Last night I published an article reporting that Summit Church in North Carolina, which is pastored by Southen Baptist Convention President JD Greear, was charging admission to it’s Good Friday service. In less than 24 hours and during a period of typically low weekend readership, that article has already been shared over 700 times. Reaction to Summit’s sale of tickets has, understandbly, been almost universally negative on social media. Responding to inquiry about selling tickets to corporate worship, Greear issued the following statement via Twitter.
In his response, Greear manages to make the situation at Summit look even worse.
First and foremost, Greear contradicts himself. In the statement above, Greear claims that tickets were sold because the event is a “choir concert and not a worship service.” Yet, less than 24 hours prior to making this claim, Greear encouraged people to “grab their tickets” for “Good Friday worship.” Greear appears to be tweeting out of both sides of his mouth, calling the event “worship” while selling tickets and then claiming that the event was not a “worship service.” If there is any degree of honesty in Greear’s behavior it’s the tacit recognition that such “worship” events at his church are ultimately a show. Last Christmas, Summit’s singers performed Let it Go from frozen as a part of its holiday concert. That’s a show. Show promoters sell tickets. JD Greear does, too.
Secondly, Greear frames the Good Friday event as a missions fundraiser. He claims that 100% of ticket proceeds will be used for a choir missions project. According to Greear, ticket proceeds will be used to send members of Summit’s choir to the Southern Baptist Convention. This can hardly be called missions. The annual Southern Baptist Convention will be held in Birmingham, Alabama this year; in the heart of the Bible belt. The Convention consists of messengers hand-picked by their individual churches to represent their interests in what amounts to a business meeting (which will he presided over by JD Greear). In other words, Greear is sending his choir to sing for a group of people who already proclaim Christ as Savior in a town full of churches and calls it “missions.”
Lastly and most importantly, there is a clear biblical condemnation for showing preference to the rich over the poor. James wrote:
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? (James 2:1-7)
After service fees were considered, tickets to Summit’s concert would have cost a family of four $24.04. $5 plus a service fee may come off as a nominal price but it places a bigger burden on large families and those who must pinch every penny. As with any service, Summit could have taken up a love offering to cover fundraising needs. Instead, it chose to use economic maneuvering to manage space concerns.
What’s really sad is that a church as misguided and poorly led as Summit would have to worry about being too full.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.