“Church is offering drive-thru option for Ash Wednesday”
This is a headline on the Faith & Belief Page in today’s newspaper. Here’s the first paragraph: “You can use the drive-thru for your favorite fast food. You can use the drive-thru to grab some cash. Now you can use the drive-thru to blessed.”
The story went on to say that a church is inviting people to pull into the church parking lot on Ash Wednesday to have ashes placed on their foreheads as a sign of mourning and repentance. “If they would like any special prayer, that can be done also,” the pastor reports. A long-time member of the church is quoted as saying that the pastor is “forward thinking” and that “if more people are able to receive God’s blessings by a drive-thru I will call it all joy.”
I’m all for “forward thinking” and bringing the gospel to the streets and neighborhood. However, in my opinion, this is so wrong, I hardly know where to begin.
First of all, the season of Lent is a time to prepare ourselves to remember the crucifixion of the Jesus. For centuries the universal Church has urged Christians to use these 40 days as a time of self-examination and even sacrifice so that we can more deeply appreciate the sacrifice Jesus made. We dishonor or at least take too lightly what our Lord did for us when we encourage people to downsize their own sacrifice to 5 minute “drive-thru ashing” (as the pastor calls it.)
Secondly, what lesson are we sending people who are walking through their lives with no spiritual direction or hope? (This, by the way includes many church-goers). I think we are saying, “We know you are busy and we don’t want to add more to your plate, so take advantage of our special offer of a “ashing” on your way to dinner or a movie.” We are so eager to “attract” others to church, we “dumb down” what the Gospel really says: Jesus is our Lord and we are called to deny our own desires and become his followers in the Kingdom of God.
This mentality is what has gotten the Western Christianity in so much trouble. We don’t challenge people; we cater to them. We don’t demand commitment; we take them off the hook. We don’t teach them the radical life-style that Jesus modeled; we just ask them to stop by and receive their blessing. This mentality tosses out discipleship and substitutes shockingly easy grace.
The article closes with this quote from the pastor: “I believe the good news of Jesus Christ is shared person to person. One participant would be enough to call it [“drive-by ashing”] a success. ” I also believe that we are to share Jesus “person to person.” I think, however, it takes more than waiting for a person to roll down his or her window to receive my blessing. It takes me being willing to share my time, my thoughts, my support, and my hope with whomever God puts in my path.