s children before something h appens to them. The audience I identified as the newcomers or non-regulars at the church and they are classified as a rhetorical audience. They have the capability of coming and becoming reg- ulars at the church and that is the persuasion they are being giv- en. The strategy the church used to face their exigence was not the way I would have gone about it, probably a good reason as to why I’m not running the church because I think their approach ended up being very successful. I don’t have all the answers and you don’t need the church to be saved and forgiven by God. Ple- ase let me know if you ever hear that at another church service.
  6. 6. This approach was the perfect strategy for the minister not only to bring in new people but also to reignite interest among frequent attendants. This “soft sell” approach appeals to new comers and current attendants but in different ways. New comers are drawn in by the non-pressure and feel good approach that they haven’t found anywhere else. However those who have been at- tending the church for extended time may forget that not all churches are this way and may remind them why they started and continue to come here. Because this soft sell is the way the way the church is the entire time, low key, no pressure and focusing on the positives of Christianity and not guilt. People want to be encouraged and hear that they’re saved no matter what, if you tell people they’re going to hell and focus on sin people turn off and don’t want to come back. No matter what you believe in Christianity, psychology is the same and people are more excited and likely to come back somewhere where they have fun, are praised and accepted rather than a place of blame, guilt and negativity. A church that plays rock music attracts people more than a church of hymns, it’s not wrong or sad, it’s just fact. The church grew from nothing to over 10,000 in weekly population in just five years, just by preaching the “It’s ok, you’re saved, no matter what you’ve done, we’re all flawed,” message. It’s obviously working in a growth perspective as the church continues to expand as well as continuity because people keep coming back, the church has found a plan and it’s worked, and it’s based off of the simple fact that people like to feel good about themselves, what a concept.