Many churches are putting on eye-catching Christmas events needing specialist insurance, according to Ecclesiastical, which insures most of the UK’s Anglican churches. These include live camels, angels on stilts, and holding nativity services in barns in the hope of pulling in more punters over the festive season.
There is a danger that these things become gimmicks in a brave attempt to compete with the various Christmas spectaculars going on nearby. But we can easily be over-critical of churches doing fun things with good intentions; there can be benefit for the church which is, after all, a family of Christians, attempting in a visitor-friendly way to give a sense of reality and ordinariness to the Christmas story.
We certainly do want to put on attractive Christmas events and market them well, and to make our services as welcoming, accessible and relevant as we possibly can. That means we have to consider the words we use and the style and length of the service and the overall experience.
But the truth is that the people who come to our services who are most likely to have an ongoing interest in the Christ of Christmas are those we personally invite and continue to befriend and witness to. The most attractive thing to them will be the believing community speaking the truth plainly and living the truth authentically. We should have confidence that the simple presentation of the truth to invited guests, covered with prayer before and after, is the means God uses to save people.
With the possible exception of Balaam, people are not converted by the utterances of a camel or a donkey.