“How is church?” I asked.
“It’s good,” she answered.
“So, tell me about it,” I continued.
“Do you want to buy a raffle ticket?”
“A what?” I asked.
“A raffle ticket. We’re selling raffle tickets for the church.”
“What does the winner get?”
“The winner gets $1,000.00.”
“It sounds to me like Las Vegas,” I replied. “What’s the money for?”
“It’s for the church Christmas party.”
“I can’t handle raffle tickets,” I said.
Now I know that some church cultures have raffles, but those church cultures are typically “mainline” - the church my friend attends is not mainline. She is a relatively new Christian and is going to what you might call a Full Gospel church; so I was quite surprised that she was selling raffle tickets.
On the other hand, a few years ago I came to pastoral grief when I voiced concern over Young Life’s raffles. I couldn’t understand then, nor do I now, why we would teach young Christians to rely on problematic fundraising for what is supposed to be God’s work. The culture of gambling, poker, and raffles does not seem to be a culture that is consonant with the New Jerusalem and the Kingdom of God; God’s work done in God’s way will have God’s provision - if God does not provide through our giving and other avenues then perhaps we should take the endeavor off of artificial life support and let it die.
Yes, I have a problem with encouraging gambling; but I have a bigger problem when we attempt to do God’s work in our own strength by conjuring up resources in an “ends justifies the means” mentality. The long-term damage we do to our understanding of the work of the Kingdom of God far outweighs the instant gratification of a Christmas party or a summer camp or a new sound system.