Posted by: Johnold Strey | March 29, 2009

YCMTU: Pastor in a Box

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  Take a look at installment #3 of “You Can’t Make This Up.”  It’s called, “Pastor in a Box.”  I discovered this via the “Church Marketing Sucks” website (you can’t make that up, either).


Apparently the pastor of the church in question has issued an Easter challenge.  If his church gets 4,000 people or more in attendance on Easter Sunday, he will spend three days and three nights in a clear plexiglas 6′ x 6′ x 6′ box on the top of the church building.  This is the pastor’s “outside the box” way to do outreach (I cannot call this evangelism since it doesn’t use the evangel, the gospel).  Not only is he thinking outside the box, he’s left the area code altogether.  According to the website’s blog, Christians should carry out the church’s mission in this way:

“Get up and do something. I don’t care what it is.  Just do something.  The rule should be ‘DO ANYTHING SHORT OF SIN!’”

Let me share Jesus’ own words (translated a bit more faithfully than the translation used on the “Pastor in a Box” website).  In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus said to his disciples, “Go and make disciples of [Greek for “make disciples of” is one word, a verb, basically “disciplize,” the main verb in the sentence] all nations, [here’s way #1 you make disciples] baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and [here’s way #2 you make disciples] teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  The way you “disciplize” someone is (1) baptizing and (2) teaching.  This is very different than “do anything short of sin.”  The way people are brought into God’s kingdom is not an adiaphoron (something not prescribed or forbidden in Scripture).  The way people are brought into God’s kingdom is the means of grace, the gospel of forgiveness in Jesus Christ, administered to us in the Word and through Holy Baptism.  Christianity conquered the West with the gospel, not gimmicks.

Then again, spending three days in a box might keep some bad theology off the streets for 72 hours.  There’s always a silver lining.



  1. Interesting post! I’m not sure the word “disciplize” will catch on, though!

  2. Thanks, Pastor Walters, for your comment!

    For the sake of those who read this post later, especially lay people who may not know what the translation issues are with Matthew 28:19-20, perhaps I should explain my pseudo-word, “disciplize” (which I am not campaigning for as a translation or even as a new word for the dictionary).

    Some pastors are concerned that the translation “make disciples” is too misleading because it sounds as if we, rather than the Holy Spirit, convert the lost. Some translations use the word “teach” at this point. But then the issue becomes the word “teach” later on, which is a different Greek word. It’s a bit awkward to say, “Go and teach all nations…by teaching them…”.

    The root of the word for “make disciples” in v. 18 is the same as the root for “disciples” in v. 16, so I personally favor “make disciples” as the translation. That way, the common roots come through in the translation, and the different root words for “make disciples” and “teaching” are also reflected in English. But then I make a point to highlight the way disciples are made: baptism and teaching. Those words modify “make disciples,” and for all intents and purposes, they can’t be separated from one another. My intent is that such an explanation in sermons and Bible Classes will eliminate any misconceptions that we get the credit for “[making] disciples” rather than the means of grace. If I were editing a study Bible, I’d want a detailed footnote at that point.

    I’m no Greek expert, so I’m very willing to be corrected or clarified if I’ve erred in my analysis of the situation, but that’s an explanation of my pseudo-word above, “disciplize,” for future readers of this post.

  3. It’s ironic that his outside the box thinking will put him in a box. Huh? Huh?

    I suppose there’s no such thing as bad press, right?

    But really, shouldn’t he be spending the days and nights in the box from Good Friday until Easter? Or would that be just a tad too liturgical and papistic? It really should have been a Maundy Thursday challenge!

    I too enjoyed your neologism. I’m going to try to work it into conversations today, see if anybody notices.

    Thanks for pointing this out to us.

  4. I have come to despise trendy phrases like “Think outside the box.”

    Sometimes the box is there for a reason.

  5. I came across the following quote by Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) on another blog. It speaks to the situation under discussion:

    My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church. If it is a Christian work why did not Christ speak of it? “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” That is clear enough. So it would have been if He has added, “and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel.” No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to Him. Then again, “He gave some apostles, some prophets, some pastors and teachers, for the work of the ministry.” Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them.

