Friday, June 08, 2007

Ritzy missions trips aim for wealthy

HAMILTON, Bermuda — This year, instead of helping a missions team build a church sanctuary in Honduras, Bill Taylor of Open Bible Church in Wichita is evangelizing at beach resorts in Bermuda.

"Now this is missions work," says Taylor while striking up spiritual conversation with wealthy resort guests.

As more church-goers tire of spending vacation time in the Third World, churches are taking a break from poverty and targeting the luxury class with the gospel.

"Our worldview had gotten too narrow," says one pastor. "Rich people need Jesus, too."

Grace Family Church of Littleton, Colo., recently started a ministry called Higher Calling and sent a missions team to tony boutiques in Milan’s fashion district. The group reached out to watchmakers, jewelry store workers and super-wealthy patrons.

"People who were never interested in missions trips are jumping at the chance to go," says the pastor.

Team member Joyce Andrews says the salespeople "will tolerate a lot of evangelizing if you are committed to buying a diamond necklace or a watch." Andrews says she felt vastly more effective evangelizing luxury jewelry shop employees than on her last three trips to Central America.

"I feel useless in poor places," she says. "But I found I fit very well in wealthier environments. Striking up spiritual conversations at the perfume counter is right up my alley."

It's LarkNews, so it's a joke, of course, but does anyone else find Christian-themed luxury cruises kind of creepy? Not that there's anything necessarily immoral about going on a cruise, but to suggest that it is a spiritual practice....


The Thief said...

I'm glad to hear someone else saying something about this. Our bishop (of all people) has been hard-selling a luxury cruise to the Holy Land (it's a great gift for churches to give for ordination, he said), and I've felt like it's a bit creepy.

Not to mention too expensive on a pastor's salary. Oh, but if I get 8 paying customers to go along, then mine is free.

RERC said...

Last year our (then-new) bishop pushed a cruise to Alaska as a way to meet him and his wife. The arrangements were through a third party, pastors were told to promote it in their churches, etc. It didn't smell very good to me.

It's the same mentality to me of having big Christian conferences and seminars in resort locations, though. Maybe taken a step further, but still.

Scott & Kristi McKay said...

I wish I had clipped it years ago. I saw an ad in our denomination's newspaper for a tour of the Holy Land. The headline read (really) "Walk in the foot steps of Jesus with luxury accomadations"

Jeff the Baptist said...

Dunno. It's a slippery slope. When I was in college IVCF would take a group of students to Daytona every year. They did street evangelism to the (mostly rich) kids on spring break.

RERC said...

I'll bet the IVCF folks were staying in local churches or people's homes or budget lodgings though, not in a tony resort.

And I'll bet the trip was an actual mission trip, not a vacation masquerading as a spiritual opportunity. That's the difference I see.

I also notice this trend cuts across the mainline and evangelical worlds...

John said...

It's the same mentality to me of having big Christian conferences and seminars in resort locations, though. Maybe taken a step further, but still.

I felt that way about the Congress on Evangelism, in which I stayed in the most luxurious hotel that I had ever set foot in.