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Drew Dondelinger

WRIT 1133 (TR 10-12)

Assignment #1

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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.