    When Jesus sent the disciples out in the Gospels to preach in surrounding towns and villages, he told them that if people reject the message, the disciples should shake the dust off their feet, rebuke the crowds, and leave. He does not say, “If you can’t reach them by preaching and teaching, come up with something else that will get you a another hearing” (which would be a slightly more dignified way of saying, “To reach people we’ve never reached, we have to do things we’ve never done”). If you keep this in mind when reading 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, you’ll come up with a very different interpretation for Paul’s words! Communicate clearly to your specific audience? Yes! Do anything under the sun? No!

    One of the best defenses against poor church practices is an educated laity. Pastors need to preach and teach and equip our people so that the vast majority of them can defend and articulate their confession of faith well. One of the ways we can get to that point is expressed in this blog post from a WELS layman. Note some of the comments after the post as well.

  6. I must say that I disagree with your personal attack against a fellow Church preaching the name of Christ. We all have different ways….and no sin has been committed here. I would also like to point out that in Philippians 1:15-18 Paul says bottom-line Christ is being preached and in this we should rejoice…hmmmm and yet as Christians we tend to attack. What if one person walks in that church to see such a crazy thing…and yet they come and hear the word of God and get saved and from there discipleship begins??? That is the out of box thinking that just might save this generation.. to say that it is not possible is a narrow way of thinking!!! To attack a fellow Church that does preach truth is also a narrow way of thinking!! This truly saddens me…instead of support you tear down and that is more than an opinion or debate…

  7. I must say that I disagree with your assessment that this is a “personal attack.” I did not attack the man or the church. I used Scripture to point out the very bad practices that this pastor and church are promoting.

    Your Philippians 1:15-18 reference is not an apples-to-apples comparison. In Philippians, Christ is still being preached in spite of the less-than-honorable motives of some preachers. Gimmicks, on the other hand, do not preach Christ. This is a stunt and a marketing technique sprouted out of the church growth movement’s thinking (IMHO), which has never trusted that the means of grace (the gospel in Word and sacraments) can do its job. But because we live and breathe a culture of consumeristic marketing, some cannot see what the problem is because it all seems so normal.

    “What if one person walks in that church…and they (sic)… hear the word of God and get saved….” Please see my earlier post titled “Reducing the Data.” Please also see the Spurgeon quote above. Jesus has called us to preach, teach, baptize, absolve, and commune. He did not call us to concoct quasi-ecclesiastical stunts.

    The doctrine of election plays a part in all of this. If God promises to get his people into his kingdom, and if he commands us to use the means of grace to bring people into his kingdom, then doesn’t a stunt or gimmick, such as the one under discussion, suggest that its supporters do not trust the doctrine of election? If God promises to get his elect into his kingdom, do we have any right to disbelieve him and use some other means besides the means of grace, thinking that God won’t be able to get his elect into heaven if we don’t resort to something different? No! Failure to trust the power of the gospel is sin, and sin never saved any generation.

    Later addition: I don’t normally post anonymous comments, especially when the poster gives a bogus email address, as appears to be in the case for the previous comment (only the blog administrator sees the email addresses). It’s easy to talk big when you don’t have to identify yourself. But since the “anything short of sin” thinking is so common in the church at large, I felt it was worth posting and responding to the previous comment. That said, totally anonymous comments (including comments with bogus or generic names and fake email addresses) will generally not be accepted on this blog.

  8. Dear Fred,

    What if, perhaps, my church had promoted that we would have someone rising from the dead this Sunday? Maybe that would bring the people in! Maybe then they would believe!

    Then again, our dear Lord made it quite clear that if they do not believe the word as it is preached, they will not believe even if someone rises from the dead! I dare to say that a resurrection from the dead is a much better “gimmick” than a pastor in a box.

    By the way, my congregation will be quite intent on hearing about one who did rise from the dead this Sunday (as we are every Sunday). In fact, our risen Savior makes an appearance every Sunday as we celebrate Holy Communion.

    Not many are wowwed by such holy things. A glass box will get the pastor and his church’s name in the paper. And that is where the focus, sadly, will likely remain. This is fodder for discussion in cyberspace. But it is not about Jesus. Therefore, it is not the gospel.

    And yet, you would chastize us for failing to build this up?

    I pray that you have a most blessed Easter and rejoice in Jesus’ salvation that comes through word and sacraments.

    TE Schroeder


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